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Music: From 8 bits to four movements

Few kids playing the Legend of Zelda on their Famicom in 1986 could have imagined it, but the beeps and bops of Koji Kondo’s original 8-bit soundtrack have made a successful transition into classical music, in a work that Bay Areans will be able to hear at the end of this month at Davies Symphony Hall. It all started last year, when San Francisco–based Jason Michael Paul Productions worked with Nintendo to create a 25th-anniversary concert for the Legend of Zelda franchise, featuring orchestral versions of Kondo’s music. Producer Jason Paul (also cofounder of the Coffee Bar in the Mission) is a pioneer in the field of video-game-music concerts, and his Zelda production was such a success during its 2011 world tour that 20 entirely new shows were commissioned for this year, including the one here.
     Chad Seiter, Paul’s music director, had the task of converting Kondo’s original melodies into a full symphony. “Eight-bit music has three polyphony, which means three notes playing at one time,” he says. “It’s challenging to write catchy melodies with just three notes, and to convert that into this gigantic thing that makes sense for an orchestra.” The result, a full four-movement symphony, will be played while scenes from a game are projected on a screen above the orchestra.
Seiter is convinced that the music isn’t just for gaming geeks. “It’s a form that’s accessible to anyone,” he says, “including elderly people and kids for whom this might be their first symphony.” The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, March 28, Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F., 415-864-6000. Buy tickets here.