“Development of a writer” – A retrospective by Jeff Copperthite (Part 2/3)

One of the things that anybody who knows me well is that I am into a very special type of music.

No, it isn’t anything mainstream.  In fact, I can think of only 3 other people who enjoy this type of music as much as I do.

Quite simply, it is soundtracks from video games.   Especially Role Playing Games.

I have what I feel is a very impressive collection of OST (Original Soundtrack) from a variety of games.  One reason I think I enjoy the music so much is because I did grow up listening to the music from these games almost entirely.  When it comes to my favorite activity both now and then, it certainly is video games.

More so than any of my other hobbies.  It even surpasses the playing and writing of music.

So I have an ingrained affinity to the music.  I always had a great auditory memory as well.  I can still hum music from old Nintendo games I haven’t played in over 15 years.  If you say “Flash Man from Mega Man 2”, I will hum it in tune and on key.  You may even get some of that terrible synth drum channel that NES was notorious for.

But the ones I latched onto immediately are the Final Fantasy series’ OSTs.  I have them all.  And not just some remixed versions or user-generated remixes.  Just like I was playing the original version of the game.

Why do I enjoy listening to the music so much?  Plain and simple – it is something for me to listen too, and I can do almost any regular task while I listen.  Simply put, many papers got written while I listened to “Dancing Mad”, the final boss music from Final Fantasy 6, and other songs from those series.

As I discovered the fact that some more uncommon OSTs existed, I found as many of them as I could and got them.  I have the OSTs for such obscure games as Emperor: Battle for Dune (a favorite actually), Dune 2000, StarFox, Perfect Dark, Super Mario RPG, Secret of Mana (and all of it’s prequels and sequels), Ogre Battle (and it’s derivatives), and the F-Zero series.  Simply put, there’s a soundtrack for all kinds of moods.

Actually, now that I mention the “Emperor” soundtrack, it reminds me of a story.

About a year ago, I did something that I was always a bit afraid of, but knew I had to do – I donated blood.  I’ve always been a bit squeamish about things like this, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  To get me through it, however, I popped up the Emperor Soundtrack because the music had such a driving beat to it, and the tunes are so engrossing overall (I even asked the Phlebotomist to cover the donation bags so I couldn’t watch my blood being drawn).  I looked up at the ceiling of Sacred Heart’s Field House for a while and enjoyed it.  Hey, it got me through it.  I may even do it again in the future.

Well anyway, point is I have always enjoyed VG music.   I downloaded MIDI tracks as well.  But then I found a game that had a great soundtrack, but very few MIDI files for its music.

And so, I began the Final Fantasy Tactics Battle Music Project, which at the time was a regularly updated website with the files that I created using various implements, most notably a program called Noteworthy Composer.  My methods were this easy.  I used an audio recorder to tape the particular song of interest off of the TV while the game was playing.  Then I systematically tried to pick out the different instruments and parts, then try to transcribe them on the keyboard.  Once I had figured out one or two instruments, usually the rest were easy to pick out as well.  This method certainly wasn’t the best, but at the time I was very mad that these files didn’t exist, and I wanted to change that.

I ended up transcribing quite a few of the songs from the game, and within the next two years, I noticed lots of fan sites posting my MIDI files.  I also got lots of great comments, emails, and requests.  I did the majority of the work for files in this game within those two years, but I would go back periodically until I was done in college to update some of the songs that I knew better.

I also at one point in college (~2000 I think) did a similar site for Final Fantasy 9 called (how original) the FF9 MIDI Project.  Similar to FFT, I transcribed select songs due to not many being transcribed at the time.  I still find both of the MIDI files from these games around the internet.

It wasn’t long after this that I began composing music similar in style.  There will be more on that in the next edition of this series.  Stay tuned for that next month!

“Marie” (Chris Moore original song cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Here’s my second entry for “Original Wednesday” here on the Laptop Sessions. By the way, did you notice we now have www.laptopsessions.com? Give it a look!

“Marie” has always been one of my favorite Chris Moore songs.

Every time we play this in concert (which has been MANY times), I always look forward to it. Of course, this version is without the dueling harmonica and guitar solos, but I think the song stands up on its own (the mantra of the Laptop Sessions).

Chris always thought of this song as an experiment for him because he had never really written a love song before quite like this. Truly, when he wrote it, he didn’t even have any real inspiration. But, Chris is a professional writer and this song shows that he didn’t need a real “Marie” to show he could feel this way.

In concert I’ve previously done a very slow version of this song. But for the Laptop Sessions version, I wanted to keep it true to the original- the one I heard in the background on Chris’ car CD player that really started it all. Once I heard this song, we started to think that a band might be possible. See http://jimfusco.com/albums.html for the rest of the story…

I hope you enjoy part 1 of my Original Wednesday installment.

Songwriters on Vacation – Our trip to TNA Lockdown 2008 Pay-Per View!

By Jim Fusco:

On Sunday, my brother Mike, my father, and Chris Moore took a trip up to Lowell, MA for Total Nonstop Action’s (TNA) “Lockdown” Pay-Per-View event. We LOVE wrestling and have loved watching it for all our lives (except for Chris, who started watching a couple years ago) and this was our first time seeing TNA live.

I love TNA wrestling- it reminds me of the old WCW days that I loved so dearly. I just can’t do WWE- the matches are slow, they’re so vulgar sometimes, and I just plain cannot stand Vince McMahon.

So, this was a very exciting event for us. We took the 2-plus hour drive to Lowell and got ready for the event. Right when we walked in, there were wrestlers Black Machismo Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt (along with SoCal Val) out there taking photos and signing autographs. It was so cool- you’d NEVER see something like that at a big WWE event. At least not in such a low-key manner.

Then, wrestlers Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin (of the Motor City Machineguns) and Roxxi Laveaux came out to do a photo shoot/autograph session for charity.

The venue wasn’t huge, but they filled up over 90% of it. They announced a new attendance record for TNA, too! I estimate there were about between 6,500 and 7,000 people and it was a crazy crowd. I couldn’t talk for a whole day afterwards due to all the screaming.

My brother Mike and I got a chance to get our photo taken with one of the REAL TNA Tag Team Championship belts! We were SO excited- not gonna get THAT at a WWE show! Here’s the photo:

Mike and Jim Fusco holding one of the TNA Tag Team Championship belts.

Then the action started with the TNA X-Division X-cape match for the X-Division Championship. The participants were Jay Lethal [c] vs. Curry Man vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Johnny Devine vs. Shark Boy vs. Consequences Creed. We were pulling for Shark Boy all the way (who got the loudest fan reaction), but Black Machismo ended up winning in the only “cheap” win of the night. And, even though it was kinda cheap, we were all still happy Johnny Devine didn’t win, so it was okay.

Actually, the matches were of a caliber I’ve never seen on a TNA Pay Per View. I constantly frequent websites like TNA Wrestling News and read reviews of TNA Pay Per views. They ALWAYS get terrible reviews, telling people not to waste their money. But this one was exactly the opposite for a few reasons:

1. No ridiculous finishes or anyone coming in to interfere! NONE!

2. All the matches, with the exception of maybe the first half of the Queen of the Cage match, were simply great.

3. EVERY SINGLE HERO WON! Without exception- Jay Lethal, Roxxi Laveaux, Booker T., B.G. James, Team Cage (Sting, Christian Cage, Rhino, Matt Morgan, Kevin Nash), Samoa Joe, Gail Kim and O.D.B.- EVERYONE!

We got to see our favorite all-time wrestler, Sting. We got to see a new World Heavyweight Champion in Samoa Joe, and we didn’t have to see any cheap stuff like we’re used to seeing in many high-profile matches.

It was the experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait until they come back our way! I hope TNA lasts forever, because I love every minute of it!

“Question” (Moody Blues Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Okay, request time here at the Laptop Sessions. This one’s going out to my longtime friend Drew Kingsley.

“Question” is a great tune by the Moody Blues off of their (you guessed it) “Question Of Balance” album.

I hope you’ll all like my acoustic-ized version of the song. Of course the strumming isn’t as insane as Justin Hayward’s is- I can actually play it at that speed, but have a bit of trouble keeping time when I do. So, I chose the safe route for this version. I think the effect is still there because of the dynamics used.

There will be many more Moodies songs to come, as well as many request fulfillments in the coming weeks- I’m loving this every third day schedule, as it really allows me to pick some tougher songs and practice them until they’re perfect for internet posting!