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Is it VGM? – “Rebirth” (Masaya Tsunemoto)

January 17, 2010

“Rebirth” is an interesting case for a question of vgm. The song is from the tech demo video Rebirth produced by Mix-Core and composed by Masaya Tsunemoto with Yoko Yoshida on violin. Mix-Core was said to be a startup founded by Nintendo in Japan as a CGI company (the company seems to have finally closed in 2006). The video was produced for Nintendo at Spaceworld 2000 as a demonstration video of Gamecube hardware (part of the video – with the tree-man running through the forest – is running on actual Gamecube hardware while the rest is FMV). The video was meant to show how closely the Gamecube’s graphics could come to prerendered CGI. Below is the full video as well as an audio rip from it which originally appeared on Mix-Core’s website (which is now defunct).

“Rebirth” (Masaya Tsunemoto)

The music for this piece is simply masterful with strong Japanese elements of the main theme that really cut to the core. It’s beautiful, and the main theme evolves from a sense of sadness to strength and confidence regained, soaring majestically out of the tragedy. The middle section captures the movement through the field, and the opening violin section is excellent, but ultimately it feels more like a series of cues than a standalone piece: this section just sort of wanders along without really getting anywhere and so is ultimately tied to the action of the video rather than the music in and of itself and feels like it wants to resolve back into the main theme.

Rebirth was originally in two parts; the first, the destruction of the great tree along with the logo and the second being the strange tree-person’s exploration of the forest and his growth into a new tree. Both videos are combined here into one. The video is full of strange creatures, from the tadpoles in the intro to the tree man-thing (which I suppose bears an uncanny resemblance to Mushroom Men). The silhouette of the tree man against the fog of the forest is by far the most memorable moment: so much emotion is captured in that single frame.

It has been said that Rebirth was a metaphor for Nintendo’s state as a videogame company at the turn of the century. The giant tree represents Nintendo. This tree is destroyed when Nintendo’s game system, the Nintendo 64, failed dismally in the market. However, the designers of the company, such as Shigeru Miyamoto, are imbued with the essence of the company and, carrying its legacy, are able to explore the world and see new and marvelous things within it, which is the soul of the company’s creativity. Through this, Nintendo is inspired to grow a new tree, much stronger and more vibrant than the last. This new tree was supposed to be the Nintendo Gamecube, but I think we all know how successful that system was. Today, we might say that the small seed planted back in 2000 has finally grown into a massive tree thanks to the success of the Wii and Nintendo DS.

So the question, is “Rebirth” vgm goes back to the discussion on chiptunes. Like chiptunes, the “Rebirth” tech demo is built on game hardware and uses graphics and characters that look like they could come from a videogame (though probably one very different from what we have seen). However, Rebirth is not a game. It is an animated short. While “Rebirth” is ultimately affiliated with vgm because of its history, the song isn’t vgm at all but an orchestrated soundtrack for a short computer animated film. However, as I hope I have been demonstrating, a tune’s classification has absolutely no bearing on its inherent qualities, and Tsunemoto’s work is masterful by any measure.

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