Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The Super Mario Bros. theme is like Esperanto, gang! Everybody knows that cheery and surprisingly non-annoying soundtrack of racing through the kingdom, bypassing danger, swimming and jumping and getting money and mushrooms in an attempt to save your woman (thought the relationship between her and Mario remains ambiguous - were they cousins or something? No romantic heat between them whatsoever). Anyway, since girls are super high-maintenance and she couldn't save her damn self, her fate rested with you and it all depended on how nice you were on the controller. And it was the music that kept your motivation up when you were getting fatigued.
Who's behind that tinny theme song? I'MSOGLADYOUASKED. I'm an 8-bit nerd and so I'd like to inform you that the Latin-ish song of pure electronic joy came courtesy of Koji Kondo, a Japanese composer who loves jazz-fusion and was influenced by Henry Mancini and Herbie Hancock! ROCK IT, Koji! Super Mario was Kondo's first composition for Nintendo; he now runs the whole damn sound department there. Sorta like Puffy's rise at Uptown.
The Super Mario theme changed the game (teehee!) because of its musicality and ability to affect players' moods - in other video games at the time, the sound effects were simply that, and weren't thought of as compositions. 16- or 24-bar basic loops were the norm. But Kondo created different structures - 8 bars followed by a bunch of different sections. Besides providing the familiar hop-and-jump Mario music, he did the theme for Punch-Out and “breathed life into every Legend of Zelda epic with inspiring trumpets-blaring battle themes and subdued, creepy melodies that haunt the game's darkest dungeons” (WSJ). Koji Kondo, producer of 6 tracks on the next Mobb Deep album! (in my head)
Again, I'm amazed at the song's ability to remain in your brain while not driving you completely bonkers. This is a rare feat. Charles Martinet (who voices Mario in today's games) comments on its staying power and really only gets a mention here because of the way annoys me with his inaccuracies at replicating its rhythm: “The first time I ever played a Mario game, I started at about 4 in the evening and played until daylight. I laid down on the bed, closed my eyes, and I could hear that music -- ba dum bum ba dum DUM!” (Wired).
UM, except it goes ba dum bum ba dum DUM DUM. Please send help; I'm surrounded by idiots.
Bonus nerdage: Nintendo means “leave luck to heaven” in Japanese. (It started as a playing card company). The things I think about are SO SEXY. It's a wonder I'm not married, I tell you.
Koji. He's described as shy, humble, and reticent, which really does nothing to counteract stereotypes of Japanese men. Way to go, buddy.
Nine seh-vennnn! Cocoa Brovaz/Smif-n-Wessun/Tek & Steele/Slash & Axl/Sam & Dave/Hall & Oates - “Super Brooklyn.” Because that jumpy bassline of Mario's travels underground is everybody's favorite part.