Posted on August 07 2019 by Matt Pederberg
Music is a defining feature of The Legend of Zelda series, so much so that it becomes its own character. The soundscape molds Hyrule around Link and his friends, giving character to those he interacts with and helps the player connect with them on an emotional level. The awe-striking music from The Legend of Zelda played a significant role in why I chose to pursue Bachelor’s Degree in music, and it is why I have decided to take an in-depth look at different tracks throughout the scores that inspire me as a musician. I thought a good starting point would be Breath of the Wild, one of the soundtracks that I am least familiar with. Now, seeing as Breath of the Wild has a little over 4 hours worth of music (that’s 211 tracks, wow!), I figured I would start with working my way through the Sound Selection CD included in all limited editions of Breath of the Wild’s original release.
This is it. With this piece marks the end of the journey through the Breath of the Wild: Sound Selection CD. It ends as it began; with the same piece, ‘Main Theme,’ except this time arranged for a live symphony. Therefore, the final track, number 24 for those counting, “Main Theme (Live),” was composed by Manaka Kataoka, the lead composer on the project.
Introducing the Piece
This track does not vary much from the original, so if you are interested in an in-depth look at it, check out the original article for the “Main Theme” right here. Instead what I intend this article to be is a little bit of a contrasting between the two iterations of the theme, as well as some reflection on the journey through the past hour and ten minutes of music covered.
There is nearly no difference in the instrumentation between the two pieces. The only real shift is the balance of volume between them, as well as a couple entrances being changed and minor lines given to different instruments.
We have explored dozens of different instruments through the course of these analyses, and some of them have been completely new instruments to me. I have loved learning more about the various kinds of Japanese flutes and stringed instruments and how they impacted the history of Japan. It has also been excellent to see my main instrument, the marimba, get some spotlight, as it is often more a supporting role.
Of course, it would be a shame to write a reflection and not include our star of the show: the piano. It is quickly cemented, by this theme no less, as the life-blood of Breath of the Wild. It has been a real pleasure to see the many ways the composers found to work it into the different cultures of Hyrule. Though it was not always present, the piano still plays a prominent role in the majority of the pieces we looked at, and plenty others we didn’t. All I have to say is kudos to the pianist!
As I said earlier, this version of the “Main Theme” does not vary much from the original. The only big difference that the casual listener might notice is that the “breath” that would otherwise be present at 1:12 is in fact missing. Otherwise, the voices are given a much more prominent role in the “Live”version.
It has been very rewarding to me to think about the different ways musical devices are being used in these tracks to add to the world it represents, as well as how the music reflected the feelings and situations of Link. It has also pushed me to look more deeply into Japanese history, like different art styles and customs, which is not something I initially thought I would have to do for this project, but has ended up being quite satisfying.
Both of these pieces are still in Ab-Major and 3/4. If we’re really looking hard for changes, we can see that the original theme runs at 2:01, whereas the “Live” version is 2:12. Otherwise, everything is the same.
This section has probably been my most favorite to do, as it challenges me to continuing using my “composer brain,” as it were. Analyzing music has always been a struggle for me, but what better way to exercise that muscle than with music that I really love?
I absolutely love the “Live” version of the “Main Theme.” The way the voices are accentuated makes my heart happy; though personally I love the short intake of breath, I think the lack of it still makes for a compelling moment. Again, this theme still probably remains my favourite main theme for a Zelda game.
This project has been a heck of a lot of fun! Breath of the Wild was one of those soundtracks that I never put much merit into on my first playthrough, so getting to take a deep look at it really enhanced my understanding of it. I think my favourite piece to analyze was “Tarrey Town.” I loved looking at the way all the different moving parts fit together to create the magical whole at the end. However, I think my favourite realization came actually from the “Field” theme, which until previously had been one of my least favourites of the game. I was quite surprised how much thought actually ended up going into the theme, and it really changed my outlook on it.
Overall, this was an excellent experience, and I really look forward to whatever I end up analyzing in the future!
Which is your favourite track in the Sound Selection CD? Or is your favourite not included on that list? Do you like the lack of “breath” in the “Live” version, or do you prefer the brief pause? For those more dedicated readers, what was your favourite moment on the soundtrack? And which Zelda soundtrack would you like to read more about? Let us know all these things, and more, in the comments below!
Matt Pederberg is part of the Writing Team at Zelda Dungeon, holds a Bachelor of Music, and has used that knowledge to develop his love of excellent music in excellent video games!