Video game music often doesn't get enough attention, even though it's a crucial aspect of every title's presentation. Great music enhances the entire experience, as any avid gamer will tell you, and many of our fondest memories are of original soundtracks we heard for the very first time. Would Final Fantasy VII been anywhere near as mesmerizing without the top-notch music? What about Lunar , a series that was built on wonderful music? And let's not forget other classics, like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Enter Michael Gluck, also known as "Piano Squall." He takes some of the finest video game music on record (no pun intended), and transitions them to piano. He has been performing concerts to help raise money for charity since 2003, and he has appeared in New York, California, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Washington, Connecticut, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Kansas, Oregon, and Georgia. In 2005, Michael was invited to perform at the anime convention Otakon for an audience of three thousand people, and later that year, he was featured on MTV’s website in recognition for his contribution to the world of videogame music. Not a bad resume, is it?
Michael donates a portion of all his proceeds to The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and he has worked to raise money for a variety of other charities (Race for the Cure, The Matthew Foster Foundation, and Tsunami Relief, to name a few). A talented pianist, Gluck will be releasing his GAME CD on June 30. The CD features 19 total tracks, many of which include the most memorable tracks from the legendary Final Fantasy series. If you'd like to see the full track list, you can visit his website , where you can also pre-order GAME. Currently, Gluck works as a producer with Electronic Arts.
We had a chat with Michael about the CD, the response to his music, and his general beliefs regarding music in gaming.
Q: What gave you the idea to do something like this in the first place? It's a pretty original idea.
Gluck: Music and games have always been connected in my life. The music of Final Fantasy was my original inspiration, and I actually decided to study piano so that I could learn to play my favorite FF songs. From there, I just kept expanding my repertoire to include all of the music from the games and anime that I enjoy watching. In 2003, I attended my first gaming/anime convention, and it occurred to me that there was a whole world of people just like me who love this music too. I wanted to do something creative that combined my love of games and music with some kind of charitable mission, so I began doing game/anime music piano concerts to raise money for charity.
Q: There are indeed plenty of people out there who love that music, including myself. On GAME, is it just you (solo), or are any other musicians/instruments involved?
Gluck: GAME is all original piano arrangements except for the last track, which features a multi-instrumental Boss Battle theme that I co-composed with my friend Michael Huang. Those who pre-order the CD before June 30th also receive a free Bonus Track that does not appear on the CD, which is also a multi-instrumental composition.
Q: Music in video games is often underrated and under-appreciated. Gameplay is always most important, but would you say sound and music is just as important as other aspects like graphics?
Gluck: Absolutely. Visuals and music are an inseparable team. They enhance each other and work in tandem to evoke the emotion of a scene. Both components are equally vital to the experience.
Q: Games are getting bigger and bigger, and more and more people are starting to correctly categorize them as a legitimate entertainment medium. That being said, do you think your CD would cater to non-gamers, and those who simply appreciate good music (and good piano)?
Gluck: Many of the people who attend my concerts are younger and are accompanied by non-gaming parents. When I have the opportunity to meet the audience after the concert, I often discover that the parents enjoyed the music just as much as their children, but for different reasons. The younger audience knows the story that goes with the music, and when they listen, their minds are focused on more than just the music. They are also imagining the visuals that accompany each piece and reliving the emotions they felt when they played that game or saw that anime for the first time. The parents don't know the stories, so their experience is all about the beauty of the music itself. It's clear to me that game and anime music is so beautiful that its appeal extends to all lovers of music.
Q: You mentioned earlier that Final Fantasy was the inspiration for getting you started with the piano, so obviously you're a gamer as well as a musician. What are you favorite types of games and what are your favorite kinds of music?
Gluck: I'm all about RPGs. I seriously must have beaten more than 60 of them in my life. Every Final Fantasy , every Suikoden , every Xenosaga , Xenogears , Chrono Trigger , Chrono Cross , Star Ocean ; I'll play any RPG I can get my hands on. I love RPG music best because all of these songs are associated with relationships between characters, plot twists, battles–just so many memorable moments. When I hear this music, I instantly remember the scene in the game, and I relive that experience again and again.
Q: Oh, we at PSXE love our RPGs as well. Do you plan to do another CD after GAME, and if so, do you have an idea as to which tracks/games might be represented?
Gluck: I'm actually hard at work on a second album of original videogame-style compositions. I am excited to make some new contributions to the game music world.
Q: Okay. By the way, we have a couple very big Metal Gear Solid fans on our staff, so I should probably ask- are you familiar with the tracks in those games, and would you consider tackling a few in the future? Konami is almost as well-known for their music as Square-Enix…
Gluck: Absolutely, especially the opening to MGS 2. I have actually arranged a number of MGS pieces, and I am excited to bring them to future concerts.
Q: Ah well, that'll satisfy the guys. More fans for you, I'm sure. We know you're currently a producer with EA, but do you aspire to work more in the music field in the game industry, or are you happy where you are professionally?
Gluck: I'm living my dream job right now. Being a producer challenges every aspect of my creativity, and music is a major part of my responsibility. I work closely with the composers and sound designers to make sure that the music is in line with the creative vision of the game, and I certainly hope to contribute my own original music to a future game.
Q: That's great. Lastly, what's the best/easiest way for everyone to get a copy of GAME?
Gluck: GAME is available (for pre-order) right now at my website: www.PianoSquall.com. The price is only $9.99 with free shipping anywhere in the United States. Electronic Arts is partnered with me in this effort, and together we will donate an amount equal to 20% of all profits from GAME to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
We'd like to thank Michael for his time, and we wish him the best of luck with GAME. Video game music fans can't possibly pass up this opportunity; it's some of your favorite music recreated beautifully on the piano. And if you want to see a snippet of one of his performances, take a gander at this video . Good stuff, huh? We can't wait to her what he'll include in his second CD, too!