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August 31, 2007Glenn Turner

Every Tuesday week I take a look at a piece of music that's derived at least portions of its sound from video games! If you'd like to suggest a chiptune, bitpop track, or any video game-inspired music selection, please leave a comment or contact me at gturner at thenewgamer dot com!
Bishop Allen - May EP

Artist: Bishop Allen
Album: May EP
Track: Butterfly Nets (download)
Purchase: Bishop Allen Digital Store

I'm cheating a bit with this week's entry, as it has absolutely nothing factual connecting it to video games. At all. It's all in my head. But I can't help wanting to discuss this track from indie pop artisans Bishop Allen, as every time I've listened to 'Butterfly Nets' over the past year it sends me into fits of Zelda remembrance and nostalgia.

Why? Of course, there's the titular object of the butterfly net itself, and its presence in both the song and most Zelda games, but that's not what really creates the connection for me. The song is an ode to outside discovery and wonder, a child (or child-like) approach towards frolicking with the butterflies among us, musing over what they see and how they experience the world. It's a quaint and preciously simple, but evocative track, helped along by a fragile ukulele and pointed xylophone.

But the heart of the song is in Darbie Nowatka's warm vocals and, partially thanks to her earnest delivery, many of the song's lyrics take me to places never envisioned by the songwriters. Take for instance, the opening of the refrain:

"Armed with this small butterfly net only,
I will face the world alone and never be lonely."

My ears hear that and I immediately transported back to Hyrule, wandering from screen to screen, butterfly (or bug-catching) net in hand looking for anything with wings. And the opening of the song recalls using the Ocarina in Link to the Past:

"Come that wicked wind to pick you up and carry you off eastward..."

And then there's the closing sentiment of the song – "Still surprised to catch you, every time. Still surprised to catch you, by and by and by and by." – which always, always brings to my mind the image of Link triumphantly showing off his caught acquisition up to the sky/player.

While 'Butterfly Nets' isn't an ode to Link's experiences, it does poignantly recount the same sort of childhood experiences that Miyamoto was attempting to recreate with Zelda. Given that I, in my (mostly) video game-less youth, spent loads of time outdoors leaping over creeks, chasing after rabbits and climbing up sand dunes as a child, I think it's a hearty testament to the brilliance of game's design and the immersive power of Zelda series that it is what springs to mind when I hear this touching song.

Anyone else have similar tales, of songs far-removed from gaming that recall a video game experience of your own?

If you liked 'Butterfly Nets', make sure to check out Bishop Allen's other EPs, and even their new full-length, named 'The Broken String', which features re-recorded choice tracks from their year-long monthly EP project (including a different version of 'Butterfly Nets'). Oh, and they'll be touring the US and Europe starting September 17th!

2 comments for ‘Chiptunesday - Butterfly Nets’

#1 w3a2 Sep 10, 2007 12:18am

The Blue Danube Waltz always haunts me as I recall many days in my youth spent playing Elite on the C64.

#2 Brendon Oct 6, 2007 07:33pm

Back in the glory days of arcades and ColecoVision, lots of games used royalty-free classical music. I still associate Charles Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette (the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents) with Pepper II. How far removed it that? ^_^