US Library of Congress includes Super Mario Bros. music in national canon

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The US National Library of Congress takes the music from Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System into its National Recording Registry. This is because of the meaning the music has for the country.

It’s the first time that video game music is included in the National Recording Registry, which also features music from Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Ricky Martin, Radiohead, Mariah Carey and many more. Non-music can also end up in the register. For example, The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan is present, but also an episode of podcast This American Life about the financial crisis of 2008.

About the Japanese composer Koji Kondo, the NLOC says: “Few musicians have had their work so recognized for decades, while the artist remains relatively unknown.” The library quotes Kondo from a recent interview: “The amount of data we could use for music and sound effects was extremely small, so I had to be really innovative and take full advantage of the musical and programming ingenuity we had at the time. I used all sorts of genres that matched what was happening on screen, we had jingles to encourage players to try again after getting a ‘game over’, fanfares to congratulate them on achieving goals, and bits that sped up as the remaining time was too short.”

Addition to the National Recording Registry not only means recognition of ‘cultural, historical or aesthetic significance’, it also means taking steps to ensure that the recording is preserved for future generations. Other parties are already doing this, especially for popular recordings. In that case, the Library of Congress does nothing in this area.

Along with the Mario music, recordings from Jackie DeShannon, John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, John Denver, Eurythmics, The Police and more will be added this year. The initiative has existed since 2002.

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