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I'm analyzing composition techniques in the music of the older Zelda games. I'm really trying to understand the decisions these composers make when writing these tunes. For example, in Oracle of Ages, the Crown Dungeon has a song which I find interesting, https://youtu.be/n-4Wd9z-sXM

It has very chromatic harmony. The upper register harmonies are mostly minor and major 3rds. But the monophonic bassline ostinato tends to create minor, major and augmented triads when combined with the upper registers, with a few ambiguous chord clusters here and there. How do they come up with this stuff? What type of music does this tune and era reflect most? Classical, jazz? I'd like to learn to write stuff like this.

Another tune is the final level of the 1st Zelda. This one seems more complex to analyze. https://youtu.be/m-DAsdX82O0

The upper registers and monophonic bassline separately are pretty simple. The upper registers I believe is all Augmented 4ths, tritone. Yet combined with the repeating bassline they collide in interesting ways to create more complex harmonies. The very first chord implied seems ambiguous, 1st result on the Piano Companion app is C Major 7 sus4, obviously in the song it's missing a fifth. The melody jumps around and "resolves" on a diminished chord. This is the first 4 seconds of the song.

Then the motif repeats, with the only change being the bassline dropping a semitone. But the harmonic consequences are astounding to me. The bassline does a unison with one of the upper register's notes, kind of emphasizing that tritone sound, perhaps even resolving some of the tension and confusion caused within the previous 4 seconds. Then the melody jumps around, landing on and "resolving" to B7, fifth omitted. Something Koji Kondo likes to do in some of his other dungeon music, he will have diminished harmonies that seem to find some resolution in Dominant 7th harmony.

So is this influenced from late Classical or Jazz? Maybe somebody out there has something to add to help me understand this style of composition better. Maybe you know of similar techniques that composers have used. I'm really interested in how this atonal stuff can still sound good even without the the familiar chords and progression of tonal music. Thanks everyone.

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I'll tell you about an experience with a professor composer. He says that any note can follow any note and be played simultaneous with any note. Than you study intervals as your only rule, and progress from this. Make an inventory of your chords and create a language belonging to your music. Any chord can come out of this. This is a method that may be modern.

Not entirely sure what you’re after here. Game music is itself a genre to suit what’s going on, how prolonged the episode might be and so on. As to influence I doubt composers are too concerned from where their music derives. I’d hesitate to call it Classic when runs of parallel tritones would be frowned upon (unless they form a series of diminished chord “resolutions” Bach liked this sort of thing) – closer to Romantic. It’s more like the kind of music pianists hammered out for old silent movies.

Have you transcribed it into music notation? As it’s in just 3 parts it shouldn’t be difficult. If you have a machine to do that, great. If not just by ear. It would be a lot easier to analyse from a musical view than worrying too much about what the chords are in theory. It flows and it’s my bet that it was composed without any regard to theory. 

Sorry that I can’t help more.

Hey guys, thanks for the replies. To follow up, I came across a YouTube video which covers this well. https://youtu.be/HlNFaaW3sB0

The video covers one of these songs and some others in a very educational way. Taking another look at the Crown Dungeon's theme, which wasn't written by Kondo, there is alot of of parallel Major 3rds, some minor 3rds, alot of chromatic planing, and some jumps here and there.

However, still not sure where these guys got inspiration to write like that. 

My guess is that they get the inspiration to write like they do from the same place you do. The fact that someone bought it and put it in a game doesn't make it any more or less legitimate than anything you will write. You need to write like you, not someone else. They're already doing that.

They are modern harmonization techniques too long to explain in a post and without graphics. Surprisingly I could not find a YouTube explaining them...

I wouldn't consider his analysis very accurate nor very educated. "The perfect 4th is not available in the overtone series" What??? It's the distance between the 2nd and 3rd overtone... Sigh! Youtube... It's very biased and completely opinion based.

LeviathaninWaves said:

Hey guys, thanks for the replies. To follow up, I came across a YouTube video which covers this well. https://youtu.be/HlNFaaW3sB0

The video covers one of these songs and some others in a very educational way. Taking another look at the Crown Dungeon's theme, which wasn't written by Kondo, there is alot of of parallel Major 3rds, some minor 3rds, alot of chromatic planing, and some jumps here and there.

However, still not sure where these guys got inspiration to write like that. 

I've looked into techniques like harmonic planing and twelve tone rows... it seems like a form of planing but somehow I feel there's more that I'm missing. Any ideas what said techniques might be called?

Claude Werner said:

They are modern harmonization techniques too long to explain in a post and without graphics. Surprisingly I could not find a YouTube explaining them...

Ugh. Save that talk for pop artists.

Bob Porter said:

My guess is that they get the inspiration to write like they do from the same place you do. The fact that someone bought it and put it in a game doesn't make it any more or less legitimate than anything you will write. You need to write like you, not someone else. They're already doing that.

There are many names depending on each technique, unfortunately I have never been very good at names for things... I don't think the composition you quoted uses serialism or twelve tone rows, that's a very specific sound that I'm definitely not hearing here.

One place you start with are atonal triads...

LeviathaninWaves said:

I've looked into techniques like harmonic planing and twelve tone rows... it seems like a form of planing but somehow I feel there's more that I'm missing. Any ideas what said techniques might be called?

Claude Werner said:

They are modern harmonization techniques too long to explain in a post and without graphics. Surprisingly I could not find a YouTube explaining them...

Ha, ha, ha, ha!

LeviathaninWaves said:

Ugh. Save that talk for pop artists.

Bob Porter said:

My guess is that they get the inspiration to write like they do from the same place you do. The fact that someone bought it and put it in a game doesn't make it any more or less legitimate than anything you will write. You need to write like you, not someone else. They're already doing that.

Pop artists

Well, there are those who would not put those two words together. Not me, of course.

You've already done enough analyzing of Crown Dungeon to tell you what you need to know about how he wrote it. 

I don't reckon there is any technique or genre to this (other than the track meeting the requirement of a game). It sounds like the performer has enough musical savvy to string a phrase together, probably made a few notations then dribbled out a "learned" improvisation. He needed it to sound weird and knows how to get that effect in his/her own fashion. There's no form, the "bass" is a mess and the nearest I can recognise is that it's through composed from the little I listened to. Trying to find form or logic enough to pinpoint technique is a grail hunt. If there are hints of serialism they're coincidental.

The best that can come out of it is the O/P coining some name for it. 

You can smack your hands on a piano keyboard then analyse the result coming up with all kinds of erudite-sounding analyses, often specious. (Anyone who's read one or more volumes of Die Reihe will know that the commentary on why and how was usually far more interesting than the piece being featured (assuming it was available to be heard)!)



Claude Werner said:

There are many names depending on each technique, unfortunately I have never been very good at names for things... I don't think the composition you quoted uses serialism or twelve tone rows, that's a very specific sound that I'm definitely not hearing here.

One place you start with are atonal triads...

LeviathaninWaves said:

I've looked into techniques like harmonic planing and twelve tone rows... it seems like a form of planing but somehow I feel there's more that I'm missing. Any ideas what said techniques might be called?

Claude Werner said:

They are modern harmonization techniques too long to explain in a post and without graphics. Surprisingly I could not find a YouTube explaining them...

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