Tuesday 20 February 2018

iDIG Music Festival: Nerd Rock hits Dublin

Eimear Noone and Tommy Tallarico rocking out with some Halo at Video Games Live
Eimear Noone and Tommy Tallarico rocking out with some Halo at Video Games Live

David Kearns

The first annual iDIG Music Festival has touched down in Dublin, and if one thing is evident, it is that the Irish love of music extends to the pixelated days of the 8-bit video game era.

The first of its kind in the world, the Dublin International Game Music Festival is letting fans get up close and personal with some of the biggest music composers in the games industry, while, hopefully, also introduce some music lovers to an entire genre that might have slipped them by.

“This is a celebration of game music - it's a showcase of just how far it has come as a genre," said Chris Rooke, iDIG’s Associate Producer.

“We want to show people that it has reached a stage were it is varied and interesting enough as a genre to be worth a festival.”

"In Ireland, we've a rich history of music, and what we're saying is that music from video games can be a part of this too."

Setting out to celebrate the growth and diversity of gaming music as its own genre, the musical showcase has turned into a unique three day festival likely to attract thousands from across Ireland looking to enjoy something different.

The brain child of Galway-born conductor and composer Eimear Noone, the massive three-day celebration of video game music is taking place in the Convention Centre in Dublin from Thursday to Saturday.

And while to the untrained eye, iDIG might have all the trappings of your typical “Con”: the cosplay, the panels, the crowds, it is anything but.

Setting it apart is its multi-stage music sets, with the ‘Video Games Live’ concert sure to be its climax.

Capping off the festival on Saturday evening, the show, overseen by veteran music composer Tommy Tallarico, consists of a medley of video game music performed by a live orchestra with video footage and synchronized lighting and effects, as well as several interactive segments with the audience.

The National Youth Orchestra of Ireland will take to the stage, alongside the Maynooth University Chamber Choir and the Enchiriadis Chamber Choir, to perform at this year's concert.

“Synthchestral music is exactly what video game music is,” said festival goer Suzy Hughes. “It is the classical music of today. Millions of young people come to these kinds of concerts and they aren’t fazed at all by the big orchestral sets.”

iDIG’s Associate Producer Chris Rooke added: "We want to show that, yes, these big orchestras can do Beethoven very well, but they can also do other music too."

"If you look at something like the Legend of Zelda - it's been going 30 years. Even if you don't approve of video games, you can't argue that it isn't part of pop culture… or that gaming music has not been part of people's lives forever."

"There still will be the seminars and talks that everyone comes to conventions for, but, for us, the focus of the next few days is on celebrating the musical passion that has helped make video games a part of our everyday lives.”

iDIG is hosting a series of panels on a variety of topics, most related to gaming or game music.

Highlights included the all-day ‘Push Playground’, a hands-on demonstrations giving attendees the chance to create their own games scores.

Also worth checking out is a talk by the head of audio and music for Blizzard Entertainment Russell Brower, who will be making a rare public appearance to discuss what it is like to be the guiding hand behind the soundtracks of several of the most popular video games of all time.

Elsewhere panel discussions are happening throughout the day, as well as a series of performances from some highly acclaimed bands – including the popular US group The Triforce Quartet.

Having been behind some of the most iconic music associated with the multi-billion dollar gaming industry, Galway-native Eimear Noone first had the spark to organise iDIG during a video game composers’ gathering at E3, the world’s largest video game expo.

Asked whether they would be willing to take part in a concert in Dublin, their response was a unanimous “yes”.

From there, the event was like a “tiny little snowball” according to volunteer Paddy Kennedy, as more video game composers and gaming-based musical acts got in touch.

“Eimear’s music features in World of Warcraft, the highest grossing video game of all time, and yet, getting people in Ireland to get involved was a challenge,” he said.

“It was difficult simply because nothing like this has happened here before. But these kinds of exhibitions and shows are some of the biggest selling music events in the world at the moment.”

“Eimear, who was the inspiration for this festival, has conducted more than 80 of the biggest orchestras in the world at these concerts, and it was her ambition and drive that got us here today. She wanted to bring this kind of event to Ireland because she believes we’ve got the gift of storytelling.”

“And what is this trillion dollar industry made up of? It is storytelling, cartoons, film, and music – all of which is growing here like grass in an abundance.”

“We want to get young people interacting with some of the best talent in the world and let them ask them all the questions they need to, to get a start in this amazing industry.”

For the true believers, events like iDIG help bring mainstream approval to a genre, that outside of Ireland, enjoys widespread appeal.

In the United States alone, there are more than 50 conventions dedicated to video game music, and even in Ireland there’s been a growing interest.

“It’s a niche market but it is getting bigger,” said Dario Cafolla from The Spoony Bards, a Northern Irish act that is performing in the three day festival.

“It’s an incredible fun genre to play because the melodies are so engaging. Most people just recognise these tunes straight away.”

“That’s the thing about the tunes from the 90s, on the Nintendo and Mega Drive. They were mad catchy because they had to be because of the hardware limitations.”

“You couldn’t find nice orchestral tracks because the systems couldn’t handle them.”

“They might have been seen as toys at the time but everyone tends to forget they’ve played a Mario game or a Sonic while growing up.”

Having been together since 2009, the group said they were always help to introduce new people to the genre.

“There’s a whole generation of people out there that love this stuff but it’s always great to convert new people to the sound,” said band member Peter Lyness.

“Some people don’t know what to think when they first hear it but we’ve never met anyone who didn’t enjoy it. Usually it’s either, ‘Deadly, I remember those tunes’ or it’s ‘Oh, ok. That’s catchy.”

For more information about the iDIG Music Festival or to get tickets, check out their website at idigmusicfest.com.

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