An ethereal choir and pulsing string section during the opening of "Halo." The dreamlike composition that plays during dips underwater in "Super Mario Bros." The synthesized Eastern melody that accompanies the relentless descent of pieces in "Tetris."
To video gamers, these musical themes set the mood, frame the emotional peaks and troughs, and get the blood pumping in some of the best-known titles of the last 30 years. Tonight, July 11, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera will pull music from dozens of popular gaming franchises for Video Games Live, a concert experience combining the power and presence of an orchestra and choir with an over-the-top, interactive audio/visual spectacle.
During tonight's show, the CSO will draw on 120 full songs and medleys culled from games such as "God of War," "Tomb Raider," "Final Fantasy," "Civilization" and "BioShock." Millions of dollars of lighting equipment and video screens will display synchronized visual effects and gameplay footage, and the audience will be able to use texting and social media to shape the set list, says VGL creator Tommy Tallarico.
"There are three things that make up a video game: the music and audio, the visuals and the gameplay," Tallarico says. "I wanted to bring all three of those things to the stage, not just one.
"We're accessible to everyone. You don't have to know a thing about video games to come to the show and have a complete new understanding of what video games are."
What: Chattanooga Symphony & Opera presents Video Games Live
When: 7:30 p.m. today, July 11
Where: Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
Admission: $25-$60, plus fees
Video Game Live's library of material consists of 120 segments -- some medleys, some full songs -- drawn from popular game franchises such as: "Zelda," "Mass Effect," "Halo," "Kingdom Hearts," "Medal of Honor," "Myst," "Mega Man," "Portal," "Uncharted," "Assassin's Creed," "Diablo," "Castlevania," "Command & Conquer."
Tallarico's name is well-known in the gaming industry. He's a former host of video-game culture TV show "Electric Playground" and a composer with a Guinness record-setting list of credits in 300 games.
He developed the concept of Video Games Live in 2002, but it was three years before its public debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to an audience of 11,000 at the Hollywood Bowl. What began as a bit of a tough sell has since graduated to an internationally renowned concert experience, with about 300 dates in cities around the globe, including many repeat appearances.
Tallarico says video games and symphonies are more natural bedfellows than the hard-core proponents of either might assume, and Video Games Live is cross-pollinating both art forms, introducing new audiences to gaming and to classical music equally.
When the lasers are flashing, the orchestra is in top form and the audience is on its feet, the line between a traditional symphony performance and an all-night gaming marathon blends in a way that is surprising and invigorating.
"We want people to have fun," he says. "Video games are fun, and there's no reason the symphony can't be fun, too."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.