Symphonic Shades - Hülsbeck in Concert Liner Notes
A Conversation with Chris Huelsbeck
The liner notes open with the quote from Chris "This is a real milestone". In the subsequent discussion, Chris responds to short questions and comments shown in bold to discuss each item from the concert.
The concert's opening is the fanfare from Grand Monster Slam.
An opening of epic proportions, so to speak. I was experimenting with orchestra sounds in those days. It was important to me that the piece sounded like a fanfare yet does not take itself too seriously. John Williams was my inspiration, as can probably be heard. The music from X-Out was also inspired by US productions such as Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars.
And the choir is singing lyrics in Latin?
Yes, why not? This way the choir shows its prowess. Thanks to the amazing work of arranger Jonne Valtonen, one has the feeling of really being underwater at times.
I also like Yuzo Koshiro's arrangement of Jim Power. He is one of the eminent game composers, especially in Japan, so I feel very honoured about his cooperation on this project.
The next title is Tower of Babel. It sounds like movie music.
Yes, because I imagined composing the credits music for a Hollywood movie. It was one of the first pieces where I tried to arrange a full orchestra with sampled orchestra sounds. By the way, the theme was also used in Turrican II later.
Good choice. Next is Turrican 3.
In a special arrangement for solo piano. It's a very ambitious piece with Benyamin Nuss at the grand. The credits music in the middle part makes a lovely contrast to all the shoot-outs.
There are no shoot-outs in Gem'X, though.
Gem'X was the first game developed by our own label, Kaiko. An intermediate project to fund Apidya II, it was a kind of puzzle game in Japanese style. The music is very unobstrusive, which is important for a title of that genre. By the way, in our concert, parts of the music get performed with ceramic cups!
Kaiko released Apidya II after Gem'X, as you already mentioned.
Our concert version of Apidya II sounds so interesting, because Takenobu Mitsuyoshi included a choir in his arrangement singing Japanese lyrics that he had written.
In contrast to Apidya II, R-Type was a conversion from an arcade game.
Exactly. For the C64 conversion I composed typical C64 music. For the Amiga version, this wouldn't have made sense, because the Amiga has a built in sampler that makes it possible to use different sounds. I wanted to get the best out of the Amiga; this is why the title theme on the Amiga sounds different to the one from the C64. The Amiga version is the basis of the concert arrangement.
Only a few people probably know Licht am Ende des Tunnels.
My first co-operation with Thomas Boecker. He asked me if I would like to compose the soundtrack for his short movie and he visited me in the USA. I composed the movie music alongside my normal daily work. Often the most interesting things arise when you are pressed for time. When listening to this music today, I realise that it has a different quality to it compared to my game soundtracks. The protagonist tries to take his own life — this is not easy to set to music.
Nothing has to be explained about The Great Giana Sisters, right?
A fantastic arrangement with jazz and blues parts in the style of a big band. Really wonderful!
People found Rony Barrak's performance of Tunnel B1 jaw dropping. What can you tell about the music?
Tunnel B1 was my second CD-ROM soundtrack. The first one was the PC Engine version of Jim Power. For Tunnel B1, I produced a sophisticated CD soundtrack that sounds bombastic — a bit like Hans Zimmer.
You met him once, right?
Unfortunately not. He was out of the country when I visited his studio. I played some of my music to one of his assistants, but I do not think that Hans Zimmer ever heard it.
Nevertheless, the print magazine 64'er heard one of your pieces: "Shades". You won their music competition with that song.
Yes, the classic. This is why we also named the concert what we did. First "Shades" was the winner of the competition, then my first CD was entitled "Shades", and now this concert is called "Symphonic Shades". This is a real milestone.
By the way, I wanted a synthesizer for that piece in the concert. It can be heard in the bass run at the beginning and the main melody. We used my laptop to run a plugin that emulates a real C64. It worked perfectly.
From the oldest to the newest piece of the evening, "Karawane der Elefanten".
I composed it exclusively for the concerts in Cologne. I experimented with oriental gamut and Egyptian sounding melodies, and suddenly I saw elephants walking through the desert!
Well, unfortunately I cannot come up with an elegant transition from that! So let's get straight to the finale of the concert, Turrican II.
We took a risk with the arrangement in form of a piano concerto with Jari Salmela on the piano. The complex arrangement showcases the Turrican II main theme in contrast styles of various music epochs. Like Bach or Beethoven would have had their fingers in the pie. I do not know if fans will like it, but we wanted to offer something new to our listeners.
Does it bother you that you are mainly famous for your older works?
On one hand I think that I can come up with something better. On the other hand I am proud of my older work. I am happy if my new titles get praised, but I know that my fans often know and want the older music. This is perfectly fine with me. Moreover I am glad that I was at the right place at the right time. One year earlier or later and maybe my career would have never happened. Who would have ever thought that my music would be performed by an orchestra one day?
This concert surpasses everything I ever desired musically. Additionally the WDR was very dedicated during the whole production time. We all wanted to offer the best possible concert experience to the listeners. And I think this is what we accomplished.