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Main article: Final Fantasy music
Final Fantasy is the first Japanese-origin video game franchise to mass market its soundtracks in the United States. The international popularity of video game music began to surge with the success of the Final Fantasy series, particularly Final Fantasy VI and later games in the series. Nobuo Uematsu was the chief music composer of the Final Fantasy series until his resignation from Square Enix in November 2004. His music has played a large part in the popularity of the Final Fantasy franchise abroad. In the 2004 Summer Olympics, the American synchronized swimming duo consisting of Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova were awarded the bronze medal for their performance to music from Final Fantasy VIII. Uematsu is also involved with the rock group The Black Mages, which has released two albums of arranged Final Fantasy tunes. Other composers who have contributed to the series include Masashi Hamauzu, Junya Nakano and Hitoshi Sakimoto. Hitoshi Sakimoto, Hayao Matsuo, Yuji Toriyama, and Nobuo Uematsu have composed the soundtrack of Final Fantasy XII.
There have already been two successful runs of Final Fantasy concerts in Japan as of 2004. Final Fantasy soundtracks and sheet music are also increasingly popular amongst non-Japanese Final Fantasy fans and have even been performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. On November 17, 2003, Square Enix U.S.A. launched an AOL Radio station dedicated to music from the Final Fantasy series, initially carrying complete tracks from Final Fantasy XI in addition to samplings from Final Fantasy VII through Final Fantasy X. Many video game and MIDI world wide web sites offer renditions of Final Fantasy musical pieces, and many remixes can be found.
The Dear Friends: Music From Final Fantasy concert tour was established, starting February 2005, due to the success of the first Final Fantasy concert performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall on May 10, 2004. Music from Final Fantasy was first performed outside of Japan as a part of the Symphonic Game Music Concert series in Germany. The Final Fantasy soundtracks have also joined the catalogue of the iTunes Music Store.
While the music in the games offers wide variety, there are some frequently reused themes. The games often open with a piece called Prelude, which is a simple arpeggio theme in the early games, with further melodies added in later games. The battle sequences that end in victory for the player in the first ten installments of the series would be accompanied by a victory fanfare that used the same nine-note sequence to begin the fanfare, and it has become one of the most recognized pieces of music relating to the Final Fantasy series. The fanfare was also used in the movie Final Fantasy VII Advent Children as Loz's ringtone, heard while he was in Aerith's Church fighting Tifa. Other memorable tunes include the Chocobo's theme, the Moogle's theme, and a piece originally called "Ahead On Our Way" in Final Fantasy I, which was in fact the opening theme and which is now usually played during the ending credits of the game and called "Prologue" (in many cases, this theme is also known simply as "Final Fantasy").
Notably in the character-driven Final Fantasy incarnations, a significant element in each game's musical score is the use of leitmotifs. A leitmotif, popularized by Romantic Era composer Richard Wagner, can be described as a 'theme melody' for a specific character, situation, or other entity. In nearly all Final Fantasy games, the most important characters and plot elements have their own theme music. For example, in Final Fantasy VII, the song "Anxious Heart" is generally played whenever the main character's troubled past is brought up in the storyline.
Video game music, in particular the popular tracks from the Final Fantasy series, has also found its niche in the Australian market. Hiroaki Yura founded Eminence Symphony Orchestra, which claims to be the first group outside of Japan to perform anime and video game music. Nobuo Uematsu attended one of their concerts in 2004. Similar endeavors have also been founded by the American-based organisations Play! and Video Games Live.