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This is a 2016 video interview produced by French YouTube channel Archipel, for their series "toco toco." Turn on captions for English (or French) subtitles.
Kawai: "When I was in school up until junior high, French pops and western music were very popular in Japan, together with the Beatles, obviously. While everyone was listening to the Beatles, I would prefer French artists, such as Raymond Lefèvre, Francis Lai, etc. Also American artists, Burt Bacharach for example."
"I would listen to a lot of movie scores as well. How to put it... I like warm songs. Since I was listening to this kind of music, I didn't have much to talk about with others at the time.
"I kept looking for this 'ideal' music, I wouldn't know how to explain it either. It would probably be 'scary' music, not in a 'horror' meaning, but music bringing up human feelings such as love, but also regrets, and fears of human beings. This is what I aim to express with my music.
"It may be strange to say, but I would also like to express this in more 'comical' songs. I don't want to scare people off, but I want to make music that echoes deep within them. I think I achieved it a litle in songs from the 'Windy Tales' soundtrack. At the time I didn't really realize it, but later I found that this stood out a bit."
Windy Tales has been in my offsite PTW for a while.
I sampled through it and don't think I hear "comedy" the way I'd expect; it's mostly soft emotional music. #5 Kazetsukai no Kyuujitsu is still rather serious, but comes closest to that preconception - I'm thinking of the comedy tracks from Key shows, Cardcaptor Sakura, tracks like "I'm 'Chin-Don-Ya'" from Fruits Basket. However, I could definitely see the Windy Tales score being one which "echoes deep within" listeners, as evidently it has, judging by the comments on some of the videos on YouTube.
Edit: I found the full soundtrack. Haven't listened yet, but will keep an ear out for any potential "comedy" cues.
Ghost in the Shell
The toco toco interview continues: "First, I think of the soundtrack's concept, talking with the director or the producer, or people working on sound, then I pick up instruments. For 'Ghost in the Shell', first, the director Mamoru Oshii told me he wanted drums. I went to buy some Indian drums that I liked the sound of. However, I found it very hard for me to portray emotions only with drums. I found it very hard as there is no scale with drums; it was like a world in black and white for me. I was wondering whether it wouldn't be better to add voices. At the time, the Bulgarian voices were starting to become famous."
Example of a traditional Bulgarian choir, noticeably similar to the iconic Ghost in the Shell intro music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBz5-9VI7q4
"I thought that it could be interesting to have those voices added in rhythm with the drums. After talking to a few people there, they told me that those were folklore songs, that it wasn't the kind of music you put on a partition.
"I didn't know what to do, but at the same time I was working on 'ondo,' Japanese traditional singing. There was this singer singing min'yo, Japanese folklore music. After listening to her voice, I figured we could maybe try something interesting."
He doesn't specify who that singer was, but it's easy enough to find examples. Apparently, Ikue Asazaki's song Obokuri-Eeumi, used as an insert in Samurai Champloo, is a min'yo song... though the piano accompaniment makes it sort of crossover-genre. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gHNbdS76k0
(More information about the type of music she's identified with: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shima-uta )
"Originally, min'yo is sung with only one voice. I tried to make it a choir...."
In an earlier interview by Jeriaska, Kawai goes into slightly more detail at this point in the story:
Interviewer: There is a haunting female chorus that appears in the intro of both Ghost in the Shell films. Was there a particular motivation behind finding this sound that so many viewers associate with the films?
Kawai: "At first the director had requested primitive drum sounds. I felt it would be even more effective if there were a chorus on top of it, something in a Bulgarian style. There are folk singers with very distinctive voices in Japan, and that's who we found for the vocal roles.
"It turned out to be quite different from my original concept of a Bulgarian style. This vocal section was extremely challenging to get right because Japanese folk songs traditionally do not have a chorus. They aren't set to these particular rhythms, either."
zzeroparticle at Anime Instrumentality responds:
Piece in question can be heard here.
First off, [the interview] gives a bit of an insight into the music composition process for anime series for those of you who aren’t aware of how it all works. The other thing is that it’s indicative of Kawai’s ability to bring out the haunting atmosphere really well through the use of the chorus in general. I’m not a huge fan of his by a long shot, but the music he composed for Fate/Stay Night had a pretty good mixture of creepy and tragedy floating about and I feel that he’s at his best when he’s channeling that heavy atmosphere (it didn’t work in the case of Higurashi however).
Kawai: "Directly after the movie was released I noticed no one mentioned the music. That made me a little worried. Now that I think about it, I guess no one could critique it because it was such an unusual kind of music that no one had ever heard before."
toco toco video:
"Finally, the first time the soundtrack was acclaimed was in France. I was attending an event in France, where people came to congratulate me on my work for 'Ghost in the Shell'. I was surprised because it was a first for me, but I was so happy I still remember it to this day."
"I find it hard to realize that people from other countries listen to my music. I am very touched that people from all over the world listen and watch my work."
Side note about France - listening to the Bulgarian choir made me think of this track from Bruno Coulais' score to the French documentary Winged Migration, mainly the vocals at the end. Unjustifiability of that comparison aside, it seems to make sense to me that Kawai's groundbreaking choir in Ghost in the Shell would be well-received in France. (Winged Migration is one of my top played soundtracks, but not for that track - I always found the vocals rather strange. :D Rather, it was the Robert Wyatt songs, and score cues like The Red Forest, that I was really into. I was rocking out to that violin solo when I was in college.)
Come to think of it, it's ironic that I think of France as being quick to embrace the strange and unfamiliar, considering Paris was where an audience reacted vehemently against Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Times have changed.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
The toco toco video opens with Kenji Kawai giving a brief tour of the neighborhood he's spent his whole life in, in Shinigawa, one of Tokyo's wards. He says that Shinagawa Shrine was like a "playground" to him in his childhood, and that its summer festival is unusual in that its mikoshi (portable shrine) is guided by the sound of a drum and flute, rather than a whistle or vocal commands.
"The drum's sound is like a part of me, you could say I was impregnated with it. I always found it was very elegant and I always wondered if there was a way I could use it in my work. In the end, I used that sound for 'Ghost in the Shell: Innocence.' I took the sound of the drum from this shrine as a main reference for the soundtrack."
Ghost in the Shell: Innocence opening:
Jeriaska interview continued:
Interviewer: Innocence has a dreamlike sequence which takes place in a mansion fashioned after a music box. This is one example of many from your films in which music is bound together with the storyline and visuals.
Kawai: "Oshii asked me to create the sound of an "enormous music box," but obviously such a thing doesn't exist. We actually had to go about creating a disc-shape music box and record the sound of it. We then added the sounds of cylindrical bells and a Thai gong. Rather than relying on electronic reverb for the vibration and echoing effects, we went to a huge stone quarry and played the sound of the music box from the speakers, then recorded it. It was a lot of work and the weather was bitter cold, making it quite an ordeal."
The Doll House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0V70SODFLE
Commenter Matthew trolls: "Was this interview conducted with a ton of reverb on it? I'm just asking."
I'd like to thank @_NTx for directing me to Kenji Kawai's score for the DEEN Unlimited Blade Works movie. The main theme is overwhelmingly glorious. I haven't posted in the "Your Favorite OST's" thread, but this would be one. It has a mainstream western sound, yet it's dominated by the same two elements as Ghost in the Shell - choir, and strong percussion. The western sound is appropriate for Fate, given its use of characters from western history and myth.
I sure can't wait to get through the VN and 1) be disappointed by the DEEN version of UBW, 2) be disappointed by the Ufotable UBW not having this music. WHAT AN ENTICING FRANCHISE. :D
Modified by nDroae, Oct 6, 2018 10:03 PM
Joined: May 2014
I still remember the FSNUBW Movie intro. Even if the movie wasn't the best adaptation ever, this scene accompained with this glorious music still gives me chiils.
Another gem by Kenji Kawai is FINAL MISSION~QUANTUM BURST from the Gundam 00 Movie OST. It has a memorable start, and a sick drop around 5:30. Pure HYPE.
Joined: May 2014
Here's hands down my favourite Kenji Kawai soundtrack, the score to the movie "Avalon" and it's glorious finale (Not exactly anime music, but it's from a Mamoru Oshii film, so it kinda counts).
I would have never expected Kawai of all people getting a chance to write for the Warsaw Philharmonic without an arranger (since his previous credentials with the orchestra weren't particularly noteworthy), and while it's not the most technically impressive music ever, the result turned out to be a glorious and deeply beautiful operatic score, and a perfect fit for the movie at that (the final scene features the actual Warsaw Philharmonic performing live!).
Aside from that, his Taiga Drama "Hana Moyu" has its moments, as well as his score for the recent anime film "Maquia". Of course I love GitS (as my avatar might indicate), and he has a few pleasant works here and there that I enjoy. Looking at his complete portfolio though... he's very hit or miss for me; I'm rarely bothered by his music in context, but he's also made many many completely forgettable scores IMO (and his "autopilot mode" always sounds "the same" to me), even it's excusable to some extent given how prolific he is.
Modified by velego, Dec 1, 2018 3:24 PM
@velego Non-anime music is very welcome, perhaps even more than anime music because it's less likely to be on MALers' radar. :) For example I stumbled upon a Hisaishi score to the live action film Otoko-tachi no Yamato, but I want to listen to it a second time before I post about it in that thread. If you do start the Michiru Oshima thread, maybe you could cover some of her work on video games and/or Godzilla movies? Which I'm not familiar with (though I want to be). :D
I gave a couple of listens to that track, impressive stuff. I don't think I'd ever heard of Avalon (I've never been dedicated or disciplined in thoroughly exploring directors' works in general), but now I'm curious and will definitely watch it sometime. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0267287/
Joined: May 2014
[Offtopic incoming] Of her videogame work, I only *know* about ICO and this mobile game she wrote the music for last year. (best mobile game score ever, amirite?). Covering her scores for live action media is a daunting task I'd like to do someday; mainly because she's extremely prolific in that field, even more than in anime, and the quality is always consistently excellent (I consider her one of the greatest living composers for a reason). In any case, if I end up writing the thing, it won't be very soon.
I'm much, much more knowledgeable about Yoko Kanno ;).
Replied in the Soundtrack Discussion thread :)