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"The Untold Story of "The Sims", new age jazz piano


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https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/qveqew/the-untold-story-of-the-sims-your-first-favorite-jazz-record?utm_campaign=sharebutton via @noiseymusic

 

 

The Untold Story of 'The Sims,' Your First Favorite Jazz Record

The songs that soundtracked the game's Build Mode introduced millions of unknowing kids to new age jazz. The musicians behind it were just trying to make something that wouldn't interfere with your landscaping.

 

In a home studio in a garage in a suburb east of San Francisco, some time in 1999, Jerry Martin set about making the most inconspicuous music that he could. As the Audio Director at the video game developer Maxis, he'd already soundtracked detail-oriented simulation games like SimCity 3000 and SimCopter. But The Sims, the latest project handed down to him by the visionary game director Will Wright, would be different. The game would include all the endlessness of city-building, but none of the grandeur; it would demand the same patience as a life spent hovering over a city in a helicopter, but little of the action. Much of the playing time would be spent simply putting up walls, finding the right wallpaper, and arranging furniture. It wasn't really about anything in particular, and the music had to reflect that.

 

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"It was supposed to be very relaxing and very contemplative," Martin says over the phone from his new home in the mountains of central California. "You're sitting there and you're just kind of building and you're fiddling around with your housethat can just go on and on and on for hours. It's not like a big build-up to something."

 

Eighteen years on from its initial release, The Sims series is an institution. The four installments of the game (and the countless expansion packs that have followed) have been translated into 22 languages, selling around 200 million copies worldwide. And as the game has grown, the music has become slicker. My Chemical Romance, Flo Rida, and Kelly Rowland were among the artists who re-recorded songs in the game's unique Simlish language for The Sims 3; the soundtrack to The Sims 4, released in 2014, was scored by the highly regarded British neoclassical composer Ilan Eshkeri.

 

But one section of the soundtrack to the original Sims has retained a unique power. The music for the game's Build Modecomposed by Martin alongside Doobie Brothers saxophonist Marc Russo and jazz pianist John R Burrwas made up of instrumental, new age, lone-piano pieces. The six songs eased into your headphones as soon as you paused time to do some ambitious landscaping or find the perfect roof. For a time in the early-2000s, millions of kids were listening to impressionistic, semi-improvised mood jazz without even knowing it.

 

It's likely one of the most widely heard album-length collections of music to be released so far this century. BusinessWire reported in 2005 that the original Sims had sold 16 million copies worldwide. Only four albums of original material released in 2000, the year The Sims hit shelves, have gone on to sell more copies: Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory, Britney Spears's Oops!... I Did It Again, Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Backstreet Boys' Black & Blue. It's difficult to judge any record's true reachradio and commercial play mean that those albums have had an impact beyond their sales figures. But Radiohead's Kid A, released that same year and long considered a seminal record, has sold around 1.5 million copies to dateroughly one-tenth of what The Sims has managed. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that more people have heard Jerry Martin's minimal jazz than Thom Yorke's measured howls on "Everything In Its Right Place."

 

At the time, however, few people thought the game would catch on at all, despite the recent worldwide success of the SimCity series. Jeff Braun, the Maxis co-founder, has said that his company's board were dismayed by Wright's idea. "The board looked at The Sims and said, What is this? He wants to do an interactive doll house? The guy is out of his mind,'" he recalled in a 2006 interview with The New Yorker. Martin, for his part, remembers it differently. He says the atmosphere at Maxis was broadly positive while EA, more heavily invested in sports and action games, didn't know what to do with a concept so strange as a life simulator.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find 700 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Find 700 of Harry’s piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and jazz piano tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas

 

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This is a great story once again showing musicians that there are many outlets for music whether it is intentional, improvised or incidental. :D:cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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