This article argues that the music of opening peritexts within two The Legend of Zelda games reflects their reception history and continuity within the series mythology. On the one hand, “The Legendary Hero” peritext of The Wind Waker mirrors the game's reception history as one of departure from a Zelda tradition established by Ocarina of Time, which caused controversy initially yet gained acceptance in the long term. The audiovisual components of “The Legendary Hero” all position gamers to consider the events of Ocarina of Time as old, submerged under the Great Sea. Textual references to “legend” and “myth,” visual cues of antique art and runes, and musical cues harkening to medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque tropes within Western music—all these serve to depart from Zelda tropes.
On the other hand, the title-screen peritext of Twilight Princess restores the legacy of Ocarina of Time. Reception of the former always includes its nostalgic, intimately connected relationship to the latter. Consequently, Twilight Princess garnered immediate praise but became problematic in the long term. The audiovisual components of the title-screen peritext position gamers to reestablish continuity with Zelda tropes. Visual and musical cues reach across several previous games and as far back as the original The Legend of Zelda game, all of which orient players back to traditions from which the franchise had departed for years. Thus the music of the peritext enables players to engage in Zelda's potential for self-reference more apparently than its adoption of Western-music tropes, as in Wind Waker.
The peritexts of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess complement each other and allow us to understand more critically the reception and historiography of each game, how the music can reveal a deeper understanding of narrative themes characteristic of each game, and their placement within the Zelda mythology.
In “Suture and Peritexts: Music beyond Gameplay and Diegesis,” Michiel Kamp examines a question so fundamental to our experiences as gamers that it may not have occurred to many of us: When does a video game actually start? He focuses the discussion on paratextual information, specifically peritexts, a term coined by Gérard Genette that denotes “all those materials that surround and are attached to the text itself.”1 Peritexts thus include title screens, main menus, select menus, scenes between levels, and so on—essentially the kind of information we receive between pressing the power button and starting gameplay. Kamp investigates music's interactions with such peritexts and explains how music can smooth over diegetic and non-diegetic shifts or even fix visual signifiers to music.2 He concludes music “has the ability to overlap peritexts, diegesis, and gameplay situations, and in doing so can structure players' experiences of a game”; and the placement of music in a game can deepen our understanding of that game.3 Yet can peritexts and the music therein apply across several games or across a meta-narrative like, say, The Legend of Zelda series?
Kamp's study of peritexts may illuminate relationships between paratexts and epitexts within two intimately related Zelda titles.4 The mythology and reception history, respectively paratexts and epitexts, of The Wind Waker (WW, 2002) and Twilight Princess (TP, 2006) clue us in to the causal relationship both games have, which comes into focus upon analyzing the music of select peritexts: The “Legendary Hero” cutscene of the former and the title screen of the latter. Analysis of these two peritexts reveals microcosms of their reception history and contextualization within the Zelda mythology.
Although WW initially received a divided reception due to changes it posed to established Zelda traditions, it fared quite well in the long term. “The Legendary Hero” peritext reflects the themes of WW's departure from Zelda traditions, as shown in its reception, by foregrounding Western music tropes, syntactical and timbral features of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music. Conversely, the peritext relegates the leitmotivic main theme from The Legend of Zelda (LoZ, 1986) to the background. “The Legendary Hero” thus positions us to experience the events of Ocarina of Time (OoT, 1998) in the distant past—it washes away Zelda tropes instituted by OoT enough to claim a degree of autonomy from the franchise. Therein lies the strength and weakness of WW. Its departure facilitates a fresh perspective on the developing Zelda mythology, but it also problematizes its placement within the tradition it contributes to.
The opposite occurs in TP, however, as it shares a strong connection to OoT. Although TP rose to meteoric fame upon its release, its sharp return to established Zelda traditions proved problematic in its long-term reception. Analysis of the title-screen peritext reveals a strong homage to Zelda's past. In addition to visual cues harkening to previous games, the music of the peritext echoes and transforms the leitmotivic LoZ theme. In it references to Western music tropes seem minimized, but they increase as the theme recedes. TP thus positions gamers to reestablish continuity within the Zelda mythology as instituted by OoT. Yet its high degree of self-reference, while elucidating the theme of return to Zelda norms, may come at the expense of any departure (or innovation).
The degree to which Western music tropes emerge as obvious or subtle in dramatic contexts of games can affect our understanding of, orientation to, and playing of those games. Likewise, music within an epic-fantasy series like Zelda can reveal inter- and intra-historical perspectives of our world: reception, historical tools composers use for the soundtrack, our gaming histories, and so on. The music also includes perspectives within the gameworld: historical continuity, chronology, developing mythology, and how characters respond to sounds and music. The peritexts of WW and TP complement each other and allow us to understand more critically the reception and historiography of each game—how the music can reveal a deeper understanding of narrative themes of each game and their placement within the Zelda mythology.
WIND WAKER AND ITS RECEPTION
In a recent anthology dedicated to Zelda, I describe the causal relationship WW has to its successor TP by way of their reception.5 Media-fan theorist Henry Jenkins proffers two tenets apropos to video games: consensus shapes fan reception, and fans evaluate individual installments of a franchise against an idealized conception.6 More to the point, Natasha Whiteman writes, series installments must balance elements of tradition and innovation in both form and configuration if the series is to evolve.7 The tension between the two elements often results in debate, and Whiteman uses the examples WW and TP. The cel-shaded graphics of the former, she writes, “caused a rift in the fan base. It soon became one of the only points of discussion among Zelda fans, even after TP came out three years later.”8
The controversy did not emerge as a consequence of WW's release, however. It came from previews. OoT and Majora's Mask (MM, 2000) evidently shaped the idealized conception of Zelda, since their graphic styles, gameplay, and music/sound were almost identical. Many fans wished for a game within that graphic-style tradition, which the Space World 2000 GameCube demo promised. The demo showed a fifteen-second clip of Link and Ganon crossing blades, clothed in a graphic style that would come to characterize TP six years later. Fans were rapt with the possibility of a Zelda game with ultra-realistic graphics or at least the kind that would evolve from those of OoT and MM.
The producers, however, ultimately abandoned the idea in favor of a strategic move to distinguish the series from the visual styles many other games adopted, according to artist Satoru Takizawa from Nintendo's Entertainment Planning and Development division.9 A controversial move, as WW director Eiji Aonuma recalls. He apparently hid the development of WW from producer Shigeru Miyamoto because of the drastic changes it posed to the series. On account of the cel-shaded graphics alone, Aonuma was convinced Miyamoto would not have approved the game! Aonuma and his team resisted showing Miyamoto anything until it was polished.10
Audiences consequently approached the debut of WW in December 2002 with ambivalence, but critics largely praised it. The resentment toward the cel-shade style, however, found its way into official reviews—and even into reviews of the WW HD remake ten years later. For example, Stephen Totilo effectively lays out the evidence as to why many fans reacted against the cel-shaded graphics with vitriol.11 Those who wish to see how far this particular rabbit hole goes can access the humbly titled “Official Zelda Bitch Thread,” a forum dedicated to centralizing collective rage over WW controversies.12 And although critical reviewers praise WW, the majority of comments about its visuals represent a departure from Zelda traditions.
Yet deeper issues further removed WW from tradition. Like MM, WW did not take place Hyrule. So the franchise had gone without Hyrule for almost eight years. Bret Elston laments this point in his review:
The overworld is almost nonexistent and most of your time will be spent sailing from place to place on a talking boat. It's cool for the first five hours or so, but even when you can use the element-harnessing Wind Waker baton to teleport anywhere on the map you spend too much time manning the sails. Blech.13
But some changes also affected the overall Zelda mythology. Reviewer Thom Moyles argues that WW actually provides continuity within the Zelda series in some cases yet differs in subtle, significant ways. He writes,
Wind Waker provides some backstory to the Zelda mythology. It is the first time that a Zelda game has given us a fairly in-depth look into the mythology of the games, and it goes a long way towards providing us with a deeper experience, as the mythology not only provides additional framework for the plot, but for some of the main characters, allowing the player a deeper relationship with the figures on the screen.15
Finally, Renan Fontes provides a thoughtful account about WW's contribution to the mythology of the series, which departs even further from Zelda traditions. He suggests that WW problematized the Zelda timeline, as it was easy to arrange the previous games chronologically within the mythology. With regard to “The Legendary Hero” peritext, it presents a microcosm of WW. As Fontes writes, the game itself
exists to dismantle a romanticized idea of Ocarina of Time. Ganon breaks free from his seal; the Hero of Time never returns to save the day; and the Goddesses flood Hyrule, wiping the slate clean for The Legend of Zelda. By the time the story begins proper, the only remaining relics of this era are the Triforce on Link's family shield and the ceremonial green tunic the men of his island wear on the day they reach adulthood. It can be further presumed … that Hyrule as a historical construct has failed to persist as little more than a perceived legend.17
The controversial reception of departure also manifests in how WW's music interacts with the Zelda mythology, a point hitherto not discussed in scholarly literature or reception. In the spirit of Fontes's observation, the musical structure and content of “The Legendary Hero” largely foreground traditions of Western music and relegate Zelda traditions to a secondary position. WW's adoption of Western-music tropes orients players to a sense of chronology and the past, a topic Karen Cook and Jessica Kizzire have argued in games like Civilization IV (2005) and Final Fantasy IX (2000), respectively.18 In a sense, WW can operate independently from established Zelda norms, which enables the use of Western-music tropes as a means to create its narrative sound space(s) and further innovate the mythology of the series.
THE OPENING NARRATIVE PERITEXT OF
WIND WAKER: “THE LEGENDARY HERO”
The music for “The Legendary Hero” has an ABAʹ structure, which correlates with its narrative unfolding of the peritext: A, Ganon terrorizing the peaceful Kingdom of Hyrule and attempting to dominate it; B, Ganon's defeat at the hands of Link, the Hero of Time, and Ganon's eventual return; Aʹ, the need of a present-day hero to stop the spread of Ganon's evil. The peritext and music of “The Legendary Hero” sets the stage for 100 years after the events of OoT and supports the point Moyles makes about WW delving into the mythology of Zelda. The peritext confers a degree of verisimilitude of “old” through the narrative and imagery, and the music functions similarly. A note on the analysis: In addition to the ABAʹ formal structure, I partition the 3:35-minute peritext by way of its timing, should readers wish to watch and listen more closely.19
Section A: 0:00–0:52
This is but one of the legends of which people speak …
The black screen (0:00–0:09) reveals this opening phrase, which amounts to a video game equivalent of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” The text suggests the remote, distant past, accompanied by the harpsichord. The instrument itself marks the sound of old, specifically the so-called Baroque era, as it peaked in popularity by the early eighteenth century.20 Also, the notion of “but one of the legends” indicates singularity. First, the harpsichord is the only instrument sounding during this portion of the peritext. Second, although the harpsichord can produce harmony, it produces a monophonic flourish of the first five scale degrees of A minor. Its contour may echo the opening motive of the original Zelda theme, which confers leitmotivic potential onto the motive, as shown in Figure 1.
A single instrument playing a monophonic line can point to text-painting techniques in Western music, such as madrigalisms, which reached their pinnacle in secular vocal music of the sixteenth century.21 The harpsichord, however, bows out and does not return until a critical moment at the end of Section A.
During 0:09–0:27 in the peritext, the image in Figure 3 appears, along with the following text:
Long ago there existed a kingdom where a golden power lay hidden. It was a prosperous land blessed with green forests, tall mountains, and peace.
As Figure 2 indicates, the flutes open “The Legendary Hero” theme characterized by open fourths and fifths, as well as a dactylic long-short-short rhythm evocative of the canzona—all these can suggest medieval/Renaissance tropes of Western music. The hollow quality of fourths and fifths can suggest the medieval practice of organum clothed in the timbres of flutes, an instrument whose origins in Western music trace at least to the eleventh century.22 In addition, the canzona denotes an instrumental genre originating in sixteenth-century Italy. It therefore sounds as no accident that the composers of WW associated the theme of legend with generic, semantic, and timbral features of medieval and Renaissance music.23 The consonant, diatonic modal harmony in A Aeolian also captures a sense of old, a common practice in cinema since at least the 1950s with strong ties to epic-fantasy cinema and video games.24
With regard to the visual components, Figure 3 shows the first image of the peritext, which resembles either a primitive drawing or, more accurately, a woodblock print of Hyrule, the castle and field with inhabitants, as well as accompanying Hylian runes. The visual style lacks visual perspective, and the art technique appears to have single lines. And the runes bear passing resemblance to those of the Elder Futhark alphabet originating in second-century northern Europe, as Figure 4 indicates, which can visually indicate the Hylian runes as old.25 Furthermore, the art appears to have been printed onto parchment or animal-skin paper due to its sepia color. Finally, the textual narrative beginning with “Long ago …” amplifies the mythic quality. The lack of visual perspective, woodblock imagery, the Hylian runes, and the medieval/Renaissance musical cues of “The Legendary Hero” thus communicate verisimilitude of the distant past.
Image 2, 0:27–0:52, introduces a beastly Ganon hovering like a dark cloud over lifeless bodies as the text reads:
But one day a man of great evil found the golden power and took it for himself. With its strength at his command, he spread darkness across the kingdom. But then, when all hope had died and the hour of doom seemed at hand …
Section B: 0:52–2:45
Image 3, 0:52–1:12, introduces Section B by showing Link the Hero of Time wielding the Master Sword in combat with Ganon:
… a young boy clothed in green appeared as if from nowhere. Wielding the blade of evil's bane, he sealed the dark one away and gave the land light.
Until now, the music of “The Legendary Hero” has been specific to WW. Players unfamiliar with its melody have no previous associations and could listen to it as an aural counterpart to the survey of Hyrule's myth in images. Yet once we see Link and hear the familiar Zelda theme, we momentarily have a mixture of self-reference and Western music tropes. The associativity of the Zelda theme, itself leitmotivic, can summon powerful memories of our past, our experiences with the franchise, and specific dramatic contexts of previous games.27 Here WW taps into its own mythology through music. The Western musical tropes of the Baroque continue, as well, with a trio: a treble string instrument on the melody, a harpsichord playing accompaniment and a countermelody, and a cello providing the bass line—all these sound like a violin with continuo accompaniment.28 In contrast, however, the harmony in Figure 5 suggests nineteenth-century conventions with a progression from A major to the flatted mediant C major at 1:02–1:09 (which surfaces again in the analysis of TP's music below).29
Image 4 lasts between 1:12 and 1:59. It shows Link atop Epona, and it transitions from his victory to the image of Ganon in the distance.
This boy, who traveled through time to save the land, was known as the Hero of Time.
The Boy's tale was passed down through generations until it became legend. But then … a day came when a fell wind began to blow across the kingdom. The great evil that all thought had been forever sealed away by the hero once again crept forth from the depths of the earth, eager to resume its dark designs.
The fifth image between 1:59 and 2:36 continues the E-F semitone interplay as Hylians supplicate under the Triforce, awaiting the return of the Hero of Time. The music that closes Section B culminates in an improvisatory solo passage from the violin, which intimates a cadenza of the concerto tradition originating in the early eighteenth century. Semitone motion has a long-standing reputation for suggesting sadness or lament, which I discuss in more detail later in the TP analysis. The semitone motion underscores the grim text quite effectively:
The people believed that the Hero of Time would again come to save them. But the hero did not appear. Faced by an onslaught of evil, the people could do nothing but appeal to the gods. In their last hour, as doom drew nigh, they left their future in the hands of fate.
What became of that kingdom … ?
None remain who know.
Like the closing of the A section, the E-major chord here closes Section B in the form of a question—What became of that kingdom?—because the chord functions as a dominant in the key of A. The triad also begins to dissolve with the response “None remain who know,” until all we hear is a single pitch on G#, the leading tone of A, which fades to black and silence. The peritext continues the tradition of musical text-painting and segues to the final section.
Section A′: 2:49 – 3:35
“The Legendary Hero” theme returns in A minor and thus resolves the E-major question posed at the close of the previous section. It repeats the theme of Section A but now ends with a chromatic mediant progression from F major to A major between 3:26 and 3:35. Image 6 lasts the entire section and focuses on the present day:
The memory of the kingdom vanished, but its legend survived on the wind's breath. On a certain island, it became customary to garb boys in green when they came of age. Clothed in the green of fields, they aspired to find heroic blades and cast down evil. The elders wished only for the youths to know courage like the hero of legend.
Thus begins the WW adventure: familiar but not too familiar, but perhaps not familiar enough for some. The interaction of imagery, text, and music in “The Legendary Hero” peritext reflects effectively how WW continues but departs largely from the Zelda tradition. The traditional components instituted by previous games—setting of Hyrule, graphic style, and so forth—become secondary, submerged in the game. So too does the soundscape of Zelda in “The Legendary Hero,” as new themes are placed in the foreground and familiar ones, the background. “The Legendary Hero” functions as a metaphor for the game's modes of departure, as well as a microcosm of the controversial reception it received initially.
Since, according to Michael Austin, audiences of video games influence their design, Nintendo's producers certainly responded to the controversy WW caused with regard to departing from Zelda traditions.30 Recalling Whiteman, WW's reception indicated the game did not fit a collective idealized conception of what a Zelda game “should” constitute.31 Compared to OoT and MM, a modernized WW caused powerful feelings of nostalgia among players.32 They wished for a return to the Zelda they believed they knew, which informed the development and reception of TP.
TWILIGHT PRINCESS AND ITS RECEPTION
The push for a Zelda game with a realistic graphic style became so strong among fans that Nintendo cancelled plans for a WW sequel and worked on designing TP, according to game artists Takizawa, Yoshiki Haruhana, and Yusuke Nakano.33 They even designed a realistic Link before a storyline existed. So one year after the release of WW, fans caught a glimpse of TP at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). By all accounts, it seems Nintendo made good on the visual style it promised in 2000 before the company scrapped the idea and went with WW's style.
TP looked more realistic. Link looked older, meaner. Ganon looked more menacing. Everything went darker in imagery and mood. And fans lost their minds. Patrick Klepek writes about TP's preview:
… nothing touches the intense reaction Twilight Princess generated at E3 2004. It's common for game companies to stuff their press conferences full of employees. These are the people who are happily clapping for every announcement, big or small. But at Nintendo events, that's not usually the case—the reactions tend to be genuine. And when the first trailer for Twilight Princess was shown, the screams from those in attendance were deafening.34
In addition to highlighting the connection between these two games, TP's reception narrative also distances it from WW. Jonathan Metts writes how he “love[s] Wind Waker as much as anyone, but it's hard to deny that the game, for all its greatness, feels like something different from a true Zelda game. With Twilight Princess, the series has gone back to its roots … Twilight Princess is clearly a sequel to Ocarina of Time, and it sometimes appears to mimic the structure and mood of that masterpiece.”36 Moreover, Dan Ryckert regards TP as a breath of fresh air against the reactions MM and WW received, which implies their divergence from a then-inchoate idealized conception. Ryckert concludes with almost religious reverence that TP takes its rightful place as the spiritual heir to OoT.37 Finally, Gene Park's review of TP, while critical of its strong nostalgic profile, realizes the game emerged from controversy and the desire to see a return to familiarity. He writes how after
a two-game hiatus of aesthetic and structural experiments, public opinion has yielded a return to 1998's seminal The Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. It features a mature-looking protagonist with more lifelike graphics, which fans pleaded for, but otherwise the song remains the same, which fans also pleaded for. It is a huge compliment toward the series' power and craftsmanship when what is old remains a highlight of an industry's entire creative year.38
Renan Fontes articulates said tension eloquently by writing how TP represents the antithesis to WW. The latter, he writes, focused on “washing away Hyrule's influence on the world,” but the former “sees Link spending much of his adventure restoring Hyrule not to its former glory, but rather new glory. Twilight Princess embraces the past in order to strengthen the foundation Ocarina of Time left behind.”39 The idea that TP restores the past also became thematic in its reception, often nested in discussions on the advantages and disadvantages of the game's nostalgic character.
As previous examples show, the nostalgic profile of TP helped distinguish it from WW and return it to a game resembling OoT. But, as some critics believed WW departed too much from Zelda conventions, some believed TP kept too close to them to the point of unoriginality and epigonism. The pendulum, it seems, had swung too far back. Even though Gene Park lauds TP's success and craftsmanship, he believes the predilection for the past within the franchise became the biggest disappointment of the game. Despite TP's promise to return to the days of OoT, he writes, TP fails to deliver even on those grounds. Park ultimately discourages adherence to the traditionalism the game embodies: “In an industry this fickle, its audience can be so lovingly patient only for so long before legends turn into boring stories of glory days.”40 It seems he was right, because Gamespot released an online forum enabling fans to vent their frustrations with TP, much like IGN had done with WW.41
Moreover, Matthew Rickert finds TP fun but unoriginal. The game, he states, recycles too much of the same thing, and he calls it a “complete rehash of several of the same Zelda elements that we have seen before, and that are starting to feel dated …”42 Finally, original Zelda creator and producer Shigeru Miyamoto himself says TP “felt like there was something missing,” although he never specified what it was.43TP's clinging to the past proved to be a double-edged sword for the Zelda franchise. It enjoyed undeniable success, but its reception in the long term was not as kind as that of WW. Yet, as I have argued elsewhere, TP represents the strongest case in demonstrating historical continuity for the Zelda mythology.44
THE TITLE-SCREEN PERITEXT OF TWILIGHT PRINCESS
In fact, TP offers powerful examples of self-reference from the moment we turn on the game, as the following analysis indicates. In contrast to “The Legendary Hero” peritext of WW, TP's title-screen peritext music has a through-composed form and therefore does not lend itself to the same type of structural analysis. Nevertheless, melodic content and organization of sound give the short piece its structure: a process of statement, variation, and dissolution of thematic material from the 1986 LoZ title-screen peritext music. Figure 6 shows the melody and its accompaniment from the title screen of LoZ, two parallel phrases of two bars each, the first musical theme ever to emerge from a Zelda game.45
The excerpt presents some quandaries with respect to mode. I transcribe the excerpt in B♭ minor, although there is no third in the first chord to presume its mode. The music following this excerpt shifts between these parallel keys but ultimately rests on B♭ major, though the opening bars remain open to tonal interpretation. Notwithstanding the harmonic ambiguity, the pitches outlining a descending Phrygian tetrachord in the bass line (B♭–A♭–G♭–F) refer strongly to semantic traditions in Western music.46 Such general associations characterize well the dramatic content of Zelda's developing mythology.
The Western musical semantics and associations of the original Zelda theme indeed have spilled into TP's title-screen peritext with regard to phrase structure and some of the harmonic underpinnings. Yet the peritext's incorporation of several diegetic sounds and the stark timbral features of the accompaniment obfuscate the Western music tropes and consequently foregrounds the Zelda melody and therefore its self-referential identity. And in doing so, TP's title-screen peritext contrasts further with WW's “The Legendary Hero” by tipping the scales toward tradition and familiarity rather than innovation and newness.
1. 0:00–0:07: Diegetic, ambient sounds
The peritext opens in Hyrule Field at sunset. The sun casts sporadic rays through the sky, which colors the field in hues of orange, yellow, and brown. A teenage Link sits atop Epona and stands at the entrance to Eldin Bridge. The scene opens without music, but many diegetic sounds inundate the listener: Zora River's rushing current below the bridge; wisps of the breeze; Epona snorting, whinnying, and eventually galloping.
2. 0:07–0:22/mm. 1–4: Thematic statement of the
As Link shouts “Hiyaa!” they begin to ride across the bridge, and the original LoZ melody plays. Link and Epona cross Eldin Bridge, the scene panning out to include an expansive, open world. As Hyrule Castle stands in the distance, the sun hangs low, its heat causing the air to ripple. Its distance contrasts with the localized sounds of Epona's hoofs and Link's commands, which get louder and softer based on their physical proximity to the screen.
The theme occurs in two phrases, at 0:07–0:14 and 0:15–0:22, scored for an ethereal treble voice (presumably singing in Hylian) with sparse accompaniment, shown in Figure 7. Like the phrase structure of the excerpt in Figure 6, TP's reference to the Zelda melody in Figure 7 also has two parallel phrases. The accompaniment, however, dispenses with the descending Phrygian tetrachord in favor of an oscillation between C# and C, which produces brief stasis between A-major and C harmony (with no third). Yet the vocal melody and the whole notes of the accompaniment differ with respect to range and dynamics. It becomes difficult to hear the accompaniment at the beginning because its register and dynamics are low. The diegetic sounds also tend to drown out the accompaniment, which can give the impression of monophony, as the wordless voice peers above a sparse, quiet musical accompaniment.
In its wordlessness, space, and ethereal quality, TP's soundscape also can recall the “Song of Time,” especially as heard in OoT. The “Song of Time” originated in OoT but appears prominently in MM; it also plays a significant role later in TP. Thus its potential foreshadowing in this case strengthens the web of TP's self-references, which Sarah Pozderac-Chenevey discusses with regard to the “Song of Time” in particular.48 The vocal quality of TP's peritext may suggest Western chant or religious music, a point further strengthened if listeners find commonalities with the peritext and “Song of Time.” Several authors have written about the religious connotations of wordless vocal or choral-sounding music in video games, “Song of Time” being a strong example.49 Yet in this case, the connotation of a Western music trope must contend with several other instances of self-reference to become apparent to listeners. In other words, the chant association consequently may emerge tangentially or even not at all when contending with so many other sonic Zelda stimuli. Although the soundtracks of all Zelda games rely on Western music tropes, the features opening the title-screen peritext of TP orient our ears almost exclusively on the original Zelda melody, which heightens its self-referential potential.
3. 0:22–0:37/mm. 5–8: Thematic variation of
Link and Epona continue riding away from the castle and further into Hyrule Field. The diegetic sounds of Link and Epona continue and respond to their galloping over stone or grass.
The Zelda theme occurs again in Figure 8, yet this time in two phrases that show thematic variation at 0:22–0:28 (mm. 5–6) and 0:29–0:37 (mm. 7–8). In mm. 5–6, the pitches and melodic contour diverge from mm. 1–4, but the rhythm remains recognizably the same, which reinforces the leitmotivic properties of the theme. Measures 7–8 vary the melody further, which dissolves the parallel relationship between the phrases in Figures 6 and 7. The overall effect is that of self-reference gradually fading. We still hold on to the association of the Zelda theme, but the variations start to efface the semantic structure of the phrases. As variation persists and the accompaniment increases in texture and instrumentation, we consequently begin to hear more prominent references to Western music tropes. Dissolution has begun.
4. 0:37–1:20/mm. 9–16: Dissolution of
Link and Epona circle back and head toward Hyrule Castle. As they pass off-screen, the sounds of Epona's hoofs disappear (0:50). The screen pans left to catch up with them, yet we see only Link in wolf form; he howls in response to beholding Hyrule Castle encased in Twilight.
Figure 9 shows the last recognizable iteration of the Zelda theme occurring at 0:37–0:44 (mm. 9–10), after which the remaining musical material covers a lot of ground. The original theme dissipates at 0:45–0:55 (mm. 11–12); an extended six-bar phrase replaces the parallel two-bar phrase structure at 0:45–1:12 (m. 11–16); Midna's leitmotif takes over at 1:00–1:12 (mm. 14–16). Most important, however, the musical self-reference subsides to accommodate more apparent Western music tropes. The Zelda theme necessarily dissolves to pave the way for Midna's theme by way of a cadence based on an ascending Phrygian tetrachord. The harmonic progression beginning at m. 11 ascends in parallel motion: G minor 7–A minor 7–Bb major +9–C major–D minor, or iv7–v7–VI+9–VII–i, where the Phrygian tetrachord begins on A and ends on D. This motion extends the constituent chords of a cadence commonly used in Western music, often in video game music, as well: ♭VI–♭VII–i or I.
Within the first twenty seconds of the title-screen peritext, a series of cues creates a web of associations and self-references to Zelda writ large. Visually, TP's opening presents a complementary, almost mirror image of that of OoT. As Figures 10a and 10b suggest, the imagery of OoT's title-screen peritext instantiates cyclic potential that TP completes. OoT begins with a teenage Link riding Epona through Hyrule Field. They ride against the backdrop of a setting full moon giving way to the dawn, as well as a glimpse of Hyrule Castle in the distance. TP, on the other hand, begins at the sunset and ends in twilight. Moreover, while Hyrule Castle sits in the distance, Link and Epona ride in opposite directions compared to OoT. Fans also encounter an older Link for the first time since OoT. TP thus moves away from the child Link of MM, WW, the Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages (2001), and Four Swords Adventures (2004) and toward the kind of adult hero OoT introduced.
Given the visual parallels in Figures 10a and 10b, the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds of TP's title screen may function with a purpose to (re)capture the landscape of Hyrule Field. The title-screen peritexts of both OoT and TP, for example, begin with diegetic sounds before the music so as to highlight natural occurrences in Hyrule. Yet TP foregrounds far more diegetic sounds with Epona's whinnying, hoofs, Zora's River, and Link's “Hiyaa!” The host of diegetic sounds in TP's Hyrule thus can recall the location of OoT's Hyrule Field but also a place far more active and “real” than its predecessor. Regarding the non-diegetic music, the reintroduction of the LoZ theme focuses our associations with the signature music of Zelda and Hyrule itself. TP's self-references to established Zelda tropes thus allow us to reenter the landscapes of Hyrule with an amplified sense of familiarity and wonder after an eight-year hiatus.
Yet TP's relationship to the original LoZ runs even deeper. No other title-screen music before or after TP had referred so closely to the music of the original game or in the same context.50 The harmonic analysis of Figures 6 and 9 earlier also reveals a mirrored relationship between LoZ and TP. TP's ascending Phyrgian tetrachord cadence of mm. 11–14 in Figure 9 mirrors the descending Phrygian tetrachord in the bass line of the original Zelda theme in Figure 6. The self-referential component of TP's title-screen music, which foregrounded Zelda musical tropes at the beginning, subsides so a Western-music trope can segue into a new theme particular to TP, also reflected in diegetic sound: the disappearance of Epona's hoofs, Link's new howl, and the final sounds of the peritext emitting from the Twilight. Yet even in foregrounding a common Western-music chord progression, TP refers even more subtly to the musical material constitutive of the original Zelda opening.
The peritexts of WW and TP differ in several ways. Unlike “The Legendary Hero” peritext of WW, TP's has no textual narration and therefore must rely only on audiovisual cues. Second, both have contrasting cinematic approaches to storytelling. The WW peritext is much longer than that of TP and unfolds through a series of still images resembling artwork, as if one were reading an old book. TP's short peritext, however, unfolds in the form of an action sequence. Third, the sounds of “The Legendary Hero” comprise only non-diegetic music, while the sounds of TP's title screen comprise diegetic sounds and non-diegetic music. Fourth, the music of “The Legendary Hero” has a well-defined ABAʹ form, while the music of TP's peritext is through-composed and driven by melody. Fifth, the organization of thematic material in “The Legendary Hero” introduces a new leitmotif specific to WW in the A sections, while the familiar Zelda leitmotif appears in the B section. TP's music begins with the Zelda leitmotif and then introduces new material. Because of these reasons and how the ternary form unfolds, “The Legendary Hero” foregrounds its reliance on Western tropes, while reference to its own tradition, the Zelda leitmotif, becomes almost secondary in nature. Almost the opposite occurs in TP, as its self-references to Zelda through visual, sound, and musical cues overshadow its references to Western music.
Despite numerous differences, the case studies of WW and TP can highlight two important relationships about the nature of peritexts within a game series. First, the music of the peritexts can reveal deep connections between installment titles, which consequently deepen our understanding of the governing mythology of the game series itself. Second, the music of the peritexts can reflect paratexts, in the case of WW and TP their reception-history epitexts. Since, as Kamp argues, one cannot experience text (gameplay) and peritext (non-gameplay/narrative) simultaneously, it stands to reason that the latter receives and works out the narrative consequences of paratexts within a series.51 In other words, the peritexts of TP respond to the changes identified in WW's reception history and contribution to the Zelda mythology. The peritexts, in a way, can suture narrative developments across games and their paratexts.
Kamp's terminology of suture may apply in an extended way, as well. WW's foregrounding of departure and innovation in “The Legendary Hero” de-bonds or un-sutures what constitutes a “traditional” Zelda game, as evinced by analysis of its soundtrack. The music consequently helps to suture a new direction within the meta-narrative mythology of Zelda. WW posed several departures from an ever-focusing idealized conception of Zelda. The visual style of WW immediately suggests said departure, which caused the brouhaha among fans in the early 2000s. Closer examination of the music reveals its departure from Zelda tropes, as well. The music in an ABAʹ form incorporates newly composed music in the A sections designed to intimate the distant past through its use of Western music traditions. Only in the B section do we hear familiar sounds of the Zelda mythos but within the context of references to Western music. WW departed from tradition and caused controversy, but it just needed a while for fans to accept it. Such is common with new musical cues and themes. They need some time to become part of the collective repertoire among fans. The music of “The Legendary Hero” has since become part of the fabric of WW, as have other popular tunes from the game, beloved by many fans.
As WW entered into the Zelda mythology and took it in a different direction, TP attempted to turn the tide. The music of TP's title-screen peritext demonstrates a de-bonding of WW's precedent and a suturing toward long-standing Zelda traditions. TP makes no bones about placing Zelda front and center in the title-screen peritext and positions us for a deeply nostalgic experience. The first visual cues—Hyrule Field, the castle, an older Link, Epona, and so forth—all remind us of OoT. The sounds and music create even deeper connections with OoT and LoZ, which give the peritext a high degree of self-reference to the point that allusions to anything other than the Zelda mythology become secondary. And so it is with its reception history, as self-reference surfaces as nostalgia in reviews of TP. For those who love it, the game codifies everything about Zelda they know and love, supported by familiar gameplay, environments, and sounds/music. For those critical of TP, its reliance on Zelda's past prevents it from furthering the mythology. The title screen's incorporation of the original leitmotif traces a progression from familiar to dissipation. Similarly, the reception history of TP began as unequivocally successful precisely because of its return to Zelda's traditions, but it gradually dissipated because of the controversy surrounding its nostalgic profile.
Yet for as conflicted a reception as TP appears to have, it was the game Zelda fans wanted—possibly needed—as it demonstrates to a powerful degree the continuity of Zelda's traditions, codified through the visuals and music of the title-screen peritext. WW showed fans how departure from developing tropes can expand, not detract from, our notions of an idealized conception. Both games in this regard, born out of a cause–effect tension, do more to expand our understanding of the Zelda franchise and of fantasy games in general in two directions. Expansion forward toward the future and progress. Expansion backward toward history and tradition.
Michiel Kamp, “Suture and Peritexts: Music beyond Gameplay and Diegesis,” in Ludomusicology: Approaches to Video Game Music, ed. Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, and Mark Sweeney (Sheffield, UK: Equinox, 2016), 73–76; Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. J. E. Lewin (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Genette describes the term paratext as verbal productions—ranging in length and appearance—that surround, accompany, and serve to present a main text: a “threshold” that must be appended to the text itself (see Genette, Paratexts, 1–2); epitexts, he continues, function similarly but are not attached to the main text (344–351).
Vincent E. Rone, “Twilight and Faërie: The Music of Twilight Princess as Tolkienesque Nostalgia,” in Exploring Mythopoeic Narrative in The Legend of Zelda, ed. Anthony G. Cirilla and Vincent E. Rone (New York: Routledge, 2020), 81–100.
Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (London: Routledge, 2004), 95–97.
Natasha Whiteman, “Homesick for Silent Hill: Modalities of Nostalgia in Fan Responses to Silent Hill 4: The Room,” in Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games, ed. Zachary Whalen and Laurie N. Taylor (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt Press, 2008), 32.
The Legend of Zelda: Arts and Artifacts, ed. Patrick Thorpe, trans. Aria Tanner, Hishashi Kotobuki, Heidi Plechl, and Michael Gombos (Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2016), 417.
“Aonuma Says He Kept Wind Waker's Style Hidden from Miyamoto,” Nintendo Today, September 10, 2013, https://nintendotoday.com/aonuma-on-wind-waker-art-style/.
Stephen Totilo, “The Internet's 2001 Hate for One of the Most Beautiful Video Games Ever,” Kotaku, October 4, 2013, https://kotaku.com/the-internets-2001-hate-for-one-of-the-most-beautiful-1441105533.
“Official Zelda Bitch Thread,” IGN, accessed September 17, 2019, https://www.ign.com/boards/threads/official-zelda-bitch-thread.10015660/. See also a retrospect account on this thread, “A Look Back at the Wind Waker Outrage,” IGN, accessed September 17, 2019, https://www.ign.com/boards/threads/a-look-back-at-the-wind-waker-outrage.454860107/.
Brett Elston, “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Review: An Oceanic Adventure That's as Deep as It Is Wet,” GamesRadar, December 22, 2006, https://www.gamesradar.com/legend-of-zelda-the-wind-waker-review/.
Thom Moyles, “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Second Opinion,” Game Critics, April 8, 2003, https://gamecritics.com/thom-moyles/the-legend-of-zelda-the-wind-waker-second-opinion/.
See also the essays of Anthony Cirilla, “The Hero of Faerie: Ocarina of Time and the Journey into Imagination,” and Matthew Elam, “The Domestic Champion in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker,” in Cirilla and Rone, Mythopoeic Narrative.
Renan Fontes, “‘The Wind Waker’ and Moving On from the Past,” Goomba Stomp, September 1, 2018, https://www.goombastomp.com/wind-waker-moving-past/.
Karen Cook, “Music, History, and Progress in Sid Meier's Civilization IV,” in Music in Video Games: Studying Play, ed. K. J. Donnelly, William Gibbons, and Neil Lerner (New York, Routledge: 2014), 166–170; Jessica Kizzire, “‘The Place I'll Return to Someday’: Musical Nostalgia in Final Fantasy IX,” in Donnelly, Gibbons, and Lerner, Music in Video Games, 183–187.
This peritext occurs at the very beginning of WW. Readers may watch this peritext by booting up the game, or they may refer to one of the several recordings of this peritext currently available on YouTube. The music from this peritext appears as the track “The Legendary Hero” on the WW soundtrack.
William Gibbons discusses the construction of a Baroque style in “Little Harmonic Labyrinths: Baroque Musical Style on the Nintendo Entertainment System,” in Recomposing the Past: Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen, ed. James Cook, Alexander Kolassa, and Adam Whittaker (New York: Routledge, 2018), 139–152.
Composers and podcasters Karl and Will Brueggemann discuss the track “The Legendary Hero” as a stylistic contrast to the main theme of WW, which has a Gaelic folk and swashbuckling quality. “The Legendary Hero,” they say, sounds ancient, as if emerging from the Renaissance, due in part to the harpsichord. See “Episode 189: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker,” Super Marcato Bros.: Composers. Podcasters, November 8, 2015, http://www.supermarcatobros.com/podcast/2015/11/8/episode-189-the-legend-of-zelda-wind-waker#comments-563ff501e4b06c325c75c627=,7:28–8:30.
The flute has long-standing associations with domestic and military use tracing to its medieval and Renaissance origins. See Ardal Powell, “The Flute at War and at Home,” in The Flute (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 27–48, and Anna J. Reisenweaver, “The Development of the Flute as a Solo Instrument from the Medieval to the Baroque Era,” Music and Worship Student Presentations 8 (2011), 1–3.
Scholars have noted the significance of the leitmotif within cinematic and videogame practice. For a discussion particular to Zelda, see Stephanie Lind, “Active Interfaces and Thematic Events in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” in Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play, ed. Michael Austin (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016), 95–98. For a more general discussion on associativity and the function of leitmotifs in video games, see Tim Summers, “Hollywood Film Music and Game Music,” chap. 6 in Understanding Video Game Music (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016); see also Summers, “From Parsifal to the PlayStation: Wagner in Video Game Music,” in Donnelly, Gibbons, and Lerner, Music in Video Games: Studying Play, 205–208.
For film practice, see Stephen Meyer, Epic Sound: Music in Postwar Hollywood Biblical Films (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015), 79–84; see also Vincent E. Rone, “Scoring the Familiar and Unfamiliar in Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings,” in Journal of Music and the Moving Image 11, no. 2 (Summer 2018), 44–45. For video game practice, see Timothy Summers, “Analysing Video Game Music: Sources, Methods and a Case Study,” in Kamp et al., Ludomusicology, 16–17; and Isabella van Elferen, “Analysing Game Musical Immersion,” in Ludomusicology, 37.
Paul Rhys Mountfort, Nordic Runes: Understanding, Casting, and Interpreting the Ancient Viking Oracle (Rochester, VT: Destiny, 2003), 19–22; Edred Thornsson, Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic (Boston: Weiser, 1984), 6–9.
Several composers between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries relied on the diminished seventh chord for expressive uses of mystery, danger, and so forth. Examples include Rameau's tragic operas like Dardanus (1739), the supernatural scenes with the Commendatore in Mozart's Don Giovanni (1787), the fourth “Storm” movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (1808), and the “Witches Sabbath” movement to the Symphonie Fantastique (1830) of Berlioz. See in particular Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, The Psychology of Music: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 111–112.
Lind, “Active Interfaces and Thematic Events,” 85; Matthew Bribitzer-Stull, Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2015), 95–101.
The harpsichord and cello here do not work in tandem as their normal continuo relationship entails; they operate independently from each other. For a discussion on the typical instrumental pairings of trio ensembles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, see Bertil van Boer, “The Major Instrumental Chamber Genres: Duos, Trios, Quartets, Quintets, and Beyond,” in Music in the Classical World: Genre, Culture, and History (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019), e-book edition.
Chord progressions and modulations by chromatic thirds (and by association sixths) took shape at the time of late Beethoven and early Schubert. See Richard Taruskin, The Oxford History of Western Music, Vol. III (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 69; David Kopp, Chromatic Transformations in Nineteenth-Century Music (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 28–30. The movement between A and C major occurs here as a result of an incomplete linear descending Phrygian tetrachord in the bass: A–G–F–C. I discuss this point in further detail later with TP.
Michael Austin, “Introduction—Taking Note of Music Games,” in Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play, 10.
Aaron Santesso writes that modernization and technological advancement often spur nostalgic reflection in A Careful Longing: The Poetic and Problems of Nostalgia (Cranbury, NJ: Rosemount, 2006), 14; cf Kizzire, 185.
Thorpe, The Legend of Zelda: Arts and Artifacts, 419–420.
Patrick Klepek, “That Time a Zelda Trailer Supposedly Made Grown Men Cry,” Kotaku, February 22, 2016, https://kotaku.com/that-time-a-zelda-trailer-supposedly-made-grown-men-cry-1760602838.
Casey Covel, “Review, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii),” Geeks Under Grace, August 8, 2014, http://www.geeksundergrace.com/gaming/review-the-legend-of-zelda-twilight-princess/.
Jonathan Metts, “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess,” Nintendo World Report, November 18, 2006, http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/12434/the-legend-of-zelda-twilight-princess-wii. Interestingly enough, games set apart from the tradition of Hyrule, like WW, can facilitate our nostalgia precisely because they make us yearn for what we know and remember.
Dan Ryckert, “Review: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii),” Lawrence, November 14, 2006, http://www.lawrence.com/news/2006/nov/14/review_legend_zelda_twilight_princess_wii/.
Gene Park, “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review,” Game Critics, February 22, 2007, https://gamecritics.com/gene-park/the-legend-of-zelda-twilight-princess-review/.
Renan Fontes, “‘Twilight Princess’ and Embracing the Past,” Goomba Stomp, September 13, 2018, https://www.goombastomp.com/twilight-princess-embracing-past/.
Park, “Twilight Princess Review.”
“Why Was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Disappointing?” GameSpot, accessed September 17, 2019, https://www.gamespot.com/forums/system-wars-314159282/why-was-the-legend-of-zelda-twilight-princess-disa-27544649/.
Matthew Rickert, “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess,” RPGFan, April 4, 2007, http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/zeldatp-wii/index.html.
Stephen Totilo, “Shigeru Miyamoto Interviews Me about Hardcore Games, Also Talks ‘Punch-Out’ and ‘Mario,’ ‘Zelda’ Shortcomings,” MTV News, October 29, 2008, http://www.mtv.com/news/2457976/shigeru-miyamoto-punchout-mario-zelda-portal/.
Rone, “Twilight and Faërie,” in Mythopoeic Narrative.
A descending Phrygian tetrachord refers to a set of pitches organized by whole (W) and half (H) steps in the following order: W–W–H, thus (B♭–A♭–G♭–F). See Alex Ross, “Chacona, Lamento, Walking Blues: Bass Lines of Music History,” in Listen to This (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), 22–54; Bella Brover-Lubovsky, Tonal Space in the Music of Antonio Vivaldi (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008), 151–152.
As in the case of “The Legendary Hero,” readers may boot up the game or consult various YouTube clips to follow the timestamps. The analysis in this article refers specifically to the Wii version of TP, rather than the GameCube version.
Sarah Pozderak-Chenevey, “A Direct Link to the Past: Nostalgia and Semiotics in Video Game Music,” Divergence Press, June 2, 2014, http://divergencepress.net/2014/06/02/2016-11-3-a-direct-link-to-the-past-nostalgia-and-semiotics-in-video-game-music/. She makes clear how TP's consistent musical references to past games throughout gameplay generate deep nostalgic responses.
For a general discussion, see Summers, “Analysing Video Game Music,” 17–18. Lind discusses “Song of Time” at length in “Active Interfaces and Thematic Events,” 96.
Link's Awakening, Oracle of Seasons, and Oracle of Ages have openings with different music that eventually lead into a title screen with the opening Zelda theme. In addition, Four Swords Adventure quotes the “Overworld” melody of the original game, not its title-screen music.
Kamp, “Suture and Peritexts,” 76.