A fusion of visual art and music, Geneon's (formerly Pioneer) latest releases, Beginnings, Gemini, and Progress are very different than Geneon's normal anime OSTs. Beginnings features violinist Norihiro Tsuru and pianist Yuriko Nakamura, along with the artwork of Yoshitaka Amano (international artist, well known for his work in anime and games, such as Final Fantasy, as well as more traditional mediums). The CD claims to be 'a solution for everyday stress'. It should be apparent that this album doesn't feature the latest window-cracking bass, but simpler, lighter new age style music.
Along with some work on the oboe, flute, wood bass, mandolin, and cello, the entire CD makes do with the basic ingredients of Tsuru's violin and Nakamura's piano. That the CD tracks sound as different as they do is a testament not only to the versatility of these timeless instruments, but also to the talent of the musicians. The CD begins with odd new age music and an odd English voice over, which, as it finishes, proclaims, "And the story begins". Indeed, it seems there is some back-story or plot to the CD collection, but the CD and booklet don't mention anything specifically.
The tracks are very reminiscent of game music, especially Uematsu's best orchestra work for Final Fantasy. As I listened to the CD, I couldn't help but compare it to a game plot. Even though there is no story mentioned, it is not hard for a seasoned RPG gamer to imagine where the tracks would fit. 'A Journey Into the Remembered Past' for example, sets the tone for the whole CD, and it would work against the initial cut scene. 'Ancient Star', the second track, which doesn't stray far from the formula of violin and piano, has a lost wandering quality that would fit well with an character who doesn't remember his or her past. 'Encased in Ancient Air', the third track, begins with bell-like oboe work and a flute, but the violin quickly takes the melody into an almost Eastern area. The track seems to fit a first, easy, but mysterious dungeon in a game.
If the last track, 'Encased in Ancient Air', seems like a dungeon, then the intimate violin and mandolin in 'In the Brightest Season', the fourth track, suggest a homey town. Unlike the upbeat fourth track, 'Faraway Tales', as its name suggests, brings to mind travel and adventure. Perhaps this is the introduction of the game's plot twist, where the hero learns about their important adventure. Track six, 'The Winds of the Past', is airy, featuring the mandolin and flute. This perhaps would be a travel theme or over world music, for when you travel from one village to the next. If this were game music, 'The Fountains of Memory' would certainly be the realization, when Terra remembers that she is half esper, and Cloud remembers that he is a SEED Soldier.
'La Petite Fille de Mimanche' definitely seems like a different track, featuring the piano more heavily, but the violin ties it to the other tracks. This is perhaps where the hero decides to take on his or her burden. As the title suggests, the track has very French undertones. 'A Place in the Sun' is another warm song in which the piano takes the lead. The CD finishes with 'School Days' which with vocals would sound like many anime ending themes. It features piano and mandolin for a pretty and sweet little track.
Despite my poor descriptions and my desire to tie this CD to the conventions of an RPG, Beginnings is an interesting CD, especially for anyone that liked CDs like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: White Melodies or the Final Fantasy X: Piano Collection CD. I listened to the CD not knowing much about it or the musicians, but Beginnings makes great ambient music for when one needs to relax or do some writing. My only compliant is the small role that Amano plays; his illustrations are on the covers of the CD case and on two pages within the sparse CD booklet. As a music CD, Beginnings is great for fans of game music and easy listening. I'm very eager to listen to the two following CDs, Gemini and Progress.