Notes on Ocarina of Time, Part 3: Through Dodongo’s Cavern

This is a continuation of our Ocarina notes project. You can see all the parts here.

Part 3: Through Dodongo’s Cavern

Music

Perculia: Last blog ended with Link’s secret meeting with Zelda–and we said we would talk more about the music. While there’s a fair amount of musical combinations, the three-note fragments both have to convey a distinctive mood on their own without orchestration, yet also segue effectively into a harmonized 8-bar melody. Having the themes serve as background music for appropriate zones makes the songs feel familiar and logical when we finally are taught them. In the first blog, I mainly talked about puzzles that required combat to solve them–moving forward, I’m looking forward to seeing new types of puzzles and character interactions reliant upon music.

With regards to the scene where Link met Zelda: it reminded me a bit of Saria giving Link the Ocarina, one that was emotional and conveyed a sense of grown-up responsibilities and wisdom beyond the characters’ years. It’s interesting how you don’t see Zelda much at all in Ocarina and in one sense, she’s just waiting inside the castle for all of Act 1. But her song holds a lot of power and it’s used numerous instances throughout the game, giving her a ‘voice’ as well.

Hamlet: Zelda’s Lullaby is a notable Ocarina song in that it’s the only one used before this game (it was in Link to the Past)–Ocarina doesn’t even use the well-known Zelda overworld theme. Zelda’s Lullaby is central to this game in a deeper way than I think people realize (some of the following is speculation). The Ocarina can play 5 notes, and those 5 notes had to account for every in-game song Link can play. Composer Koji Kondo put a lot of thought into choosing the 5 pitches that he would be locked into for this purpose. And the reuse of Zelda’s Lullaby required that the A, B, and D used in the opening of that theme be among the five chosen. Given that two of the five pitches would likely be a tonic and its octave, there was really only room for one added note. He went with F, completing the D-F-A-B-D quintet of pitches that are now burned into our minds, but Zelda’s Lullaby was possibly singlehandedly responsible for most of Link’s limited Ocarina palette.

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