Pokemon, Kingdom Hearts, Lord of the Rings and Mario Cart.

Music: An Invitation to a World

Hello and welcome back to My Geekology! I’m Ash and today we are going to talk about music! From the beaches of Cheep-Cheep Island to the mysterious ruins of Mandalore, to the beautiful seaside glamor of Porta Vista, music has cascaded through the landscape of fantastical worlds to help build character and depth. Sometimes these songs become so emblematic of a title and iconic that they rise to their own separate fame. Today, we are going to discuss a few of those songs in the context of accessibility and how music can extend an arm out and communicate with so many the beauty, mystery, and fun of a world they have not yet experienced! We hope you have fun, see you on the other side!

We all have different access points to media. Some of the largest franchises have been with us since our childhoods. Some crazes we miss out on and join later. For cases of the latter, the question is “Why?” Why join that fandom later, when at its peak popularity it did not appeal to you? For me, I have found that that answer commonly revolves around music.

The biggest examples of this for myself are Mario Kart, Pokémon, and The Lord of the Rings. I did not have a relationship with these franchises growing up at all. I did not experience any of the three until I was married and in my mid-twenties. However, the beginning of my journey of checking boxes that I missed out on begins with an incredible musician named Kazuki Katsuta.

Mario Kart 8 and Kazuki Katsuta

I first played Mario Kart 8 with my wife during the pandemic. I did not grow up with Nintendo consoles and honestly could not name characters of the Mario world beyond the brothers and Princess Peach. However, after a few races, I was wholly enchanted. Not so much with the gameplay, as I kind of already knew what to expect, but with the environment. The graphics are obviously gorgeous but that’s not what clinched the experience for me. It was the absolute swirling and majestic lines played by an alto saxophonist named Kazuki Katsuta. The Mario Kart Band as a whole is brilliant, and the arrangements are fun and appropriately bombastic. However, the licks by Katsuta on the pieces of the soundtrack that nod to the “Dolphin Shoals” theme made me pause the game.

After this, I began to have a multi-sensory experience. I was getting absolutely throttled by shells and my own banana peels while trying to hear the nuances of every theme. I was immersed. I found joy in driving over piano keys and loved how the music changed when you were submerged in water and when you breached. It was truly magical, I felt like the score reached out to me and showed me how amazing this world that I was always aware of but had never really personally experienced truly was.

Middle Earth and Howard Shore

It is not a groundbreaking statement to say that Howard Shore is absolutely phenomenal. His work in film composition can be compared to very few. However, his work brought me to Middle Earth, a place I had not been to in my lifetime. It wasn’t the sweeping themes that bring many to the grassy meadows and majestic elf cities, it was a single motif. That was it. A single series of notes captured my creative, longing soul and invited me to see the equally marvelous and voluminous world of Tolkien’s wonderful mind.

The first time I heard the “One Ring Theme” (a motif used from the “Prologue: One Ring to Rule Them All”) I immediately asked my wife “What is that?” It was somewhere between beautiful, mysterious, sad, and almost desperate. The way the triplet groupings led into the eerie minor chord changes. It was special. I fiddled with the melody notes and found C minor and E minor chord bedding for them. This late-life discovery led to me watching the films for the first time with my wife, asking many questions, and ultimately working my way through the audiobooks. 


During my college and graduate school years, I worked at an archaeological laboratory. My work was often procedural, and the overall experience was largely dependent on the company. I was very fortunate to work with some amazing people. They often played music from their phones, especially when we were working on a giant project or object together. One day one of my colleagues played a song absolutely bathed in eighties hair metal glory that started with “I want to be the very best…”

Pokémon entered my world through this means. I was always aware of its existence. It’s everywhere. However, it is a franchise that I had never dived into on my own. After that day at the lab, I got the game everyone was playing on their phones on mine and eventually saw the first season of the show. However, it was not until relatively recently when I played Pokémon: Shining Diamond that it clicked (Piplup is my boy). I owe that journey to that colleague and the song that is cascading through those memories.

The Journey Continues

The current franchise that captured me with its fantastic music is Kingdom Hearts. The absolutely gorgeous melody of “Simple and Clean” by Hikaru Utada was another “What is that?” moment for me. My future is working through the games my wife has wonderful memories with for the first time. Music’s gifts never cease.

Thank you for coming on this journey through some of the amazing music in film and television! We hope you had fun, and we’ll see you here next time at My Geekology!