Five things I learned at “The Music of Grand Theft Auto V” (video)

Tangerine Dream, Alchemist, Woody Jackson and more played a church last night in support of the much-anticipated video game’s soundtrack.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V

Full disclosure: I am not a gamer. The last version of Grand Theft Auto I played took place in a Miami-like setting; I think I was 16. So when my supervisor asked if I was interested in covering “Live from Santos: The Music of Grand Theft Auto V,” an event put on in conjunction with the New York Film Festival, I wasn't hugely enthused.

But then I heard about the big names involved with this show. The GTA V original soundtrack was composed by Krautrock legends Tangerine Dream, Vox Recording Studios owner Woody Jackson and beat maestros Oh No and Alchemist. The mere fact that this project was able to draw this caliber of talent piqued my interest, and to see such a diverse lineup perform together wasn't something that I was about to miss. So I ventured out to Church of St. Paul the Apostle for the performance—and here's what I learned.

1. Video games are collaborative pieces of art in the truest sense.
As the show started, a guy came over the loudspeaker and talked about the necessity of music in cinema to create mood and to move the narrative forward. He then went on to compare that same relationship to music and video games. The guys involved with the GTA soundtrack put everything into it and created something truly special. And that was only one tiny piece of the finished product of the video game itself. It made me think that video games could very well be the most commercially viable pieces of creative expression we have. 

2. Grand Theft Auto is exposing experimental music to people that otherwise never would have heard it.
I couldn’t help but notice the diversity in the crowd. The skinny-jeaned folks I see in my 'hood in Bushwick were schmoozing with more stereotypical gamer types. It's probably safe to say some of the young kids who are going to be playing this game have never heard Tangerine Dream before. The soundtrack is bringing interesting music and acts from yesteryear to a whole new audience. 

3. Speaking of Tangerine Dream, I think Lester Bangs was onto something when he confused them with God. 
In his essay “Last night I saw God and/or Tangerine Dream,” Lester Bangs has a life-changing experience at a Tangerine Dream concert, and now I see why. Though other groups were involved, this truly was Tangerine Dream’s show. The psychedelic synth and guitar breakdown over extended periods of time were being lead by the Dream, though Woody Jackson’s surprisingly virtuosic (like, nonstop 17-minute-solo virtuosic) didn’t hurt.

4. GTA V is Rockstar Games' love/hate letter to Los Angeles. 
Throughout the performance, a projector showed the cinematic sequences of the game to go along with the music, with the images beginning ominously and then growing more thematic with every track. One element remained consistent: Los Angeles. GTA V is a Drive-inspired meditation on the City of Angels, called “Los Santos” in the game. It features everything you love to hate about L.A.: Hollywood glitz, seedy motels, smog, beaches—even In-N-Out Burger (Up-N-Atom Burger in the game) gets a sequence.

5. Flutes are not dead.
The woodwind instrument featured prominently during the show. It did not suck; it just made me think of Jethro Tull in a way that I'm not quite comfortable with.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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