The Use of Moonlight Sonata in Resident Evil

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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The music of Beethoven is still influential today, one hundred and seventy-two years after his death. When we think of classical music, the name Beethoven comes to mind. Films, television, and computer games utilize Beethoven’s music to elicit specific emotions and tie these feelings to a product or situation. I found one of many examples of this use in video games. In the game “Resident Evil” on Sony PlayStation, finding and playing thirty seconds from the first movement of the Piano Sonata, Op 27 No.

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2, also referred to as the “Moonlight” Sonata, opens a secret path for the player.

The plot of “Resident Evil” involves locating the remainder of your crew in a haunted house filled with zombies. To avoid becoming their meal, you need to shoot the zombies before they reach you. This is just one of numerous games considered to be influence children towards violence. In the very initial phase of the game, we find a room with sheet music that the player uses the piano to play. While the excerpt is executed, we experience the thunder and lightning in the background. In this case, Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata provides a sense of the agony and obsession that seems unresolvable.

The “Moonlight” Sonata was written in 1801 during Beethoven’s early period as he was establishing himself as a significant composer. The first movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata holds a special attraction for amateur pianists due to its relative simplicity. The name “Moonlight” was not bestowed by Beethoven but was subsequently adopted as a humorous comparison. The initial movement is slow and contemplative, instilling in the listener a feeling of restlessness and slowly escalating distress. These emotions are elicited simply by playing a few chords, underscoring how powerful music can be. Music resonates with us on many levels.

The video game’s creators employed our familiarity with the “Moonlight” Sonata to convey emotions without words. The ambiance of the entire game is encapsulated by this piece of music. As the player performs the “Moonlight” Sonata, thunder roars, and lightning illuminates the dark, musty room. The selection of this music suggests that the game’s characters possess a sense of culture despite being zombies. Like Beethoven, they might be using the music to convey their own narrative—one about the life of a zombie.

This zombie tale, brought to light by a few chords of the Sonata, might be related to Beethoven’s own struggles. When Beethoven wrote this Sonata, he was just on the verge of suicide due to his impending deafness. A zombie’s life is drawn-out and filled with anguish as they never truly die; even when the player shoots them down, they reemerge after a few seconds. This may have been a subtle effort by the creators for us to empathize with the zombies. But on the other hand, this piece could also be construed as a commentary on the overall atmosphere of the haunted house setting of the game.

This item might have been chosen as an outlet for your house. With a mention of fatality within the walls, playing it opens a secret door to a vacant ballroom that may once have been a lively hub for the house itself. The inclusion of Beethoven’s music in this game can be interpreted to represent various aspects of the game.

Beethoven’s music is used to convey a message to the audience. For instance, the variations of the Ninth Symphony represent affirmation in context. Often when we think of the “Moonlight” Sonata, we primarily consider the first movement; however, Beethoven never intended for the first movement to stand alone. He aimed to articulate a complete story from the first note to the last, breaking away from the traditional sonata form where the narrative begins and ends with the first movement. Essentially, Beethoven was striving to deviate from the stringent structure associated with Haydn.

The creators could have opted for other musical pieces to dictate our mood, but they selected the “Moonlight” Sonata because of its popularity and simple interpretation. The first movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata is utilized in numerous entertainment platforms, allowing even those unfamiliar with classical music to quickly recognize and appreciate the evocative emotions it elicits. Generally, the audience seems content with understanding just the beginning of Beethoven’s story – the first movement is so powerful, it eclipses the remainder of the composition. Thus, even an average high school gamer can identify the piece effortlessly.

The depiction of violence in media has been increasingly normalized following recent school shootings. Resident Evil is one among many video games facing backlash for alleged violence. Critics arguing against media violence often categorize Resident Evil as inherently violent. So, should the “Moonlight” Sonata also be deemed violent? Music, like all art forms, is subjective and open to interpretation. Beethoven’s works contain intense movements, comparable to a raging storm. Regardless, it would be incorrect to say Beethoven’s music instigates violence. Rap music is often tagged as violent due to its explicit lyrics and potential to incite violent behavior. Yet, Beethoven’s music isn’t censored the way rap is, despite it also narrating a story throughout its length. This double standard appears to reinforce society’s bias toward classical music over newer genres.

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The Use of Moonlight Sonata in Resident Evil. (2022, Dec 15). Retrieved from