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Gradius

Composed by Miki Higashino

Miki Higashino was only five when she started to study music. She joined the composition department at her school as she felt that she wasn't good enough to be a performer. The department she studied composition at looked down at her strong minimalist approach to composition. It affected her mood, and her passion. However, Konami's search for a part-time composer caught her attention. She composed some demos, not knowing one thing about game music, and was hired. She felt that Konami was the one place where she could best express her passion.

Her first project was Gradius. At the time, there weren't many people working in the sound department of Konami. Higashino was able to compose Gradius in her own way, with no direction from anyone else. As this game was a side scrolling shooter that took place entirely in space, Higashino's approach to the score was based on her own idea of what space meant. To her, space equaled computers, robots, the future, and anything else that fit those categories. Composition techniques such as Lydian mode, the seven-tone music scale that rises in pitches. Odd meters, which are meters that contain simple and compound beats. And rapid arpeggios, a quick succession of three to four notes played one after another, were all used to help compose the entire score.

Gradius would go on to become one of Konami's flagship franchises. However, Higashino would only be involved with the first game as the only composer, and again in Gradius III as part of the Konami Kukeiha Club. Higashino would help define her career outside of Gradius with scores for games in the Ninja Turtles series like the original arcade game, and the Genesis version of Tournament Fighters. She also lent her talents to the first two Suikoden games, with the second one being what she would consider her representative work. 

Miki Higashino was one of Konami's first composers, and one of the first notable female composers to contribute to a game which would end up becoming popular and beloved years after its release. Her influence on Konami, and the video game industry, began with a risk to help revitalize a passion in music. And with the opportunity to compose Gradius, she made the score her own. And that helped shape Gradius, and helped establish Konami as a developer capable of producing memorable music for their games.

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