Now, regularly this music feature focuses on fan artists and covers of Zelda music, but today I decided to instead bring the spotlight to the guy behind it all: Kōji Kondō. Honestly, of all the video game composers out there, it can be said with 100% certainty that no man’s music is as well known as his. Kondō has composed the music for most of the main Zelda games as well as much of the Super Mario Bros. series. His music is iconic, recognized the world over, and it is safe to say that without him the Zelda series simply would not be the same.
I know the usual focus of Flute Boy’s Meadow is to introduce our readers to fan artists they may or may not know, giving them new looks at favorite songs. This week, I am aiming more for a dedication; a gallery in honor of one of the greatest video game composers of all time. After all, most of our favorite fan artists owe their inspiration to his work.
Please bear with me — this is going to be a heck of a ride!
Back in the early 1980s, Nintendo was just getting into the swing of things with the video game industry. With their plans to capitalize on the 1983 video game crash, they began sending recruitment drives to various colleges in Japan looking for people dedicated to composition and sound programming. In 1984, college senior Kōji Kondō applied and was the first person hired by Nintendo for composition.
The rest, as they say, is history. After working on some projects that helped spur Nintendo along, Kondō was given the chance to compose the soundtrack for coworker Shigeru Miyamoto’s new big game: Super Mario Bros. You know the result; the iconic music has become the most well-known in gaming, especially the famous song that serenaded players through their first minutes of the game and has gone on to become a classic.
It did not end there, of course. Within a year, Kōji and Shigeru were at it again to bring the video gaming world its biggest title yet: The Legend of Zelda. By now, Kondō was quickly showing an incredible talent for creating themes that could be heard over and over again without boring the player. From the happy, skipping Mario theme to the daring march of Zelda, his music was destined to become classics for years to come.
As Zelda fans, we of course know Kondō best for his work in the series. Every main console Zelda has had a powerful musical influence from Kōji’s works. Whether he composed the entire game himself (The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, and Ocarina of Time were all scored by Kondō alone) or worked with a partner, he still wowed the world time and time again with his works. He especially showed his skill for creating powerful moods with his works; while he had already created rousing adventure themes time and time again, he also built soft and gorgeous pieces that calmed and soothed. Games with his music were more than games, they were even greater experiences.
Last year, in honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Zelda series and Kondō’s work, the Symphony of the Goddess was formed. A full symphony orchestra dedicated to Zelda music, the Symphony has toured all over North America since and has sold out almost every concert. It is easily the most highly demanded musical experience of the past year… and almost all of the music is by Kōji Kondō.
Now, there is something I have often wondered: who inspired the composer whose music shaped my childhood (no joke)? In a Nintendo Power interview some years back, Kondo had this to say about his influences:
When I was in junior high and high school, I really pushed my skills in a cover band that played jazz and rock music—mainly the songs of Deep Purple, as well as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, which some people back then really considered some of the most progressive sounds in rock. Even though my bandmates grew out their hair really long in tribute, I didn’t go that far to copy my favorite bands!
Wow. I did not see that coming. Kōji Kondō, the Kōji Kondō, is a Deep Purple fan. Mind. Blown.
Zelda truly would not be the same without Kōji. His music has defined the series in ways nothing else could. He is the reason fans learn the Ocarina, why guitarists strive to play the rapid strings of Gerudo Valley, why many a gamer simply sits on his (or her) couch with eyes closed and listens to the sounds his game is delivering. An inspiration for thousands of musicians the world over. . . that’s Kōji Kondō.
So maybe I went a little overboard today with the videos and fanboyism, but I really wanted to just focus on the Zelda series’ original music a bit and I simply could not do so without highlighting Kōji Kondō’s work and achievements. I hope this post has been an enjoyable read for you, and be sure to leave your comments about some of your favorite Zelda music in the comments!
This concludes this week’s Flute Boy’s Meadow. Check in next week for a return to fan covers, and again don’t forget to let us know your favorite Kondō compositions in the comments! See you next week!