Top Score

Top Score: a live music romp with NES (Nerd Enhanced Sound)

Top Score 210
Nerd Enhanced Sound
Nerd Enhanced Sound
MPR photo

NES came to the studio prepared. As Zack Kline unpacked his violin and Nick Gaudette adjusted the low C extension on his bass, Mike Vasich practically ran to the nearest table and unpacked his backpack. Pulling out a handful of game-related shirts and retro sunglasses, he asked Emily which one would be coolest to play in. Wardrobe decisions and tuning complete, the recording began.

NES is only one of Zack, Nick and Mike's musical projects. Twin Cities natives may also recognize them as the Orange Mighty Trio, best known for their fusion of bluegrass, jazz, and traditional chamber music. As NES, though, they focus on violin-piano-bass arrangements of retro video game tunes.

These arrangements, usually written by lifelong gamers Nick and Mike, truly reflect the original compositions. When game composing started, early technology severely limited the number of voices a composer could use. Usually that number was three - a lead, a counterpoint or harmony, and a bass - and with three musicians, NES is built for this music. It also helps when your music arrangers are teachers at the St. Paul Conservatory of Music!

This episode features a nerd-filled interview and some truly lovely live-recorded video game music. From Marble Madness to early Metroid to a rocking series of solos in Dr. Mario, we hope you enjoy our time with NES.

A note for non-gamers: the name NES is a pun. Members of the gaming community associate the three letters with the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the music group says it's short for "Nerd Enhanced Sound."

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