Video games aren’t just for kids anymore. In fact, they’ve long been regarded as an art form and the video game industry continues to grow in terms of mainstream appeal and advancing gaming technology. Many of the world’s most talented visual and musical artists work in the electronic gaming industry, including Emmanuel Fratianni, a big league maestro, conductor and composer for television, film and video games. Fratianni has led, and has had his compositions performed by, some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras; this month, he conducts the North Carolina Symphony in a performance of “Video Games Live,” music from all your favorite games including Mario, Zelda, Halo, Warcraft, Final Fantasy and more, at Meymandi Concert Hall. Fratianni spoke with Raleigh Magazine from his studio in Los Angeles.
How would you describe a “Video Games Live” performance to someone who’s never seen or heard it?
It’s a symphonic and fun live performance. It is almost like a rock concert because it is very engaging with the audience. People get really into it. They do not sit in their seat quiet, they react to the music. [“Video Games Live” founder] Tommy Tallarico is the emcee and engages with the audience and there is much laughter. It is nothing like a classical concert. It really is like seeing a rock concert with a symphony orchestra and the visual elements and the light show offers a feast for the eyes. We keep it light, we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously because that’s not the point. We keep video games fun for everyone, and we keep it onstage that way as well.
How is conducting “Video Games Live” different to conducting a classical or traditional symphony?
It’s very different because “Video Games Live” is a multimedia show. There are three screens with synchronized videos playing at the same time. My role as a conductor in that specific genre is to make sure that whatever is played is perfectly synchronized with all the events that are going on on the screens.
Who are you conducting and who is on stage?
This is the third time [the NC Symphony] invited us and it is a wonderful orchestra in Raleigh, very high quality. I think it accommodates roughly 60-70 [instrumental] players on stage, plus a choir. At times, we’ve had 100 players on stage. Tommy plays the electric guitar, as well as serving as emcee. It sounds big, and visually, it is very impressive as well.
How about the composing aspects of video game music?
These video game composers whose work I am conducting I know, and they have families, and they wake up in the morning, take their kids to school, and the next thing they do is get in their studio and lock the door and immerse themselves in the video game and write music all day long. They are incredibly creative and innovative. That’s what I tell the audience, these composers are some of the best alive today, and they are my age (52) and younger. Unlike most classical composers today, they’re still working.
Do you play video games, or have you ever?
I played games as a kid, we all did. Then music took over. I came to [game music] composing from composing for television and film, and first felt like a bit of an outsider. I am not a dedicated gamer, but love writing for them. Now that my son is 8 years old, I play games with him. So it has come a bit full circle.
The NC Symphony will be performing “Video Games: Live” at Meymandi Concert Hall on October 5.