Or an amazingly long one, depending on how you’re counting.

There aren’t many pieces of video music more recognizable than the main theme of Dragon Quest. It’s the first thing heard upon switching on the Famicom/NES to play the series’ original 1986 installment, a rousing anthem that immediately sets the tone for a journey full of heroic deeds.

▼ The Dragon Quest theme

Not only is the piece iconic, it’s also had amazing longevity, as it still gets used not only in new games in the series itself, but also frequently when Dragon Quest has crossovers with other franchises. Yet even though the theme is at 34 years and counting of active duty for publisher Square Enix, it took hardly any time at all to make.

Since the very start of the Dragon Quest series, Koichi Sugiyama has served as composer. This week, Sugiyama was announced as one of this year’s recipients for Japan’s title of Person of Cultural Merit, awarded to those who have made significant cultural contributions. Upon hearing the news and looking back on his career so far, Sugiyama’s thoughts naturally turned to the Dragon Quest theme, and he told reporters:

“I wrote the Dragon Quest theme in five minutes.”

It’s amazing to think that such a lasting piece of modern Japanese music was created in just a little more time than it takes to make a cup of instant ramen (arguably less time, if you factor in the time spent boiling water). But Sugiyama says that after the meeting with Enix where they asked him to compose the theme, he went home and the melody came to him right away.

However, Sugiyama quickly added that if you were to measure the time that went into making the Dragon Quest theme in an alternate way, you get a very different result. While video game production is often thought of as a young person’s endeavor, Sugiyama, who was born in 1931, was 55 when the original Dragon Quest was in production, having only done his first video game work the year before, after several decades as a successful Japanese pop and commercial background music composer.

“I was able to produce a great piece of music in just a short moment, but that was because of the many years of experience I had in composing for TV commercials, which require matching music with visual images. So you could say that the Dragon Quest overture took five minutes, but you could also say it took 55 years.”

▼ “Amairo no Kami no Otome” (“The Girl with Flaxen Hair”), composed by Sugiyama in 1968, is one of Japan’s most frequently covered pop songs.

Whether or not it required five-and-a-half decades of groundwork, though, whipping up one of the industry’s most enduring pieces of music in such a short time is impressive, and along with the speedy creation of Evangelion’s anime theme song, there’s nothing like a bolt of pure inspiration to streamline the creative process.

Sources: Livedoor News/Sponichi Annex via Otakomu, Sankei Sports
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