, Research Paper
“Moonlight” Sonata in Resident Evil
The music of Beethoven is still around with us today, even one hundred and seventy-two years after his death. When we think of classical music the name Beethoven comes to mind. movies, television, even video games use Beethoven’s music to exploit the emotions that the music conjures up and connects these feelings to a product, situation, etc. While playing a video game I stumbled on one of many examples where Beethoven’s music is used. In the video game, Resident Evil on Sony Playstation, the finding and playing of thirty seconds from the first movement of Piano Sonata, Op 27 No. 2 also known as the “Moonlight” Sonata opens a secret passageway for the player.
The plot of Resident Evil is to find the rest of your crew in a haunted house filled with zombies. To keep from being eaten you have to shoot the zombies before they get close to you. This is one of the many games considered to be influencing children toward violence. In the very first level of the game we find a room with the sheet music that the player plays on the piano. While the excerpt is being played we see and hear the thunder and lightning in the background. In this example, Beethoven s “Moonlight” Sonata is used to give us a sense of the agony and obsession that does not seem to resolve.
The “Moonlight” Sonata was written in 1801 during Beethoven’s early period as he was emerging as a major composer. The first movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata holds a particular attraction for amateur pianists who itch to play it because of its relative simplicity. The name “Moonlight” was not given by Beethoven, but was later adapted as a funny contrast. The first movement is slow and brooding which gives the listener a feeling of restlessness and slow tortured agony. These feelings are conjured up so easily just by the playing of a few cords and shows us how music can be exploited. Music has a way of communicating to us on many levels.
The creators of the video game used our sense of familiarity with the “Moonlight” Sonata to express feelings without words. The atmosphere of the whole game can be summed up by this piece of music. as the player plays the “Moonlight” Sonata thunder crashes and lightning lights up the dark moldy room. The choice of this piece of music hints that the occupants have a sense of culture even though all are zombies. Maybe like Beethoven, the zombies are using the music as a story. A story of the life of a zombie.
This story of zombie life explained by a few chords of the Sonata may be connected to the life of Beethoven. When Beethoven wrote this Sonata he was on the verge of suicide because of his impending deafness. The life of a zombie is long and tortured because they can never die, even when the player shoots them down they come back after a few seconds. The creators may have wanted us to connect with the zombies in this way. Yet this piece can also be used to reflect on the house that this game takes place in.
This piece may have been chosen as an outlet for the house. With the curse of death within the walls, the playing of it opens a secret door to an empty ballroom that may have once been a happy place for the house itself. The use of Beethoven in this game can be interpreted to represent many different aspects of the game.
Beethoven’s music is used to give the audience a message. Like the versions of the Ninth Symphony representing affirmation in commercial. When we think of the “Moonlight” Sonata we usually only think of the first movement but Beethoven never intended the first movement to stand-alone. He was trying to expand a whole story from the first note to the last note and break away from the traditional sonata form where the
story begins and ends with the first movement. Beethoven was trying to break away from the more formal structure of Haydn.
The creators could have used other pieces of music to control our mood. Yet they chose the “Moonlight” Sonata because of its popularity and simplistic interpretation. The first movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata is used in many venues of entertainment so even those not familiar with classical music quickly picks it up and is able to dissect out the tortured feelings that the movement invokes. The audience seems to be happy with only knowing the introduction of Beethoven’s story. The first movement is just so powerful it overwhelms the rest of the piece. So the average high school video game player is able to recognize the piece instantly.
The violence in the media has been mainstreamed after the recent school shootings. Resident Evil is one of many video games being blamed for the bloodshed. Advocates against violence in the media have categorized Resident Evil as being violent. So should the “Moonlight” Sonata be considered violent? Music like all forms of art is subject to interpretation. In many works of Beethoven, he has violent movements, like the rage of storm. But we would never say that Beethoven’s music would invoke violence. Rap music is considered violent because of its explicit lyrics and has been charged with invoking violence. So why is it that Beethoven is not censored as rap is? Rap tells us a story during the course of a piece. This double standard seems to reinforce society’s prejudice of popular music verses classical music.