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The Composer Who Turns Hayao Miyazaki’s Humane Touch Into Music

Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, Steven Spielberg and John Williams: Some great filmmakers have forged lasting and mutually enriching relationships with musicians Some people The decades-long partnership between Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki and composer, pianist and conductor Joe Hisaishi certainly belongs in this hall of fame.

Hisaishi first worked with Miyazaki on the 1984 release of the environmentally conscious sci-fi feature film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Since then, he has scored all of Miyazaki’s works, including the family fable “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988); The historical epic “Princess Mononoke” (1997). Academy Award-winning Spirited Away (2002) is a gem about a headstrong girl that was so far runner-up on The New York Times’ list of the 25 best movies of the 21st century.

This week, 71-year-old Hisaishi leads the American Symphony Orchestra in a series of concerts titled “Music from Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli Films,” where longtime fans and newcomers alike will hear excerpts and more from these scores. I can. Radio City Music Hall from Saturday. (Performers include the MasterVoices Choir and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the singer’s girlfriend Amanda Achen and Mai Fujisawa, Hisaishi’s daughter. )

While excerpts from the film are projected onto giant screens, Hisaishi’s concerts stand alone on their own and are not meant to be simply compilations of classic scenes backed by live ensembles.

“Watching a movie is completely different from listening to music at a concert, and it gives the audience a different experience,” the composer said through an interpreter in a recent video conversation.

In fact, Hisaishi cited Mahler’s symphonies as a source of inspiration, and put together the setlist as if it were one big piece. “For example, the first movement is ‘Nausicaa,’ the second movement is ‘Kiki,’ the third movement is ‘Princess Mononoke,'” he said.

Hisaishi (real name Mamoru Fujisawa but goes by his stage name) is also known to make tweaks for concerts. The video will be screened so that you can relive the emotions you felt when you saw it.” “But at the same time, when Hisaishi performs these pieces in concert, they are not in exactly the same form, and not the same arrangement as in the film. ‘Insanity’ This is the same for the soundtrack and one of the concert versions, but many other songs are completely different. It’s really amazing that he really cares about providing new experiences. “

Don’t worry, it’s not a drastic change, and the concert maintains Hisaishi’s touch. From “My Neighbor Totoro” “Wind Road” (Reminds me of another great Japanese musician. Ryuichi Sakamoto) while maintaining a gentle melancholy, “Days Bygone” From “Porco Rosso” (1992), it’s still the same sad live performance between jazz and French chanson.

For James Williams, managing director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, Hisaishi’s contributions fit Miyazaki’s worldview. “When you look at these movies, there’s a certain kind of humanity in his lines of story, and that’s perfectly reflected in Joe’s music,” Williams said. His orchestra recently recorded an album of Hisaishi’s work. It’s about embracing the tonal system and finding a way for the two of them to stay in perfect harmony and retain their identity.”

The hallmark of Miyazaki’s work is that he trusts his viewers, no matter how young, to figure things out for themselves. In part, this means that music is not used to reinforce character traits or telegraph expected reactions from the audience. I’m here. “Music doesn’t have to suit every character,” he said. “Rather, it’s about the emotions the characters may be feeling. And in the deepest part of the film, the music doesn’t have to convey anything related to characters or emotions,” he continued. “There is already something that audiences might be feeling just by watching the film.”

Released in Japan in 1986, “Castle in the Sky” shows how Miyazaki and Hisaishi’s approach (including knowing when not to record a scene) differs from that commonly seen in American animation. is properly shown. In 1999, Hisaishi not only reworked the existing score for Disney’s American release of that film, but also greatly expanded it, adding music to scenes that previously had none.

Hisaishi also refrains from recycling catchy musical phrases over and over again within the same film. It’s very obvious and unlike Hollywood style, which is very memorable,” Verano said. “In the case of Miyazaki and Hisaishi, the melody appears when it is needed and is not repeated over and over again.”

Hisaishi has written independent works, including symphonies, and has worked with other feature film directors. “Sonatine,“Fireworks” and “Kids Return”.

“I started my career as a minimalist composer,” says Hisaishi.

Yet it is his work with Miyazaki that has placed him firmly on the international music map.

Over the decades, the two men developed a complex way of working with many interactions. Early in the production process, Miyazaki gave Hisaishi story ideas, some sketches, and sometimes just a few words. will receive a commercial release later). “The first word Miyazaki-san mentioned about ‘Princess Mononoke’ was tension, like the tension of an arrow,” Hisaishi said, using Japanese honorifics. When the film was ready, Hisaishi wrote the score and even managed to release it in a symphonic suite version.

The composer has not slowed down. In fact, being at home during the pandemic fueled his creativity even more, leading to a kind of epiphany that Hisaishi evoked in words that made him feel Miyazaki.

“It took me seven years to write my first symphony, but I have finished two in 2020 and 2021,” he said, referring to “Song of Dreams” and “Song of Hope.” The experience was “I realized that I had a mission as a composer. People are very disappointed to see this changing world: where is happiness? What is happening?” Let’s see what is happening in Ukraine,” he continued. “This is something I never expected to happen again in the 21st century. As a composer you need to see the world as it is, but don’t be discouraged. You need hope for the future.”

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