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The Video Game Pianist

I am referring, of course, to the great Martin Leung, whose famous 10.5-minute video showing him playing on the piano various pieces of music from the classic titles of the Super Mario franchise I most likely first viewed around or soon after I registered my first YouTube account in March 2007. However, I should note that the specific video to which I linked, which was uploaded by the Video Game Pianist's official MMLeung channel, is actually not the particular upload through which I first watched, and then frequently re-watched, this video; sadly, that particular upload, which was entitled Mario Piano and which was uploaded by the user sasukekun22 on 29 December 2005, has now disappeared from YouTube. Back during the 2000s there existed on the site many copies of this video, but out of all of them that specific Mario Piano upload by sasukekun22 was definitely the one which had the most views, and the one which I would always return to whenever I wanted to watch it again. Even though the official MMLeung upload is entitled Super Mario Medley, after all these years I still refer to the video as Mario Piano, as this is the title by which I originally knew it.

I can still remember the sense of utter captivation I felt the first time I watched this performance. He plays well over a dozen pieces consecutively, all memorized, and each with much expressiveness and with (almost) no flaws; he even begins the performance blindfolded and plays the entire first piece (the Ground Theme from the original Super Mario Bros.) in that condition, which doubtless caught my attention at once and greatly impressed me all those years ago. Even before having seen the end of the thing I was already very amazed by his skill, but it was truly the video's finale that struck me the most: he concludes the performance by playing (beginning at the 9:15 mark) the Athletic Theme from Super Mario World at a quick tempo—which is already a difficult thing to do—before speeding it up (at the 10:01 mark) even more until, it seems, he is playing the song at an almost inhuman pace. When I first witnessed this spectacular finale, my amazement became pure awe—for me it stood out by far as the most memorable part of the performance, as I had never before seen such a display of virtuosity on the piano.

I don't exaggerate when I say that this video managed almost single-handedly to alter my entire view of the piano. By the time I saw it, I had been taking (or, more accurately, had been forced by my parents to take) piano lessons for a handful of years, but had not during that time really enjoyed playing the instrument; mostly I attribute this to the fact that I did not play any songs which truly interested me, but simply practiced whatever pieces in the lesson book that my teacher had instructed me to learn. After I watched the Mario Piano video, however, I was much inspired, and became determined to imitate as much as possible what I had seen. Beginning during my 2007 summer break from school (and possibly earlier), I began searching online for sheet music for some of the songs featured in the video (I recall that Game Music Themes was one such Web site that I discovered and then used, but there were others), learning them with the assistance of my piano teacher (who very kindly incorporated them into my lessons), and then, having once learned them, repeatedly playing them in my own free time for my own enjoyment—it was the first time I ever took pleasure in playing the piano and saw it as a source of entertainment for myself, and I owe this change in attitude both to the music contained in various the Super Mario games and to the Mario Piano video.

Eventually I began performing these songs at informal piano recitals that had been organized by my piano teacher; I even uploaded footage of one of these performances to YouTube. In addition, at the beginning of December 2007 I went so far as to record myself playing a medley of six Super Mario songs (five of which had been featured in the Mario Piano video), and then uploading that recording to YouTube; as a mark of how heavily I had been influenced by the Video Game Pianist's Mario Piano video, I even concluded my performance by playing the Athletic Theme from Super Mario World, and then speeding it up during the repeat—exactly as how he had done in his video. (These two videos of mine are no longer present on YouTube because the account I used to upload them was banned many years ago, and since then I have not re-uploaded either, but I still have the original recordings preserved. I will not ever share these again, however, for they are both quite bad, having been recorded when I was rather young and largely incompetent at the piano.)

I would continue learning new tracks from various Super Mario games, as well as playing those I had already learned, up until I took my first break from the piano in (I think) early 2010. Although they certainly weren't the only pieces of music I played on the piano at the time, they were the ones which I enjoyed the most, partly because they were video game music, and partly because they sounded pleasant in themselves. I have many warm, relaxing memories of playing these songs on our family piano during the late 2000s, and I can readily imagine that I would have never undertaken the trouble of learning any of them had I never come across and been inspired by the Mario Piano video.

Of course, Mario Piano was not the Video Game Pianist's only performance on YouTube: sometime later on in 2007 or 2008 I can also recall watching a 6-minute video of his (which, very confusingly, he has also decided to title Mario Piano) in which he plays some of the songs found in the 10.5-minute video, as well as another short video in which he very quickly plays the Athletic Theme from Super Mario World with a metronome running in order to disprove any claims that he had sped up the end of the 6-minute video. (These two videos which I linked to, of course, are merely 2014 re-uploads by the official MMLeung channel and therefore most definitely not the specific ones I watched back during the late 2000s; unfortunately, I cannot remember anymore the particular uploads through which I initially encountered these two videos.) Because I first came across these two recordings after I had already seen the 10.5-minute Mario Piano video, they had a far smaller impact upon me, but nevertheless I still found them entertaining and impressive.

The Video Game Pianist has uploaded many more videos over the years, and has even obtained a doctorate in music and given formal piano concerts in front of large audiences, but I will always see him as the incredibly talented fellow who performed the Mario Piano video. I idolized him somewhat during the late 2000s, and his MMLeung channel was the first channel that I ever subscribed to on YouTube. His Mario Piano video, truly, is an undisputed classic of old YouTube which, for me, set the standard that all the countless other piano performances of Super Mario music on the site had to match, and which none ever did; it is one of my favorite videos on the whole of YouTube that even managed to a degree to define my overall experience and perception of the site in 2007. It represents the best of old, 2000s YouTube, back when a video could go viral not by biased algorithms favoring monetized content or by the use of cheap, clickbait-tier tricks, but by being genuinely interesting, amazing, and good.

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This page last modified on 3 June 2021.