Tuesday, June 17, 2014

6 Classic Video Games That Use License-Free Music

The nice thing about public domain music is that it’s license-free. You can use it however you want and you don’t have to pay anybody. It’s like owning a factory in China. Surprisingly enough, license-free music shows up a lot in some classic video games. From traditional folk songs to classical symphonies, these tunes were perfect for any video game composer who felt like phoning it in.

Ride of the Valkyries – Richard Wagner
In Apocalypse Now, we hear Ride of the Valkyries being blasted out of a helicopter as it ruthlessly assaults a Vietnamese village. In Punch-Out, we hear it being blasted in the boxing ring as Nintendo ruthlessly assaults a variety of different ethnic stereotypes. It serves as the introduction music for a comically mustachioed German man named Von Kaiser, as well as a turban-clad Indian named Great Tiger. I guess it turns out that the perfect companion to Richard Wagner’s music is racial insensitivity.

TETRIS (Gameboy) 
Korobeiniki – Traditional
Despite it being at traditional Russian folk tune, this song has widely become known as the “Tetris theme.” In fact, it’s become so iconic with the game that the Tetris Corporation actually owns a sound trademark on the theme. So, while the song is still in the public domain and can still be used by anybody, Tetris’s trademark means nobody can use it specifically for a videogame. But, if you want to film a Tetris-themed Russian porno, the music is free to use. My suggested titles would be Comrade’s Rad Cum or Gets Your Blocks Locked.

Dance of the Reed Pipes – Tchaikovsky
This game uses tons of classical tunes (the intro is even based on Pachelbel’s Canon in D), but I particularly like its use of Dance of the Reed Pipes from the Nutcracker. And, even though I’ve never seen the Nutcracker, I am familiar with this dainty, delicate piece of music. I can only imagine that the Nutcracker is about a much of yellow, rodent-like creatures that plummet off a cliff to their stupid deaths.

Rondo alla Turca – Mozart
If Mozart had known his music would eventually be used in game about freakishly giant teeth that run around eating candy, he probably would’ve stepped up his writing game a bit instead of writing a bunch of shit that nobody remembers. Lucky for him, the makers of Jawbreaker II found the perfect use for his soon-to-be hit single Rondo alla Turca. And, thanks to them, people now actually know who Mozart is. (NOTE: This song is also used in Lemmings, but I like this version more.)

Infernal Gallop (aka Can-Can) – Jacques Offenbach
I guess the music composer for Super Mario Land came to work hung over and realized he was supposed to have the “Star” theme ready. When his boss asked to hear it, he said (in Japanese), “Look boss, why don’t we make it the Can-Can theme, instead? It’s catchy, upbeat, and already written.” His boss agreed, and he got a promotion. He then immediately went into the employee bathroom and had the worst Saki shits ever. 

In the Hall of Mountain King – Edvard Grieg
This game holds a special place in my heart, since my brother and  I used to play it at my grandma’s house in the 80s. In fact, I was so familiar with the tune that I even asked my piano teacher in third grade if I could learn Mountain King. She asked me, “Oh, do you like Edvard Grieg?” I remember saying, “Is that the guy from the Atari game?” She immediately went home and overdosed on pills.


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