I was playing FFIX with my girlfriend the other night and we had an amazing discussion on why Nobuo's music works so well. The gist was that Nobuo doesn't try to steal the scene. His music is there to support the feeling already established, and that's where he shines.
The music was interesting enough not to get repetitive, simple enough to be easy to listen to and read/understand text, and beautiful enough to be very musical. He saves the grandest moments for text-less scenes. For ex. worlds maps, scenes, battles, big story moments.
I'd like to use that approach more. Maybe that's what makes game music so awesome. It doesn't get in the way, nor should it. Maybe games these days have better music outside of the game, but is that what makes game music great? I'm not so sure. If it takes away from the game? Is it the immersive-ness of his music that caused players in the 90s to sit and listen to the themes for hours? Or was it HOW the music brought them into the pre-established world?
Just something I'm going to ponder for a long time. Figured I'd share. I'd like to be able to recreate the immersion and beauty of Uematsu's work one day. Surely there is a difference between his game music, and his other music, and it's interesting to note.
Matthew Harnage is a professional music composer, and arranger who works out of Raleigh, North Carolina.