Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Gibbons, William. “Blip, Bloop, Bach?: Some Uses of Classical Music on the Nintendo Entertainment System.” Music and the Moving Image 2 (Spring 2009): 40-52.

Borrowing classical music in Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games can accomplish several purposes. Although much early video game music was newly composed, such as now classics Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros., it was not the only option available to video game composers. In the case of Captain Comic, the classical music functions mostly as a backdrop. Captain Comic’s entire soundtrack is made of classical music, but ultimately fails as a soundtrack because the classical pieces have little to no connection to the on-screen action. Pirates!, on the other hand, makes use of the cultural codes of Baroque music as a way of setting a historical time period as well as differentiating between different classes of characters. In Pirates!, the player can choose the location and time period; though the Baroque music in the soundtrack (Handel’s Water Music and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor) are outside of all optional time periods, they still lend the game a historical frame and a certain amount of “seriousness.” These pieces associated with upper-class characters contrast with newly composed nationalistic styles in popular Baroque idioms for the taverns in different cities. Finally, all iterations of Tetris use Russian music, either classical borrowings, folktunes, or newly composed songs to tie the game back to its Russian origins.

Works: Brøderbund (manufacturer): Battle of Olympus (40, 45); Color Dreams (manufacturer): Captain Comic (41-43, 49); Ultra Games (manufacturer): Pirates! (41, 43-45, 49); Nintendo (manufacturer): Tetris (41, 46-49); Tengen (manufacturer): Tetris (46-49).

Sources: Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 (40-42, 45); Handel: Suite in D Minor (41); Mozart: Piano Sonata in A Major, K. 331 (41); Rimsky-Korsakov: “Flight of the Bumblebee” from The Tale of Tsar Saltan (41-42); Johann Strauss: The Blue Danube, Op. 314 (41); Schubert: Marche Militaire, Op. 55, No. 1 (41); Wilhelm Friedemann Bach: Allegro non troppo, Fk. 203 (41); Handel: Water Music, Suite No. 1 in F (43-45); Johann Sebastian Bach: Two-Part Invention in G major (44); Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (46, 49); Ivan Larionov: Kalinka (46); Anonymous: Korobeiniki (46).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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