I recently posted an article about an arrangement of Twilight Princess‘s “Hyrule Field at Night” and received some stimulating but conflicting responses about music in the The Legend of Zelda games. Naturally, discussion about Skyward Sword wasn’t too far away, as it was the first of the series to feature orchestral music during game play. What interested me, however, was that some have argued that Skyward Sword featured only a few orchestral pieces (upwards of three), while others maintained that there were more than that. And that’s the web I want to untangle. Exactly how much of Skyward Sword‘s music has orchestral music as opposed to digital music? Is there a clear answer? Have the composers even commented on such details? Does anyone really know?

I’ve gone digging for this answer and, as you may know, the amount of literature in the form of articles, editorials, interviews, and blogs is staggering. Yet, out of the things I have read, the musical team of Skyward Sword gave general answers, nothing specific. Their response, loosely paraphrased, goes something like this:

“We were initially going to do all-digital music, but we wanted to do orchestral music to suit the scale of the game. We had the budget to do orchestral music, so we decided to go along with it. The game has both orchestral and digital music.”

That answer suggests to me a number of possibilities, which include fully orchestrated/instrumental tracks, fully digital tracks, and a mix of both. How then might people know if, say, only three pieces from the entire soundtrack were orchestral/instrumental and the rest was digital? How does anyone know if, for example, Fi’s theme was recorded by a live musician and then modified with digital technology?

Since the composers used digital music for Skyward Sword, they connected the game to the tradition of previous Zelda iterations. However, one commentator of my article, Sabretooth Smile, aptly wrote,

“[Music] equipment and software is improving all the time -its not hard to generate these sounds on something like Logic Pro, Cubase or Reason with the right plug-ins and know how… a computer algorithm can’t fully replicate the organic sound generated by a real instrument, which in turn is also effected by the player. However the gap is closing slowly, as I said, the software and tech involved is improving all the time.”

The implication here is that, although the music of Skyward Sword may be more digital than orchestral (but the evidence to suggest one or the other is lacking), the sound quality has become altogether different and leans more towards the latter. In other words, the music of Skyward Sword doesn’t sound as digital as, say, that of Majora’s Mask or Twilight Princess. We as gamers hear that difference while we play, consciously or not. It’s also getting more difficult to distinguish what is instrumental and digital, unless one is trained in music production, digital composition, and so forth. Nonetheless, that’s the big departure that Skyward Sword presents from previous Zelda games: the affect or verisimilitude of an increasingly orchestral sound as opposed to a digital one.

My apologetic disclaimer here is that I know more about music than I do about the Zelda series, even though I’m a big fan of the games. My wish is to learn more about the precedent Skyward Sword has set through knowledgeable fans and their references to literature. This article, then, asks for some hard evidence from those of you who are steeped in this topic and who have been exposed to debates, articles, and issues concerning the music far longer than I. Thank you!

Sorted Under: Editorials