Local Game Music Gets Orchestrated

Wing Commander get the Austin Civic Orchestra treatment this weekend

The Austin Civic Orchestra kicks off its season this weekend by embracing the Past & Present. Video game enthusiasts might be interested in the "present" portion of the show with locally composed music from the seminal Wing Commander series. It wouldn't hurt for you to hear some Beethoven either.

The "past" half of the show consists of Ludwig van Beethoven's "2nd Symphony." We're told he's a pretty talented guy, but if anything is going to get the kids to the symphony it's a video-game tie-in. In this case, ACO will play music from World of Warcraft and a Wing Commander Suite. You've likely heard of the former, but Wing Commander might not be as familiar.

John Rhys-Davies and Mark Hammill in Wing Commander III

The Wing Commander series developed by Origin put local game designer Chris Roberts on the map in the mid 90s. The spiritual successor to the outer-space dogfighting series, Star Citizen, is currently in development by Roberts with reports of funding over $50 million.

Wing Commander III and IV incorporated some of the most cutting edge technology of the time: CD-ROMs, live-action cutscenes (starring Mark Hammill and Malcolm McDowell no less), and the sweeping MIDI orchestration courtesy of local composer George Oldziey. The soundtrack to the game is a testament to the beauty that can be found in technical limitations with MIDI versions of the usual orchestra instruments. This gives the sounds an electronic timbre. It's like aural pixelation.

Highly recommended is this 1995 Chronicle article by Al Kaufman who takes a look into Oldziey's work on the Wing Commander series and the orchestration process of the time. One of the most interesting facts learned from the article was that Britt Daniel (you know, the lead singer of Spoon) did sound effects and orchestration for Origin back in the day. Who knew?

Oldziey successfully funded an orchestral recording of the Wing Commander suite earlier this year via Kickstarter. The plan is to record later this month in Bratislava.

Austin Civic Orchestra Past and Present
Sunday, September 28, 3pm (preconcert talk at 2pm)
Anderson High School (8403 Mesa)
$12 (free for kids 18 and under)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Wing Commander, George Oldziey, Austin Civic Orchestra

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