Saturday, October 8, 2011

8-Bit Zelda Title Themes: A Comparative Analysis

This post was originally intended to be an analytical look at the Title music from The Legend of Zelda: The Adventures of Link, but in doing the analysis, there is just too much to discuss when looking at these two objects together.  As a refresher, here is the Title Music from The Legend of Zelda:

… and the title music from The Legend of Zelda: The Adventures of Link:

The LoZ title music is structured in the following format:

4 measure intro | 6 measure bridge | 8 measure Phrase A | 12 measure Phrase B

In contrast, the LoZ:AL title music breaks down as follows:

4 measure lead in | 8 measure intro | 4 measure bridge | 8 measure Phrase A | 8 measure Phase B

There are some similarities here.  Each object contains two primary phrases of music, with an introduction and a bridge from the intro into the main melodic statement.  On first listen, these two objects appear to have very little in common…

… however…

If you look at the harmonies implied in the introduction phrases, you get the following (harmonic rhythm is one chord per measure):

LOZ – Bb | Ab | Gb | F
LOZ:AL – G | F | Eb | D | G | F | Eb | D

Roman Numerals: I – bVII – bVI – V (– I – bVII – bVI – V)

Each of these objects is built on this descending sequence of chords through a modally mixed scale.

Each object uses this progression differently.  In LOZ, the pattern is used again at the beginnings of both Phrase A and B, but then moves to different related harmonies. 

LOZ:AL is entirely based on this progression.  Phrase A emphasizes I, using bVII as a dominant functioning chord, and Phrase B alternates between bVI and V. 

These harmonies are ingrained in the harmonic language of music written by or inspired by Koji Kondo.  I could reference other examples here, but I’ll save it for another day.

Now listen to the two objects again.  Can you here the remarkable similarities?


LainaLain said...

I really love your analyses. Reading your blog helps me to understand music theory a bit better.

Anonymous said...

I'd be more interested in hearing your analysis between this and the theme music for The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. After the cinematic portion, it's the same tune, but it's played differently.

flutistjason said...

Thanks for the suggestion. Look out for it on a post soon!