It’s not all that unusual for a piece of game music to affect someone. Really, that’s kind of what this whole “Resonance” series is about: the songs that affect us and stay with us for one reason or another. What I do think is unusual is for a piece of video game music to affect the player in the exact same way that it’s supposed to affect the characters on-screen. The Elegy of Emptiness is one such song.
In the game, the song functions as a means of creating copies; versions of Link that exist only as empty shells with no heart or will of their own. It’s a song given to Link so that he would not have to confront the trials and terrors of Stone Tower alone. Now I’m not saying that hearing the song causes listeners to shed copies of themselves (that’s just silly), but I do think that the song does cause the listener to shed something of themselves nonetheless.
Music is a form of magic in the world of the Legend of Zelda. Magic always has to draw upon something in order to work, and in the case of the Elegy of Emptiness, I believe that something is Link’s emotional state. Ikana canyon inspires feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. It’s a desolate place where only the dead dwell, cursed since antiquity. It would stand to reason that the last King of Ikana would have tried to find a way to harness that property in order to one day free his kingdom of its curse. This is where the song comes in. It takes the feelings of the one who plays it, those feelings of emptiness and despair, draws them out and gives them physical form in the likeness of their source. By playing the song, Link can effectively shed those feeling and make use of their emotional weight in the physical world. Likewise I suspect Link would find himself in better fighting shape without the weight of those feelings dragging him down and dampening his innate courage. In a way, this can be true of those who listen to the song.
There are no shells being shed of course, but there is still a curious lightening of the heart upon listening to it. It brings out the negative feelings at first, but oddly enough they seem to disappear along with the song. It’s a song about emptiness, but perhaps it’s also about moving on. It’s not upbeat, happy, or encouraging. Instead, what it does is acknowledge the feelings of the listener and invites them to move on from it. It doesn’t inspire feelings of happiness, nor even relief. It’s just an invitation. An invitation to move on and leave the weight of such feelings behind you.
Zelda music is often in a league all it’s own, but in my mind the Elegy of Emptiness is something special. It’s not only beautiful and affecting, but also functional. It serves its purpose, both inside the game and out.
This is just my interpretation of the song though. What I want to know is how does it affect you? What do you hear in the Elegy of Emptiness?
Image by Flickr User: Christian Haugen(cc)