When I whisper the words Final Fantasy, I envision magical worlds, deep-enthralling characters, and captivating music. Many would also argue that battle mechanics are a big part of the series as well, though, I beg to differ. Along with these lasting impressions, there are also a few names that almost always spring to mind; Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yoshinori Kitase, Tetsuya Nomura, among others. While these individuals are credited towards having produced and/or directed some of the most memorable Final Fantasy games to date, there are a number of other people involved in the production of the games that bring the series to life as well including Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Yoshitaka Amano. Of course, we can’t forget all the Japanese and English voice talent led most infamously by James Arnold Taylor! Even if you haven’t played Final Fantasy X, there’s a good chance you’ll catch that reference.
Big names aside, there are also a great many who tend to fly under the radar but have influenced the culture surrounding Final Fantasy and its fandom. These individuals may not be as highly regarded by the media as video game music is often overlooked or still an afterthought, yet, despite their troubles, many of these contributors often find themselves making a name for themselves in the industry. Of course, you have your exceptions like Nobuo Uematsu who is just as famous as the games, but those in the west, like myself, may recognize a name like Arnie Roth who has carved out his own niche and placed himself at the forefront of video game fandom wielding his baton of musical superiority! Arnie Roth has a list of accomplishments that include conducting and directing concerts that I’ll go into in just a moment. If you were to ask me, now might be a great time to be involved with the video game music industry.
I was first introduced to Arnie Roth a couple years ago when I attended my first Final Fantasy Distant Worlds concert. At that time, I had no idea the impact that the music of Final Fantasy and his conducting bravado would play on my love for the games and the series as a whole. When I attend concerts, I kinda expect a little engagement from the presenters to those in attendance. Arnie Roth’s candor and inclusion of those in the audience was a joy to see and I am glad I had the opportunity to experience this event. You know how sometimes you go to a symphony and everyone is all hush-hush and no clapping or anything? Well, when you attend a Distant Worlds concert – That all changes. Things get fun and people start hootin’ and hollarin’ for all their favorite tunes. Getting excited about the music is definitely acceptable at these concerts and I was completely blown away! I never truly understood that whole keep quiet and proper thing but who am I anyway!
Though Roth is well known for his efforts as part of the Distant Worlds series, he has also been involved in a few other Final Fantasy related productions as well. He initially became involved with Nobuo Uematsu through such productions that include ‘Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy’, ‘Voices: Music from Final Fantasy’, ‘More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy’, as well an opportunity to direct and conduct ‘PLAY! A Video Game Symphony’ which also included tracks from Final Fantasy among other games. Outside of video game conducting and directing he has also been involved in a number of BarbieTM films as well which he was nominated for an Emmy in 2007 for his original song ‘Shine’. His achievement list is long and I will not bore you with those details. I only make mention of his success with BarbieTM because I wanted highlight his diversity in music. Some would expect to find Arnie Roth solely working on Final Fantasy productions but he is also well versed in composition as displayed by his previous work.
His involvement in Final Fantasy began sometime in 2002-2003 where he was introduced to video game music concerts occurring in Japan through a friend and colleague of his. Given the heavy influence of Nobuo Uematsu and the Final Fantasy series in Japan, live video game concert music thrived. Despite the popularity of live video game music concerts, or more specifically, music from Final Fantasy, live music such as this had never occurred in North America. I strongly believe that there has always been interest from fans of Final Fantasy to see and hear the live music, but North America has always followed behind Japan in terms of video game culture. As a music director for the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra at the time, concerts, like those occurring in Japan, were important for Arnie Roth as he took great interest in the unique design. Around 2004, Arnie Roth reached out to those involved with the production of the ‘Dear Friends’ live concert series and the four shows that were scheduled to play in Chicago were sold out.
Sorry to Reminisce…
Where was I around 2004 you ask? Well, I was just entering University and getting out on my own for the first time. This was also around the time where I started to become really interested in video game music as a whole through the music of Final Fantasy. I recall hearing about the ‘Dear Friends’ concert series and to be honest, I even considered purchasing a ticket and traveling to Chicago for the show but decided against it after I started looking at costs. I thought that might be my only opportunity to see a Final Fantasy music live concert! I was very disappointed but much to my excitement Arnie Roth, Nobuo Uematsu and Square Enix all became very close during the initial tour and in 2007, in conjunction with the Final Fantasy 20th Anniversary, an additional live tour began – The ‘Distant Worlds’ world tour. After that folks the rest is history.
I am elated to have been able to come into my own as a video game music enthusiast around the same time Arnie Roth took that first opportunity to bring the live concert series to North America. I, like many others, credit all of my love for the music of Final Fantasy to Nobuo Uematsu but also recognize the contributions of Arnie Roth and without him, I don’t think I would have been introduced to the live music until much later in life!
If you get a chance feel free to check out more stuff from myself and VGMP Radio by following the links below – Thanks for reading!!
Our recent blog: The Monthly Top 3 Video Game Soundtracks (That I listened to)!
ALSO – From the ‘brief’ read above, you may have noticed that I’ve taken to writing a series of thematic articles that surround video game music. Without having to make you guess I’ve taken to lay it out like this monthly:
- The VGMP Top 3 Soundtracks (Eventually there will be a theme)
- Spotlight: Musician/Composer/Industry artist
- New Release and Review!
- Feature article