Archive for November 16th, 2010

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What Makes it Memorable? – Final Fantasy VII – “Aerith’s Theme” (Nobuo Uematsu)

November 16, 2010

One of the questions I’ve been asking over the past year is “what makes a song memorable?” I’ve tried to address this in several places, but not yet in-depth, which is what I would like to do for the next week. In a sense, it requires this because there are many components that make up a memorable song even though there is no formula for creating one.

The first element I choose is emotional attachment. Before moving forward, I go back to the very first song I posted, the Super Mario Bros. theme. With regards to this song, Koji Kondo said that he did not feel the music would have been memorable if the game weren’t any good. On the one hand, the song’s memorability stems from its simple repetition: kids played this game for hours and hours and they had no choice but to memorize the music. However, I also feel there is a stronger tie here, that of emotional attachment, the recollection of fond memories people had from their play experience and those connections with their childhood. This is one of the ways that a song can be memorable – it can recall a point or period of your life or an event associated with that scene (like the music that was playing when you had your first date or got married). Essentially, music and memory become tied into one.

One of the strongest emotional moments from games was the death of Aerith (Aeris is her translated name) in Final Fantasy VII. Though characters had been killed off in Final Fantasy games before (I’m looking at you, Galuf!), the player had never developed a very strong attachment to those characters. With Aeris, players formed an emotional attachment with her early on through the love triangle of Aeris-Cloud-Tifa. Aeris also became an important member of the team who healed the party, providing a sense of compassion the other characters lacked. The fact that the player was in a sense led to fall in love with Aeris through his empathy and identification with Cloud made her death all the more powerful. As a result, it is this memory of Aeris, of all the emotions leading up to the moment of her death, that make it resonate with the heartstrings of fans. I have heard reports of players who have even broken into tears when listening to this song, and perhaps you are one of those listeners who feel sadness upon hearing it. Incidentally, it is for this reason that I enjoy the Distant Worlds presentation of “Aerith’s Theme” – they showed one of Cloud’s happier moments with Aeris in the playground, eliminating the text boxes and letting the listener’s imagination fill in the blanks of their conversation).

In fact, every element of “Aerith’s Theme” is used to support this emotion. Read the rest of this entry ?

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