From the earliest music-related memories, I can definitely vouch (as I'm sure many my age can) that the very first songs to be truly stuck in my head came from video games. Countless hours of playing Sonic: The Hedgehog on my step-brother's Sega Genesis (and later stealing his Sonic CD game to rip the soundtrack onto our computer) no doubt played a very instrumental role in forming my music taste. It stands to reason that this is the case, in one form or another, for just about everyone born after 1970—that whether we realize it or not, the ubiquity of video game culture from the early 1980s has absolutely shaped the musical world in which we now exist.
Exploring this notion, the creative folks over at Red Bull Music Academy are taking their first trip to Asia to delve into the long-present and ever-expanding Japanese influence on the greater musical world, specifically through the medium of video game music (VGM). Interviewing the early pioneers of 8-bit sound like Junko Ozawa of Namco (Gaplus, Tower of Druaga) and Hirokazu 'Hip' Tanaka of Nintendo (Metroid, Tetris, Pokemon), RBMA delves into the lengths to which these composers went to achieve their artistic vision, literally designing charts and soldering sound cards to manually interpolate music into processable data, as well as what influences were incorporated into the music. Who could possibly guess that the reggae influence from the likes of Bob Marley and Jah Wobble from P.I.L. formed the basis for Tanaka's inspiration in scoring games like Balloon Fight and Wrecking Crew? The series also looks at the outcome of VGM - the influence the music had on the likes of an outrageously wide array of today's master producers, featuring interviews with the likes of Havoc (of Mobb Deep), J-Rocc, Kode 9, Anamanaguchi, Flying Lotus, and more.
As a scatterbrained person myself, who rarely takes the time to sit still and do anything for longer than 10 minutes at a time, just trust me on this — take 15 minutes and give the first installment of this series your full attention. I guarantee even the most knowledgable and experienced heads will learn a thing or two about how video games influence the music you love today, and this is just part one of six.