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Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack
Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. (1985) score redefined video game music. With under three minutes of music, Kondo put to rest an era of bleeps and bloops-the sterile products of a lab environment-replacing it with one in which game sounds constituted a legitimate form of artistic expression. Andrew Schartmann takes us through the various external factors (e.g., the video game crash of 1983, Nintendo's marketing tactics) that coalesced into a ripe environment in which Kondo's musical experiments could thrive. He then delves into the music itself, searching for reasons why our hearts still dance to the "primitive" 8-bit tunes of a bygone era.
What musical features are responsible for Kondo's distinct "Mario sound"? How do the different themes underscore the vastness of Princess Peach's Mushroom Kingdom? And in what ways do the game's sound effects resonate with our physical experience of the world? These and other questions are explored within, through the lens of Kondo's compositional philosophy-one that would influence an entire generation of video game composers. As Kondo himself stated, "we [at Nintendo] were trying to do something that had never been done before." In this book, Schartmann shows his readers how Kondo and his team not just succeeded, but heralded in a new era of video games.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Schartmann is convincing on Kondo's genius ... It's hard not to appreciate his high aim. If anyone still doubts a video game can be art, perhaps their definition of art is at fault. * The Wire * The most compelling aspects of Schartmann's book involve the widening circumference of Kondo's imagination, the possibilities he saw in this new world of electronic composition. The move to home consoles had freed video gaming from the initial, "hailing" approach to sound...It's Schartmann's sense of conviction, the hyperbole that occasionally frames his dive into composition and structure, that gives the book its charm. -- Hua Shu * The New Yorker * Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack gave me a greater appreciation of something that appears to be so simple on the surface. * Pure Geekery * Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack comes in at 120 pages, not counting the notes and preface, which appears well on par with other books in the 33 1/3 series. It's a book that takes itself seriously, as it should, and soundly proves the case that video game composition is worthy of discussion among keepers of music as a craft. If you have an appreciation for game music, this is worth buying. Even if you don't get a few parts, they're only likely to make you admire the work and design that go into composing all the more. -- Tim Latshaw * NintendoLife * Andrew Schartmann does both the spirit of the series and video game history proud with his investigation into the iconic music from Koji Kondo. Matching a fanboy's sensibilities with serious scholarship, Schartmann provides the reader with an engaging discussion of Kondo's themes and ideas, both in terms of stylistic flair and compositional acumen ... Of equal importance are his excellent research skills, as he collects worthwhile source material and pairs them [with] compelling quotes from Kondo and other luminaries at Nintendo to make his case for this soundtrack's inclusion in the 33-1/3 series. The result is a superb blend of professional musicology and video game nerdery. * Dryvetyme.tumblr.com * Andrew Schartmann's extensive, thoughtful treatise on Japanese composer Koji Kondo and his work on the soundtrack to the original Super Mario Bros game is probably the most unusual entry in the 33 1/3 music chapbook series ... As Schartmann demonstrates, Kondo's work on this seminal game - and the legacy of industry influence that followed - is much more than the primitive bleeps and bloops we all remember ... -- Justin Cummings * Critics at Large * There's something ballsy about including a videogame soundtrack in the 33 1/3 series since it's not a traditional album per se, though Andrew Schartmann makes a compelling case for Koji Kondo's score for Super Mario Bros. -- Hubert Vigilla * Ruby Hornet * Excerpted * VICE * Featured in "The Genius of the Super Mario Bros. 'Game Over' Theme" * Slate * Schartmann argues Super Mario Bros. composer Kondo transcended the medium of composition to break free from its restrictions, creating something new to be examined and improved upon ... Super Mario Bros. has an enduring sonic legacy. Music is, after all, one of the great social connectors, and the infectiousness of Super Mario Bros.' iconic main theme is ignorant of geography's constraints. -- Josh O'Kane * The Globe and Mail *