The last of the regular columns! On Wednesday, I’ll post the bonus column, afterword, and the final document.
#96: “The Warriors of Light and the Echo – Part 3”
Published in 2017/11/16 issue
There I was, walking down the center aisle of Tokyo International Forum Hall A, in the middle of a song’s performance, with the spotlight shining down on me. I carried a large bass drum in front of me, beating it at a fixed rhythm as I walked. Behind me was the father of FF music, Nobuo Uematsu, playing the triangle to the opposite beat. And behind him was Sound Director Soken with a glockenspiel, going tick, tick, tick, DING!
“How did it end up like this…?”
Despite this being a biweekly column, I’ve still spent three issues talking about FFXIV’s first solo orchestra concert, Eorzean Symphony. This week will be the last.
On September 24th, I was more comfortable with emceeing, and the Warriors of Light in the audience seemed more relaxed, too. Since everything I said on stage was improvised, I don’t have a script and I can’t remember exactly what I talked about. But I am reflecting on whether likening the experienced orchestra concert-goers to tanks was a good move.
“Tanks in the audience, please show others the correct timing for applause and standing ovations!” “DPS, it’s your job to clap! Put out those claps per second!” I’m sure the members of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra had no idea what I was talking about…
The second part of Eorzean Symphony was “Heavensward”, covering Patch 3.0 to 3.56. Unlike the first part, “A Realm Reborn”, the songs here were not in chronological order. This is because we had to consider the performers’ stamina and the audience’s perceived tempo to build up a proper climax. Soken was particularly meticulous about it.
Writing this makes it sound like the concert was put together very carefully, but if you ask me, the “Heavensward” part was, again, reckless. That’s what the opening paragraph was describing.
FFXIV has a high-difficulty raid called Alexander. In the final arc, Creator, you battle Alexander himself, and the music during the first half of the fight is Moebius, a song that was performed during the concert.
This Alexander fight has a mechanic called “Temporal Stasis” which freezes time for the players, allowing only Alexander to act. The players watch his movements and move accordingly once time resumes. Also, while time is stopped, the BGM stops too, and alarm sounds play in its place. When time resumes, the music resumes as well. It’s an artistic touch.
In 2016, when we secured the venue for the orchestra concert, I said to Soken:
“I want to do a time stop during the orchestra performance. I’m serious—the conductor and performers will stop, the alarm sounds will be played with percussion instruments, and then the orchestra will resume as though nothing had happened… Tokyo Philharmonic might find it annoying, but I really want to do it. FFXIV is all about doing the unprecedented, after all.”
Indeed, it was my idea. But the result ended up being me, Uematsu-san, and Soken playing the alarm sounds. And walking down the aisle while playing. That’s too far off from what I’d suggested.
“We already did a time stop during the European Fan Fest concert, so we have to make it even more entertaining than that!” insisted Soken. But you’re the one that stole my idea for your concert…
Thus, I walked down the audience aisle of Tokyo International Forum Hall A, beating a large bass drum. It was incredibly embarrassing, so I had no choice but to steel myself and smile as I went. And compared to Uematsu-san and Soken, I’m a total amateur when it comes to music. Writing this makes me realize just how stupid of an idea it was.
I continued beating the drum, desperately trying to maintain a steady rhythm. When I’d made it about halfway down the aisle, the Warriors of Light suddenly broke out into huge applause. I was truly happy to hear it. However, my excitement only lasted a brief moment. Due to the echoing in the hall, there were layers upon layers of applause.
I screamed inside my head, “Wait, I’m glad you’re clapping, but this makes everything a lot harder!!!”
I panicked hard. I was the one leading this procession and dictating the speed at which we walked, and we actually hadn’t practiced the time stop at all. Even the show itself was pretty much on the fly, since we’d only rehearsed once—on the day of the concert. It’s only because of the galvanizing “adloquium” from the Warriors of Light that we were able to make it through. I’m grateful to them all.
At the end of the show, the audience welled up with calls for an encore, and after that finished, they all stood for a roaring standing ovation. It felt like the ground was shaking—the intensity of it can’t be described in words. It was so powerful that even the performers were excited, saying they’d never seen such a thing, even when overseas. It truly felt like I’d witnessed a miracle, so it feels too unremarkable when I try to put it into words. People often use the phrase “vocabulary decline” on social media, and that truly is the case here.
Uematsu-san spoke warmly during the grand finale, while Soken’s speech made me cry despite how desperately I tried to hold back my tears. Soken’s father was a trumpet player for an orchestra, and he passed away around a year after ARR’s release.
The closer we got to the orchestra concert, the more Soken would murmur, “What kind of performance would Dad put on?” It wasn’t out of hesitation—I firmly believe that he wished he could’ve shown his father what he’d accomplished.
Whenever Soken is in front of an audience, such as during live streams, he usually talks about himself. He makes himself the subject of his jokes. That’s the kind of guy he is. So, I thought for sure that he’d keep his emotions regarding his father to himself during this concert, too. And yet… he poured out his heart on that stage. That’s why I responded with, “I’m sure he was right over there, playing alongside you.” I truly believed that.
This time, it wasn’t just the audience—the performers also broke out in applause. I’m sure it’ll be an unforgettable memory for both Soken and myself. Soken struggled to speak, saying “Thank you” in barely a whisper.
Thus ended our first Eorzean Symphony. We were left with the desire to work even harder on the game, so that we could do it again in the future. The power of the Echo that the Warriors of Light possess knows no bounds. That’s why I’ll never want to leave this job.