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Arcade Video Game Music

Video Game Music (1986), produced by Haruomi Hosono (Yellow Magic Orchestra, Swing Slow, et al) features music from the popular Namco arcade games from the early to mid 80s: Xevious, Pole Position, Galaga, Dig Dug, etc. The actual music having been written by other early musicians writing in pioneering 8-bit digital sound, Hosono’s role as producer was in getting tracks meant for gameplay into a composed format that could be listened to without feeding a thousand Yen worth of quarters into Namco-Bandai’s slot-jockeys. (Playing video games in order to reach levels with different musical scores was definitely a motivation for me to lose many quarters in the 80s). Hosono’s hand can best be imagined on the mixing board for the first track “Xevious.” Listen to the 6 minute album version in the MOG player below and I think you’ll agree that it’s an important pioneering track at the outset of many different forms of electronic music using digital sampling layered over found sound, producing ambient noise, melody, and rhythm. A careful ear can make out the sounds of other arcade game music in the background.

This was later re-released as a 12″ single with liner notes and a short sci-fi story by Xevious game designer Masanobu Endoh. A 3.5 minute video of Hosono playing the club version can be had via youtube.

The rest of the album features shorter tracks with delightful kitschy hooks like the track “Little Rabble,” an adaptation of many popular piano songbook classics into 8-bit. The other long-ish track is the 4 minute long “Galaga” which after listening to Hosono’s other albums sounds just as whimsical. “Galaga” leaves the medium of 8-bit to include extra orchestration, and sounds very similar to the style Hosono expressed in his ambient-dream lounge albums of the early to mid-90s. The most experimental track is the 16 second long “Bosconian” (nice filler for any mix-cd). Really, the whole album is a treat. Although the album was re-released in 1999 as “The Best of Video Game Music” with non-Hosono produced tracks, this has been hard to locate as well (but seek and you shall find).

About Aharon N. Varady


Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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