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Video game music hits right notes with audience

August 5, 2008 | 11:15 am

When were you last at a classical concert where the audience cheered, clapped, whistled and sang? Probably never.

But this happens regularly whenever Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall put on their concert, called "Video Games Live." The show features orchestral scores either inspired by video games or composed directly for video games. No, the pieces aren't just bleeps from Pong or the sound of things blowing up. Most of them involve an entire symphony to perform. Some even call for a chorus and the occasional soprano.

The first Video Games Live concert in 2005 took place at the Hollywood Bowl and featured the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The following year, there were 11 shows sprinkled throughout the country. This year, the schedule lists 50 shows worldwide, including in San Jose, Paris, Moscow and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Last week, Wall and Tallarico put out an album of the same name through EMI. Two days after, "Video Games Live" shot to last week's Billboard list for the top classical crossover albums at No. 10, right next to Josh Groban and Andrea Boccelli. The album, recorded with the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra, features tunes from games such as Tetris, Halo, Tron and World of Warcraft. You can listen to 30-second clips of the album here.

Sonic isn't going to give Stravinski much competition as musical genius, but game composers do get inspired by the classics, said Tallarico, who has composed music for more than 300 games over the last 18 years. His "Advent Rising Suite," one of the tracks on the album, takes its cues from 13th century Italian sacred music.

"We wanted to show the world how culturally relevant and artistic game music has become, while ushering a whole new generation of people to come and appreciate symphonic concerts," Tallarico said.

The appreciation often manifests itself in unusual ways.

"Sometimes the cheers are so loud, you almost can't hear the music," Tallarico said. "The audience is going absolutely nuts. But the musicians don't mind. They almost never get this kind of reaction."

-- Alex Pham

Credit: Video on YouTube posted by bmh1 of a 2006 Video Games Live concert in the San Jose Civic Auditorium to a sold out crowd.