Sunday, April 6, 2014

INTERVIEW: The String Player Gamer on His Video Game Orchestra

Meet Diwa de Leon. Best known as The String Player Gamer, he makes original compositions and acapellas of video game music with a distinctly classical (and humorous) touch. This intriguing combination has given him over 10,000 subscribers and over four million views. Thankfully, he has agreed to an exclusive interview with me!

What kinds of video games did you play throughout your childhood and how influential were they? Which are some of your favorites?
I was born in the 80s so much like everyone, I started with Super Mario Bros. Fast forward to the 90s, Playstation One came along and introduced me to these great JRPGs. They defined my teenage years especially Xenogears, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy VII and VIII. These four games are highly influential in me falling in love with videogame music and I dare say, inspired me to become a composer with a leaning towards videogame soundtracks.

How long have you been playing music?
All my life! I wrote my first composition for the piano at age 5. My father was my first teacher. I come from a family with 3 generations of musicians.
I took private violin and piano lessons in my pre-teen years, and guitars lesson late in my teenage years.
In high school, I studied in a specialized arts boarding school and studied painting and sculpture, thinking I could become an architect later on.
I was so very wrong.
It took me a year in a college architecture course to realize how I was NOT MEANT to be an architect. I did not like it at all. Also, at that time, I already formed a band with my high school buddies and started accept freelance songwriting projects. So what the heck was I doing in architecture college.
I shifted to music, majoring in composition, at the University of the Philippines and the rest is history.
I’ve been writing music for local films, tv shows, video games and of course Youtube videos ever since.
How did you make the connection between classical music and video games?
When you talk about film music, I always think John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter) as my biggest influence.
When it comes to video game music, only one name comes to mind: Nobuo Uematsu. Just him really. He is my connection between classical music and video game music. As I said, his orchestral scores in Final Fantasy games made me love video game music.
Nobuo Uematsu made videogame music respectable. He paved the way for more serious composers to pay attention to videogame music as a viable career path.
Which is better; Beethoven or Koji Kondo?
Tough question. While it’s true Beethoven has the advantage of time, Koji Kondo is no slouch either. Time will tell if both of them will be equals in people’s memories.
A thousand years from now though, I believe people will still hum both the Mario Bros. Theme and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony even if they forget who wrote them.
What are your favorite video games?
I play any and all genres (except perhaps life simulations with Animal Crossing as the only exception).
Nintendo Games. All of it.
Final Fantasy series and most SquareEnix RPGs, yes even FF XIII & XIII-2, I get grind crazy with RPGs, and Bravely Default is my current grind companion.
I also love the Uncharted Trilogy, Mass Effect Trilogy and Assassin’s Creed series.
How long do your compositions take?
Very erratic. From 1 minute to 1 month. There is really no fixed time. Sometimes a real inspired moment comes and sends me a fully formed piece or symphony in my mind. I record it right away and it can be done in a day.
Sometimes it can come in bits and pieces, then I have to figure out the rest of the music over time.
Seen here; The Conducter alongside Mario, Mario, Mario, Mario,
Mario, Mario, Mario..... you get the point.
What was the inspiration for your "Mini Mario Orchestra"?
It came by accident! It was back in my Guild Wars 2 video when I inserted versions of myself in Mario costume playing the bass guitar and some violins. Then it hit me. Why not make a video series centering on a full-fledged Mario orchestra? 
There was much positive feedback so I decided to give the orchestra more airtime in my channel ever since.

What do you want of the future and what goals do you want to accomplish?
I plan to keep writing music for the rest of my life! This is it, I’m living my dream. This IS the future I always thought of when I was young. So it’s all fun from here on.

How do you feel about video game music "remixers"?
I love it! Especially now, videogame remixers have exploded in Youtube and there are so many great musicians and I’ve even made friends and collaborated with some of them.
I take every possible opportunity to
use this poster.
Lastly, the the most important question: what do you think of modern-day music, such as the dreaded dubstep?
Haha! It’s a passing cycle. Music constantly changes, so does people’s tastes. But I always look at the positive side of any music genre and see what I can learn from there, even dubstep. There is good and bad music in all genres. It’s up to you how you can learn from it.

I would like to thank Mr. Diwa for this interview once more. 
As a footnote, I am aware that my blog is constantly running behind schedule, but I'll try to get the next posts out as soon as humanly possible.




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