Here’s why Aerith’s Theme from Final Fantasy VII is a symphonic masterpiece

21 March 2019, 16:49 | Updated: 21 March 2019, 17:28

By Elizabeth Davis

Nobuo Uematsu’s beautiful theme is one of the most famous pieces of video game music ever written – and deservedly so.

Nobuo Uematsu, who celebrates his 60th birthday today, is one of the founding fathers of video game music. His work – particularly for the epic Final Fantasy series – has inspired scores of composers and introduced a whole generation to the magic of orchestral music.

His music also regularly appears in the Classic FM Hall of Fame and is regularly played on air.

Here’s a deep dive in what makes this piece so iconic

via GIPHY

Aerith is one of the characters in Final Fantasy VII, and this theme appears during the game at key moments for the character.

The first thing we hear is a yearning melody, gently falling and rising. It’s simple, but memorable – like a song remembered from childhood.

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In the orchestral version of the soundtrack this is played by a solo flute. It’s then quickly joined by an oboe and the two play a counterpoint duet, while the rest of the woodwind section and French horns accompany.

Next, Uematsu introduces his trademark lush string harmonies, sitting underneath the main tune.

Listen to the clip above, at 30 seconds in – those harmonies wouldn’t sound out of place in a piece by a Romantic composer like Elgar or Delius.

Then, we hear a piano melody building on the figures we heard in the woodwind introduction.

Uematsu continues to play on the melody, building a soaring crescendo in the woodwind and string begin a crescendo. Then Uematsu brings out the big guns and introduces the brass, building to a climax Mahler would have been proud of. Listen from 4.00 in the video at the top of the page.

via GIPHY

A delicate coda, led by the flute, brings the piece to a close… and we can all finally breathe again.

The overall effect is a piece rooted in the rich history of Romantic music, while pushing the boundaries of what video game music could be.

No wonder the soundtrack for Final Fantasy is so popular that it reached No.3 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame in 2012.

The impact of Final Fantasy

Nobuo Uematsu’s music has inspired a generation of composers, many of whom have gone on to write music for video games.

The epic soundtracks of games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin's Creed and God of War, all owe a debt to Uematsu, who made the world wake up to the power of video game music.