“Rise and shine, Frederic. Rise and shine,” booms the voiced-over sound of God as Frederic Chopin rises from the grave. Leaving the cemetery he emerges onto an expansive boulevard, where Frederic becomes overwhelmed by flashing lights, rushing cars, and men dressed as ketchup bottles. He retreats to a park bench and sits in dismay. Much to his surprise three comely Greek muses of the lyre—Nete, Hypate, and Mese—appear bearing “artifacts of great power.” A miniature floating golden carriage, and grand piano are bestowed upon Frederic. The muses disappear, and a French electro-DJ thug floats up to Fred. In a voice that could have been his, but might as well have been my own, Chopin cries out, “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?!”
It’s been 163 years since Frederic Chopin breathed crisp Parisian air. But now, he has been brought back to life with the purpose of destroying the monotonous world of cacophonic sound. Fred enters into battle with the treacherous genres of the music industry a la Guitar Hero/rhythm game mechanics. Armed with his golden shrinking piano and a repertoire of sonata, waltz, polonaise, nocturne, etude, mazurka and scherzo, Fred is ready to take on the world.
The game has a ludicrous story line that pulled at my heartstrings. The master of Romantic (as in post-Classical) music does battle with a Rasta islander, hordes of leprechauns, bloodthirsty sheriffs (whom are commanded by a cigar puffing general in a tutu), New York thugs (Who stole his chariot’s wheels!), a Instrument destroying demon (?), and others. Ultimately, Chopin is just a dazed, confused, pallid, and undead virtuoso just trying to get by. The dialogue between Chopin and his adversaries and companions (he meets up with a bus chock full of Elvis impersonators) isn’t inspiring but ends up being entertaining and generates a couple laughs.
The music itself is the most important part. Through the absurd story and strange game mechanics, some kernels of truth are approached. Maybe the big music industry is backwards and repressive. Maybe no melodies ever written after Chopin will be as timeless and enduring. The individuals who scored this game went all out. They blended Chopin’s most famous pieces with music styles like chipbit, hip-hop, spaghetti western, reggae, house, and traditional Celtic among others. In each role, Chopin’s melodies, key changes, voice leading, chord resolution and textural atmosphere sound impeccable. There are moments when the modern accoutrements fall off and the player just hears solo piano and respects it. Then the driving rock beat comes back. The soundtrack to the game is infectious, yet irresistible. I can’t stop listening to it.
Whether you buy or play the $1.99 game or not isn’t the important part. In nature, it’s still only a rhythm game—albeit the only one on my iPhone. The premise lingers long after the screen goes dark. It inspired me to take the time and evaluate the state of great music since passed. It is far too prevalent how rich and complex compositions from Bach to Chopin are written off as background sound, and study music, or just lumped into a overgeneralized “Classical” music label. There is a lot to be said about how well Chopin’s music translated into and fused with contemporary sound from nearly every namable genre. Perhaps the world needs more radical Polish game makers to resurrect the music of the dead.