Final Fantasy IV is an excellent game with a soundtrack that will accompany you far beyond the initial experience of the game itself. The melodies are gorgeous, haunting, engaging and very moving. There is a simplicity to the usage of melody which make them endearing. Comparisons have often been made between the music of John Williams and Nobuo Uematsu. The nature of this comparison often escapes me at times. However, if any similarities exist between these two composers it would likely rest in their uncanny ability to tell a story with their music, a story whereupon notes and chords are given most vibrant to life; a story which possesses the capacity to recall fondest memories, fullest joys and greatest tragedies. The Final Fantasy IV music encompasses such a story, a musical story that encapsulates the full spectrum of emotion; a complete plunge into the very heart of human experience. These two composers have demonstrated a mastery of the thematic motif and how to give it life while allowing it to naturally transform in ways our hearts and minds could only dream. It is because of soundtracks such as Final Fantasy IV and Star Wars that these composers are held in such high esteem. These scores are embroidered with great sincerity and intimacy and it is only too natural for the listener to be left in the purest state of bliss because of it. Though fail as I might, I will try and explain why the music of Final Fantasy IV continues to leave many (including myself) in a paroxysm of wonder.
Final Fantasy IV's world is introduced with one of the stronger renditions of the "Prelude", notable for its use of the theme's distinct melody line for the first time to accompany its trademark arpeggiations. The first theme that utilizes a motif is "Red Wings". It is perfectly suited to conveying the essence of power and conquest. The music begins with a certain degree of uncertain calm but is then thrust headfirst into a darkly lit section which illustrates the quality of danger. Blaring dissonance is used to cast the music into an ocean of foreboding darkness, revealing the structure of the music in a new, exciting way; there is a wonderful yet unstrained sense of terror that manifests itself in the layout of this section during the course of development and proves intellectually fulfilling within the idea that the powers of good and evil are always at work within us. One strength of the piece lies in its ability to symbolically represent various plot related aspects of the story through musical storytelling. The "Red Wings" theme can be closely associated with the character of Cecil and the journey that he must overcome to conquer his inner 'darkness'. Cecil, the dark knight, is constantly fighting a battle within himself over the forces of light and dark. The music appropriately represents this battle and also provides a satisfying level of depth and significance to the story through which it is being applied. "Prologue..." celebrates the splendor of adventure with a powerful statement of the "Final Fantasy" theme that many have come to know and admire. Perhaps its greatest incarnation, a cymbal crash opens the piece and is joined by strings and a lovely outspoken trumpet. The melody and the chords work magnificently together to create a very warm and epic musical sense.
The journey introduced, the intricacy and depth of the soundtrack becomes more apparent with some central themes. The "Baron Kingdom" theme is very sobering in its telling. There is a certain degree of restlessness, even seediness which dominates the musical intent of the piece. This restlessness is shown in various forms; in particular, the piece begins in a minor key and gravitates to a major key for mere moments before returning to its first form. This represents the darkness of a kingdom which has forsaken its ideals in the acquisition of power. The "Theme of Love" features a simple yet endearing melody. This musical portraiture has different meaning during different parts of the story but is most commonly used in association with the bond shared between Rosa and Cecil and the emotional connection and loving communion that they share. A bittersweet flute and harp sadly yet passionately wade up and down a musical stream. The readiness with which this melody so easily bonds itself to the mind and heart of the listener makes this one of Nobuo's most enduring and best remembered musical exploits. When I speak of haunting melodies, "Into the Darkness" may be the one piece that haunts my dreams the most. The piece features lovely orchestration involving a cascading harp in the background and luscious strings in the foreground presenting a melody with a hint of sadness yet a sense of overwhelming warmth. It propels itself forward very well from section to section in 3/4 metre, helping to create a very explorative and rather contemplative spirit. As the main dungeon music, the piece will be encountered numerous times during the journey, perhaps more than any other theme in the entire game save the battle music; nonetheless, the music still retains a fresh musical identity which complements the gameplay and the environs perfectly.
As one traverses across the world of Final Fantasy IV, four other fundamental themes are introduced. There is a casual innocence to "Welcome to Our Town", the predominate town or village theme; a hint of indifference to the evils of the world is suggested through a melody which remains joyfully oblivious to any sort of danger. The world map theme "Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV" is a particularly effective rendition of the main motif of Final Fantasy IV in arguably its grandest form. The theme is beautiful and displays Nobuo Uematsu's knack for creating a powerful melody that is also very accessible. There is no pretense, just music. A harp gradually ascends and is then greeted by a flute which calmly, yet confidently bellows its passage across vast lands. The orchestrations are very appropriate and the theme loops perfectly, even gaining momentum through repeated listenings. If the soundtrack of Final Fantasy IV were to be associated with a mine full of riches, then this piece could be considered its crown jewel. As for the main battle theme "Fight 1", what a fun little piece of music! This piece displays a somewhat playful nature while remaining upbeat and again showcasing the ease with which a simple melody can be made into something far more powerful, in the right hands. The theme is hopeful but the end cadence throws the piece into a bit of a suspenseful mode, though for only a very brief amount of time. In contrast, the boss battle theme "Fight 2" is, by all definitions, intense. The frantic pace and cascading strings in the intro throw the piece into high gear extremely quickly and may catch people off their toes numerous times. Its intensity is maintained through the use of several crisis motifs and more minor keys during the course of development. Sandwiched between these themes are trademark creations such as the hopeful and jubilant "Victory Fanfare" , the awesome but infamous "Chocobo Theme", and the extremely playful "Fat Chocobo".
It's now time to take a closer look at the characters of Final Fantasy IV. "Rydia" is one of those melodies that has the potential to get stuck in your head for weeks. It is a bit sparsely orchestrated for my tastes but the music contains a very joyful, bittersweet tone and the development is very appropriate. Its outward simplicity but deep undertones are ideal for representing a young but bequeathed summoner. Edward's theme "Melody of Lute" is a romantic theme that is perhaps a musical symbol of the love that he shares with a gal named Anna. The theme for those cheeky rascals, "Palom and Parom", is impeccably representative due to Nobuo Uematsu's incredibly playful musical nature. There is a whimsical, mischievous nature to this piece and the cheeky phrasing is utterly delightful. As for "Hey, Cid!", his thematic music is illustrative of quite a character. Featuring a number of brass instruments and a steady two step tempo, the melody in this piece is very playful and hopeful. This more or less covers the protagonists, though the aforementioned "Theme of Love" is often interpreted as Rosa's theme as well. Healer to devastator... "Golbez, Clad in Dark" embellishes and represents the fact that Golbez is a being of pure evil. A dark sounding organ ambles along playing a rather sinister sounding melody until it gathers and disperses into a a downward arpeggiation which outlines the main chords, albeit in hopeless fashion. There is a feeling of desperation and vengeance within the music, though it almost feels a little too evil. The actual sound of the piece achieves a metallic, lifeless character and creates the idea that Golbez is not a particular entity that cares much for the ruin and devastation that he brings wherever he goes. He only heeds the calls of calamity and chaos in his search for ultimate power.
The music often represents how the storyline of Final Fantasy IV revolves around the emotions involving sacrifice, desperation, and loss. "Castle Damcyan" is written to symbolically represent a kingdom devastated by the horrors of war; after being bombed by the Baron Kingdom, Castle Damcyan is completely obliterated and the lives of its people become nothing but a distant memory. The music is appropriately very quiet and contemplative; like a dwindling candle that knows that its at the end of its wick. High hats and soft strings are prominently featured while a bass and a flute sadly relate a tale of loss. "Theme of Sorrow" features good motivic development and is revisited at various points during the story; there is an interesting panning feature used on the harp that provides a greater allure to the track despite the sparsity of its orchestration, used to create a feeling of isolation and inexplicable sadness. "Suspicion" is an iteration of the main motif, where the strings carry the melody and are accompanied by a slowly ambling harp outlining the key, which stays definitively in minor; it is a good usage of the main theme for the feeling that it creates in conjunction with storyline elements but does very little beyond this due to a lack of development. With the piece looping at :37 seconds, it leaves much to be desired. The theme of devastation and panic, "Ring of Bomb" and "Run!", use dissonance well but similarly leaves a bit too much to the imagination with respect to development given how often it is used in the game. More fulfilling is "The Dreadful Fight," music that will engage when confronted with one of Golbez's four elemental fiends. The piece starts off very wickedly utilizing a strong bass, timpani, and string combination. The piece changes pace fifty seconds in becoming far more lively and dangerous! The melody usage during this section and all preceding sections is superlative.
It's only appropriate after handling a few depressing tracks that I throw in a few tracks that are completely different! Impossibly upbeat, the "Mt. Ordeals" theme symbolically represents Cecil's personal journey to essentially purge his dark nature in an effort to engage and embrace the light within himself. The snare drums and xylophone add a soft, confident hopefulness to the piece and the first sectional development leads to a very recognizable statement of the main motif, which aids in strengthening the recognized bond between Cecil's journey and the meaningful nature that it shares within the grand relevance of the Final Fantasy IV storyline. "Mystic Mysidia" is another quirky light-hearted theme that represents a hamlet of sorcerers; here certain harmonic configurations align it with a distinct Eastern musical sense. "Fabul" represents the great karate warriors of the Fabul Kingdom, "Achoo!" The musical theme relates this power through epic orchestration utilizing a striking timpani and cymbal crash which is also combined with a very traditional eastern chordal structure and melody. "Land of Dwarves" is a wonderful metamorphosis of the main theme heard when traversing the cavernous environs of the underworld. The musical appearance of this theme is a little darker to reflect the underground environment, contrasted by prominent bass and drum lines that emphasise a sense of adventure. The other dwarves' theme, "Giott, the Great King", is whimsical and completely different than every other piece of music that is to be found in the soundtrack, almost like Uematsu was trying to create a type of folk music relevant to the dwarves. "Dancing Calcobrena" is a mesmerising waltz that veils a deeply hidden darkness within its dashing melody. Also in triple metre, "Troian Beauty" reflects a peaceful nation with a tranquil harp that happily cascades into a sunny section further brightened by various instrument appearances to produce a very homely feel.
As the soundtrack approaches its climax, Uematsu heads off to represent music on the moon. "Another Moon" has the distinction of being one of the composer's most experimental tracks. There is a quiet, solemn, contemplative quality within this music which makes it suitable for the purposes of meditation and inward reflection. A panning trumpet plays along eerily and is introduced with the explosion of a droning timpani hit, which holds its note to its fullest to provide a very warmly serene, ambient instrumental presence which is continued every two measures. Lush string-work strengthens this piece exponentially. However, the greatest strength of this piece doesn't necessarily lie in its use of melody, but in the ethereal nature of the instrumentation and the way that it mysteriously exposes itself during the course of development; there is an eerie resonance to the sound quality and the music which makes one think of darkened things, far beyond our grasp. As for "The Lunarians", this track is very similar in thematic and musical principle to "Another Moon". It features the same droning tone and focuses most of the development around the strength of the drone. It's such a simple musical premise but the piece is enlivened greatly by the appearance of what sounds like an electronic clavier, which cascades diligently and nobly, intertwining with the droning tone to create a very warm and deep sense of solitude. Both themes are extremely successful in displacing the expectations of the listener according to the musical thematic traditions as they occur during the storytelling in the events leading up to reaching the moon's surface. They share a unique musical insight which separates itself substantially from the musical idioms which occurs whilst on earth. Needless to say, this enrichens the scope of the soundtrack very broadly. Both of these themes are brilliant.
When Cecil (and party) confront Zeromus for the final showdown between the forces of dark and light, the music will hit you like a bolt of lightning. There is no question, this is IT! "The Final Battle" utilises blood curdling dissonance to create an awesome level of tension in the opening statement and then leads into an epic presentation of the main motif. The pacing is frantic and bombastic in its presentation and features excellent drum propulsion which works perfectly with the powerful melody to create a very impressive level of anxiety and danger. The way that this music accompanies what is occurring on screen is simply amazing and the use of the motif is very admirable. This is certainly a battle to be remembered for the ages and the music greatly contributes in making this so. "Ending Theme" is the grand summation and Uematsu always knows how to wrap up a story in great style. The piece begins with the familiar droning tone which represents the idea of outer space and also shares a definitive musical similarity to the adventures experienced while on the moon. This leads to an upbeat playing of the main Final Fantasy IV motif at 1:48, which retells the countless adventures that occurred whilst on the earth. The piece once again reverts to a sad "spacey" section at 4:30 that illustrates a bittersweet parting of ways between the Lunarian people and the peoples of the earth. This leads into a brief but awesomely orchestrated version of the "Theme of Love" at 5:45, which is then followed by the signature Final Fantasy theme at 6:08. This theme then picks up pace with the addition of a snare drum and a cymbal crash by 6:56. The final musical development in the piece features a very epic and upbeat version of the main motif. This piece is very illustrative and each theme flows wondrously from section to section.
The Final Fantasy IV soundtrack exists as an old friend; comforting, endearing, passionate, truthful, illustrative, and sincere. This soundtrack is considerable both in its portrayal of thematic depth and the subtlety through which simple melodies become more than just pieces, but entities; musical entities which bind themselves readily to our ears and heart. The soundtrack of Final Fantasy IV contains an incredibly endearing characteristic which affords it the rarest of musical opportunity to willingly remain in the mind of the listener LONG after the initial music has ceased to be. To be able to cover all emotional bases with thematic material while remaining interesting musically and never deviating from that premise is not an easy task and Nobuo Uematsu makes it look so dreadfully simple. Uematsu's concept of melody is prodigal. It is no question that Final Fantasy IV isn't merely a soundtrack but a work of art that speaks with genuine sincerity to the heart.