14:00, October 29 2022
Some section of the Japanese Twitterverse blew up over the music of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s 3rd Trailer, where in the west, it seems like almost nobody is mentioning it. I checked the YouTube comment section and Reddit’s r/pokemon to see if there’s any mention of hte music used in the trailer, but I wasn’t able to find any. Whereas in the Japanese YouTube comments, there are multiple comments that mention the music and how they have personal attachments to the song, getting hundreds of upvotes and favorable replies. Where does this song come from, and why is it so relevant?
First of all, the music is not original to Pokémon. The piece is called “Alvamar Overture” by James Barnes, an American composer known for multiple symphonies for wind orchestras. The piece was initially written for a middle school band in Wichita, Kansas, to be performed at a music festival in 1981.
So why is everyone blowing up over an original piece for wind orchestras? It’s because wind orchestras/brass bands are very popular as afterschool club activities and many people have listened to or even played the song. Many schools have bands that consist of 10 to 30 people per grade, which would be around 5 to 10 percent of your classroom. It is a popular activity alongside major sports like baseball, soccer, and tennis. You can see what it’s like to be in a school band in the anime “Sound, Euphonium!”.
Most of these school bands work towards a nationwide band competition, and this song used to be a favorite pick for competitions. The song’s structure is very easy to understand, with a three-part structure of A-B-A (the trailer starts in the middle of the B part). Also combined with a technical section at the end of the song, the song became a popular pick for schools around Japan. The “educational” aspect of this song made it a popular pick around 10-20 years ago, but with the rise of other contest-oriented songs written by Japanese composers, this piece became less popular for competitions but is still played around Japan at band concerts.
Actually, the composer didn’t intend this song to be played at this tempo. The Allegro section is written at 132 beats per minute1, although the version in the trailer and many other versions played in Japan are played way faster than that, sometimes up to 160 beats per minute. This originates from the recording by Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra conducted by Yasuhiko Shiozawa in 1982:
This tempo setting changes the mood to a more upbeat feeling, which fits the trailer’s mood that hypes up the players for a new and exciting adventure in the Paldea region. Also this tempo setting emphasizes the more technical aspect of this piece. The recapitulation (third part of the A-B-A structure) is not that easy to play even at the intended tempo, but when the tempo is cranked up this makes the fingering of woodwinds even more difficult, just as mentioned in many Japanese Twitter reactions.
As the tempo setting for this piece is not trivial, it could imply that someone at Game Freak ordered the recording to match the “more popular” tempo, which means someone has deep knowledge about the wind orchestra culture…?
You might have also noticed that the initial trailer also included the main theme played by a wind orchestra. Yes, it even begins with tuning the instruments!
Also, the Pokémon Official YouTube Channel released videos with play samples for each instrument in the band. This and the song pick for the third trailer seems very much to hint towards a focus on wind orchestras and the band club culture. This might hint at more songs to be written in this format, and maybe a real-life concert featuring Pokémon songs…?
The recording by WISH Wind Orchestra (video in “The music’s origin” section) plays closer to this tempo ↩