Final Fantasy VII – “Ascension to Cosmo Canyon” (arr. Reuben Kee)

October 2, 2010

While I personally feel that the “Main Theme” to Final Fantasy VII is the best composition in the game for capturing the game’s wide range of themes and emotions (sorry, OWA fans), the piece that moved me the most was “Canyon of Falling Stars” aka “Cosmo Canyon”. The track serves as a kind of leitmotif for Red XIII, the fire hound who joins the party after being rescued from the Shinra laboratories. “Red XIII’s Theme” contains the base of “Canyon of Falling Stars,” echoes of a song that is only partially realized, but with the youthful vigor befitting his age and the spirit of his hometown.

“Canyon of Falling Stars” opens with some heavy drumwork before adding a Chinese lute to create minimal melody. Suddenly, the song explodes with flute and choral ‘oofs’, each instrument layered together to create a rich tapestry of melody (actually, it kind of makes me wonder how Koji Hayama would handle it!). At about a minute in, the flute takes over with the lute replaced by an electric guitar. The flute gives a feel of antiquity to Cosmo Canyon, a town with both observatory watching the heavens and the ancient layers of the past rising above them in the canyon walls. Cosmo Canyon has the aura of a city with a past that is long and storied, but today is in decline from its golden age. It is therefore a reminisce of the past as well as an honor to the spirit of the place.

“Red XIII’s Theme” is revised again in “The Great Warrior,” which is Red XIII’s discovery of the petrified body of his estranged father, who died protecting the village in Cosmo Canyon. This sorrowful reunion uses bells and metallic plinks for the hollowness and loss Red feels for his father, who he had previously felt was a coward who had failed his hometown.

Final Fantasy VII – “Ascension to Cosmo Canyon” (arr. Reuben Kee)

However, I want to bring up the primary reason for this post, which is “Ascension to Cosmo Canyon,” arranged by the late Reuben Kee and my favorite rendition of my favorite piece from Final Fantasy VII. Kee was a promising master of the piano, and his subtle touch of the keys flows effortlessly like a river, deep and wide, or the sparkling drops of tears. In fact, it even surpasses the official piano arranges. He beings “Ascension to Cosmo Canyon” with piano, supported by cello and violin, the former of which has a wonderful timbre at 1:00. Partway into the track, at the end of the first loop, Kee begins his second take on the theme, adding taiko drums and choral before jumping straight into the lute and melancholic wooden flute, which from here on directs the melody with subtle touch (particularly at 2:30). At the end, Kee adds some new material which after a false ending takes the theme into the major scale for renewed vigor. He states that the title refers to Red XIII’s chidren, born some 250 years after the game ends.

It’s a shame Mr. Kee died so young. Listening to his music, it is possible to hear the power and passion behind his music and the promise of where he would have gone in another decade. A true talent who tried to make the world better, if even just a little, through his music.


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