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Video games in symphony hall

How classical orchestras started experimenting with video-game music.

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An unexpected album topped the online music charts in November. For about a week, the London Philharmonic Orchestra pushed aside pop megastar Taylor Swift to seize the No. 1 slot on Amazon's most-downloaded list. What was this breakthrough hit? Not Brahms or Beethoven, but "The Greatest Video Game Music 2."

The album covers more than two decades of video-game tunes – from the 16-bit beeps of Sonic the Hedgehog to the viking horns of Skyrim.

Game and movie soundtracks have opened up classical music to a new, younger audience, says composer Andrew Skeet, who arranged the album. But translating this wide swath of music into something appropriate for the London Philharmonic presented a challenge.

Newer games, such as last year's Assassin's Creed: Revelations, already feature fully orchestrated soundtracks. Those songs were easy to record. However, Mr. Skeet had to rework the older selections, expanding the melody of synthesized "chiptunes" to take advantage of a choir, strings, and woodwinds.

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