Pianist and composer Sonya Belousova of PlayerPianoMusic.com demonstrates her musical skill as she hears snippets of and improvises on beloved video-game themes like,

Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Kid Icarus, and, of course, The Legend of Zelda. Since authors here at ZeldaInformer have recently put out a fair amount of literature on Koji Kondo’s favorite musical themes, projects, and so forth, this video attests to the cultural and artistic capital he has gained even in performance practices long associated with classical-music traditions.

In the classical-music world, dictation isn’t anything new. Musicians are trained to hear a melody and either play it back or notate it on staff paper. As their skill increases, they then must do harmonic dictation in which they hear the chords under a melody and must play or notate them. Harmonic dictation typically is more difficult because musicians have to account for three or four notes stacked on top of each other as opposed to a melody’s individual notes. As you might expect, it takes a lot of listening, ear training, and practice to be able to do dictation. If one is blessed with a good ear (or things like relative/perfect pitch), then he or she is all the better prepared for dictation. But when someone can do all that and improvise on a medley of themes on one hearing only, well, let’s just say that we’ve reached Mozart and Liszt territory.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the latter name, Franz Liszt was a pianist and composer of legendary stature in the mid 1800s (check out one of his solo piano compositions,

La Campanella). His pianistic abilities were so good that orchestra conductors refused to give him the music to practice prior to a concert? Why? Well, Liszt would be able to play any piece on site without any preparation and would often feel the need to “improve” parts he thought were boring; he would consequently improvise. Sonya Belousova is doing something similar but on a more intimate scale. Just imagine what she’d do if she were given, say, all the Overworld themes from the Zelda series to weave together on the keyboard. The possibilities, a great allure of improvisation, are endless. Enjoy!

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