Exclusive Interview: Michael Gluck, "Piano Squall"
Video game music often doesn't get enough attention, even though it's a crucial aspect of every title's presentation. Great music enhances the entire experience, as any avid gamer will tell you, and many of our fondest memories are of original soundtracks we heard for the very first time. Would Final Fantasy VII been anywhere near as mesmerizing without the top-notch music? What about Lunar, a series that was built on wonderful music? And let's not forget other classics, like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Enter Michael Gluck, also known as "Piano Squall." He takes some of the finest video game music on record (no pun intended), and transitions them to piano. He has been performing concerts to help raise money for charity since 2003, and he has appeared in New York, California, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Washington, Connecticut, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Kansas, Oregon, and Georgia. In 2005, Michael was invited to perform at the anime convention Otakon for an audience of three thousand people, and later that year, he was featured on MTVís website in recognition for his contribution to the world of videogame music. Not a bad resume, is it?
Michael donates a portion of all his proceeds to The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and he has worked to raise money for a variety of other charities (Race for the Cure, The Matthew Foster Foundation, and Tsunami Relief, to name a few). A talented pianist, Gluck will be releasing his GAME CD on June 30. The CD features 19 total tracks, many of which include the most memorable tracks from the legendary Final Fantasy series. If you'd like to see the full track list, you can visit his website, where you can also pre-order GAME. Currently, Gluck works as a producer with Electronic Arts.
We had a chat with Michael about the CD, the response to his music, and his general beliefs regarding music in gaming.
Q: What gave you the idea to do something like this in the first place? It's a pretty original idea.
Gluck: Music and games have always been connected in my life. The music of Final Fantasy was my original inspiration, and I actually decided to study piano so that I could learn to play my favorite FF songs. From there, I just kept expanding my repertoire to include all of the music from the games and anime that I enjoy watching. In 2003, I attended my first gaming/anime convention, and it occurred to me that there was a whole world of people just like me who love this music too. I wanted to do something creative that combined my love of games and music with some kind of charitable mission, so I began doing game/anime music piano concerts to raise money for charity.
Q: There are indeed plenty of people out there who love that music, including myself. On GAME, is it just you (solo), or are any other musicians/instruments involved?
Gluck: GAME is all original piano arrangements except for the last track, which features a multi-instrumental Boss Battle theme that I co-composed with my friend Michael Huang. Those who pre-order the CD before June 30th also receive a free Bonus Track that does not appear on the CD, which is also a multi-instrumental composition.
Q: Music in video games is often underrated and under-appreciated. Gameplay is always most important, but would you say sound and music is just as important as other aspects like graphics?
Gluck: Absolutely. Visuals and music are an inseparable team. They enhance each other and work in tandem to evoke the emotion of a scene. Both components are equally vital to the experience.
6/14/2007 Ben Dutka