Opus 4: The Vickers Epic (working title)
Opus 4 is a showcase of solutions between the theory elements of Megaman, Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, and original works by my friend Joshua Vickers.
(Page formatting is a work in progress!)
Overview of Composition
I am working on an in-depth guide to how the song is put together, complete with sources and methods. Until then, please enjoy this rambling narrative that is being proofread over time!
My composer friend Joshua Vickers paid me to combine elements of Megaman, Pokémon, Zelda, and his own works. The main motif is from Vickers' original Megaman-style composition, Bassman X, which uses his signature low and thicc harmony. Hear it below:
I used the main theme of Bassman X all over Opus 4, both in the spotlight and hidden in other melodies. You'll second-guess if you heard a certain old favorite, but yes, you're right! It should inspire a feeling between nostalgia and excitement. Like finding a new glitch in a classic game, maybe.
Click to 1:51 to hear some cool tricks. Notes from Ganon's theme are combined with the iconic Megaman rhythm, which creates new musical patterns to roll through the Zelda dungeon into the 1st gen wild pokémon alarm, which now has a new root note, inviting the Zelda "secret" jingle to go on top!
This page will evolve over the long term, into what, I don't know yet. Songs take me six months to two years to finish, so this will take at least as long. I'm starting this page at age 32, a senior at university, August 30, 2020. The pandemic hasn't hit its worst and I've isolated to the point of mental illness. I bet it'll reflect in my writing after things pass.
Here is the gist of how I made Opus 4!
Off and on youtube for a few days, I built a Megaman X playlist, memorizing as many song snippets as I could. At the same time I was able to gather patterns minus any music, a neat thing the composer brain can do, this literal tangible thing you can feel. Just by listening, your brain vacuums up abstract bits like negative space and frequency of this here interval or whatever, and then you ask the void, Will it blend??? It's like laying two different sized grids over each other and watching the patterns form as you slide them around. I'd "compare grids" with pair after pair of songs. I chose pairs by likelihood of success (likelihood because composing works differently in practice than it does in your head), played out all kinds of ideas on the keyboard, and always tried adding a third song.
New finished content in hand (in working memory?), I'd search the song draft for loose ends where I could weave in the new bit. If there was no good starting point, I'd hold the idea until a good spot appeared, or just make a new section of music altogether and connect everything later. I overwrote several rounds of this. Gerudo Valley was one that got replaced. Maybe one day, Gerudo Valley. One day.
This is how I made all those bits into a coherent song.
I call it "emotionally consolidating". This part should be relatable to other composers; I'd look at one measure of the midi data and mentally "zoom in" to handfuls of notes within that. With intimacy and purpose, I solved bad harmony, rearranged notes to get the flow right, nitpicked at velocity and millisecond differences with note durations, all these decisions, for every note. This particular project has the most information in the least amount of space of any project I've ever made, so these decisions sucked the life out of me. The pieces were so small, it pulled my consciousness so close that nothing else would exist in the universe. Then I'd move to the next micro-decision, and the next. During this ego death I'd truly have no idea what the whole piece sounded like... I was a robot, solving problem after problem after problem. It reset my brain to a new, terrible default where in daily life I'd see relationships between unrelated subjects, on a slightly crazy level. While fun, it is evidently very bad for my mental health -- Ever since this project, I make sure to meditate at least every day I compose. (I use the app Headspace.) Meditating puts a stop to compulsively figuring out entire chains of cause and effect.
Anyway, bit by bit, each micro-decision would be a pixel on a screen, and after many moons, it made a Whole Thing of Music.
Originally, Opus 4 was only a combo of Megaman and Pokémon, with Josh's Bassman X as a main theme. Early in my first draft, Josh challenged me to add Zelda as well, with the NES dungeon theme a specific dare. With how different Zelda is from the other two franchises, in hindsight I should not have said yes with such unflappable confidence, but I was just too excited to care about difficulty. As it turns out, rising to the challenge got such rewarding results that I couldn't stop putting Zelda everywhere, and that month I overworked myself so badly that for two weeks after, my brain would not produce anymore music.
During that period of overwork, I created my first jazz, a three-way between Armored Armadillo (Megaman X), Game Corner (Pokémon 2nd gen), and Bassman X's main theme. Out of comfort I'd postponed working with jazz for years, so suddenly I was learning a new genre and composing with it literally in the same action, adding a chord and changing one note at a time, seeing along the way how precisely jazz speaks. It's a brand new vocabulary. In a barrage I had to accept all these new definitions of "yes this chord is correct" and then understand and apply and edit and it just took so much. So much. That section alone came from 20 hours of almost a traumatic level of focus. It is a standout memory that will probably stick for the rest of my life. Click to 3:31 to hear it!
Why did I not learn jazz and then make that section? So many reasons, but mostly, the hard way is effective and really fun.
This version of Opus 4 is semifinal. The song will probably be complete in 2021.
The clear orange and blue icon is by my videographer friend Travis Brideveaux.
by Charlesworth Ashton Rogers
Page last updated September 12, 2020