Saturday Symphony is one of our Periodicals, in which we discuss the pieces of video game music we love.
It may be a single piece, it may be a group of pieces, or we might talk about a general theme in video game music or a particular games soundtrack. In any case, the goal here is to showcase that video games have had some truly fantastic pieces of music, regardless of era.
As you might imagine with our Asian-centered website, we’ll try to focus on the video games of Japan, but sometimes video game music from elsewhere may prove just too tantalizing to pass up. Either way, we want you to enjoy the music of video games along with us, so sit back, relax, and bring along some nice headphones.
While discussing music pieces generally won’t require divulging spoilers, sometimes it may happen – when discussing a final battle piece for example, or if the music is that intrinsically tied to the story the game is telling. It does happen sometimes.
This week’s Saturday Symphony: Korobeiniki
Original Platform: Various
(several kinds of computers,
Game Boy, NES, etc etc.)
1986 (North America)
Bullet Proof Software
depending on version
(inc. the Russian government)
Composer:Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka
- Tetris was developed by Alexey Pajitnow, a Russian computer engineer who was working for a USSR-run computer R&D center at the time he designed the game.
- Tetris is derived from the Greek word “Tetra” and tennis, Pajitnov’s favorite sport.
- Despite creating the game, Pajitnov saw no royalties from his creation until 1996 when he co-formed the Tetris Company. Initially, the rights to Tetris were owned by Pajitnov’s employer, the Soviet government. They were actually the first publishers of Tetris, releasing it in the USSR and Eastern Europe.
- Despite the song “Korobeiniki” ending on a happy note, with the two young lovers promising to marry, the poem it is based on does not. The young peddler is killed and robbed by a corrupt forest ranger he asks directions from, thus he never returns to marry Katya.
Here’s a piece that needs no introduction for any gamer:
“Theme A”, from the Game Boy version of Tetris, might very be one of the most well known video game music pieces of all time, right up there with the Super Mario Bros. “Overworld” theme and The Legend of Zelda‘s “Overworld” theme.
It’s also a well-known fact that like all the music in Tetris, the song is a midi-fied version of a Russian folk song. As most folk music is public domain, a young Russian programmer won’t get in trouble with any copyright law for including it in a video game.
In this case, the particular folk song we’re talking about here is called “Korobeiniki”.
So, Comrade, what is “Korobeiniki” about, you ask?
The song is based on an 1860′s poem of the same title by Nikolay Nekrasov. It roughly translates to “The Peddlers”, and tells the story of a young peddler and he haggles over his wares with a young village girl named Katya.
As you might imagine, the “haggling” turns into courtship rather than the exchange of goods. He asks to meet her by night in the rye field, where the fiddler begs the rye to straighten and keep their secret. Yeah, they’re “negotiating business” there. *Nudge nudge wink wink*
At the song’s conclusion, Katya takes only a turquoise ring as a promise that the peddler will return to marry her.
Now, while the song is public domain OUTSIDE of the realm of video games, that’s not the case for the game industry; The Tetris Company does in fact hold the rights for its use in video games.
As a complete side tangent, anime fans might be interested to know the tune appears in Russia’s version of the ending theme to Hetalia: Axis Powers, where it is clearly played in the bridge (right around the 1:44).
So yeah, next time you’re creating lines of blocks, remember the song is actually about a young peddler making out with a girl in a rye field. Brings a whole new meaning to the game, don’t it?