The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Book)

A Game Music Companion

Discusses the use of music in a well-loved and culturally significant game – Ocarina of Time. Examining music in different contexts, it identifies music’s role and function within the game and in gameplay overall, and uses this to investigate wider issues in music and media studies and fan cultures. New in paperback. 119 b/w illus.


Some 22 years after its creation, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still held in high critical regard as one of the finest examples of the video game medium. The same is true of the game’s music, whose superlative reception continues to be evident, whether in the context of the game or in orchestral concerts and recordings of the game’s music.

Given music’s well-established significance for the video game form, it is no coincidence that music is placed at the forefront of this most lauded and loved of games. In Ocarina of Time, music connects and unifies all aspects of the game, from the narrative conceit to the interactive mechanics, from the characters to the virtual worlds, and even into the activity of legions of fans and gamers, who play, replay and reconfigure the music in an enduring cultural site that has Ocarina of Time at its centre. As video game music studies begins to mature into a coherent field, it is now possible to take the theoretical apparatus and critical approaches that have been developed in antecedent scholarship and put these into practice in the context of an extended concrete game example.

The most extensive investigation into the music of a single game yet undertaken, this book serves three important primary purposes: first, it provides a historical-critical account of the music of an important video game text; second, it uses this investigation to explore wider issues in music and media studies (including interactivity, fan cultures, and music and technology); and third, it serves as a model for future in-depth studies of video game music.

Tim Summers is lecturer in music at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of Understanding Video Game Music and a cofounder of the Ludomusicology Research Group.

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. The music of Ocarina of Time in context

Nintendo’s game franchises

The Legend of Zelda

Kondo’s approach to music in The Legend of Zelda

Music on the Nintendo 64

Music in Ocarina of Time

Chapter 3. The ocarina and Link’s musical performances

The ocarina

Why an ocarina?

Playing Link’s ocarina

Beyond the four notes

Learning the ocarina songs

The songs

Plot-advancing and assistance melodies

Warp songs

The Scarecrow’s song and other performances

The Fabulous Five froggish tenors

The Skull Kids

Musical performance in Ocarina of Time

The function of musical performance in games

Chapter 4. Location cues

Part I. Hyrule Field

A familiar tune


Day tags

Reflective tags

Battle tags

Music, the player and geography

Part II. Location cues featuring ocarina songs

Epona’s song and Lon Lon Ranch – Associations of ranch life

The Temple of Time and the Song of Time – Cathedral soundscape

Windmill and the Song of Storms – Strange circularity

Saria’s song and the Lost Woods – Jolly repetition and misdirection

Part III. Dungeon cues

Inside the Deku Tree – Organic timbres

Dodongo’s Cavern – Audio textures of metal and stone

Inside Jabu-Jabu’s belly – Fishy rumblings

Forest Temple – Sounds of the forest

Fire Temple – Voices heard and unheard

Ice Cavern – Crystalline chimes

Water Temple – A dungeon on the Danube?

Shadow Temple and the bottom of the well – Voices and drums from the depths

Spirit Temple

Ganon’s Castle

Part IV. Towns

Kokiri Forest – Optimism and ornamentation

Castle Town market – Evoking European traditions

Kakariko Village – A wistful safe haven

Goron City – Sounding the materials of the mountain

Zora’s domain

Gerudo Valley – Hispanic traditions in the desert

Part V. Recurring types of location

Shops – Hyrule’s consumer soundtrack

Sideshow minigames – The fairground connection

Houses – A musical starting point

Potion shops, ghost shops and lakeside laboratory – Little shops of horrors?

Fairy Fountain/start menu – Angelic harps

Music for locations

Chapter 5. Character themes and cutscenes

Part I. Character themes

Zelda’s theme – Lilting lullaby

Ganondorf’s theme – Alarming chords and brooding sequences

Sheik – Atypical warrior’s theme

Kaepora Gaebora (the great wise owl) – Authority and levity

Great Deku Tree – Ancient uncertainty

Koume and Kotake

A noticeable omission

Part II. Other cutscenes

Opening – An unexpected start

Flying – Musical sequences for beating wings

Legends, spirits and goddesses

Rewards and milestones

 End credits – Finale ultimo

Ocarina of Time 3D

Music for cutscenes

Chapter 6. Ludic cues

Part I. Combat music

Musical features of combat cues

Implementation in the game

Boss victory cue

Part II. Cues for treasure and challenges

Acquisition cues

Music for puzzles

 Music for losing – Game over

Minigames – Frivolous fun

Special sequences

Aestheticizing the Ludic

Chapter 7: Interfaces and sound effects

Earcons for interfaces

Menus and dialogue

Targeting system

Musical sound for interfaces and information

Musicality and magic

Sound and motion

Enemy sound effects


Chapter 8. Ocarina afterlives

Later games

Parallel world – Majora’s mask

Selective franchise continuity

Decontextualizing sound

A multi-valent musical medium

'Summers does an excellent job of describing the soundscape of a video game within the confines of print, employing a variety of visual representations to support his prose arguments. [...] The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: A Game Music Companion offers many things to many people: it is an in-depth analysis of a beloved game, a primer on ludomusicological terminology and concepts, a model analysis, a demonstration of the different things video game music can do, and an explication of how it does them. Summers’s attention to detail, wide-ranging knowledge, and affection and respect for the subject matter are evident throughout, resulting in a superb book.'

Sarah Pozderac-Chenevey, Journal of Sound and Music in Games
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