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#1
Dec 8, 2018 4:45 PM

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I was going to post a list of favourites in the other thread, but instead of that I thought that it'd be more interesting to actually delve a bit deeper into some of them.

Here it is what I consider one of the best pieces of music (and that means, the whole score) ever attached to any media (or outside of media really). Yasuo Higuchi's genius "Phoenix 2772" (or equivalent titles), which is an adaptation of Higuchi's own violin concerto KOMA (if I remember correctly, the director wanted to use the violin concerto for the movie and Higuchi ended up rewriting it). This is some timeless, original music, up there with Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky & friends in terms of musicianship and musical storytelling. Oh, and the solo violin parts are performed by Akira Senju's sister: Mariko Senju. The film itself is a product of its time, but ambitious and unique enough to deserve a watch, if only to hear this music in context.


Just listen to this thing, here's a playlist with the entire album (bless the internet).

It goes without saying that, while Higuchi isn't very prolific, his few concert and soundtrack works are all must listens in my book. The second most accessible one in terms of availability is probably his music for "After War Gundam X" (playlist here), a very experimental and unique score with some strange genre shifts product of its time (that I'd put very close to the top in my list of "the best Gundam soundtracks").

I think Higuchi deserves his own post at some point, so... that'll come in the far future.
Modified by velego, Dec 8, 2018 4:51 PM
 
#2
Dec 11, 2018 2:55 AM
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It sounds really good, between a classic hollywood soundtrack and opera music from a classical composer. Alexander Nevsky seems like a good comparison, altough I could not say if it's really at its level. I'll check the film, even if it's just for appreciating the music. The only more or less similar thing I can think of (in anime) is Whispers of the heart, wih its colorful orchestration, counterpoint and themes (I still have not heard it in depth, so I do not know if it has thematic development).
Edit: I've just seen the movie, it was pretty interesting. It has some annoying disney wannabe humour scenes with pointless characters, and some things are clumsily developed, a product of its time as you say, but it's really worth watching. The plot has a lot of interesting things and great moments as you might excepct from Tezuka. The score is really magnificent, some scenes are audiovisual jewels (mainly the beginning and the ending). I guess it would have worked better in a more focused movie.
Following the thread, I recommend the soundtrack of the second (I think) Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou ova, which I haven't seen, but I least I've read the manga, and the music really fits with it. It's from the trio Choro Club, who also made the Aria soudtracks. It is mainly acoustic music with just a mandolin, a guitar and a double bass, and there are also orchestrations of some pieces. The main influence of the band is brazilian music, and in this album they slow down their usual fast rhythms to create some beautiful pieces with a bucolic feel.
Some of my favorites:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmm_v_SGSQQ&index=12&list=PL998C56312C4F1A76
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHz1RgtnF2s&index=10&list=PL998C56312C4F1A76
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLZxibOY0_o&index=7&list=PL998C56312C4F1A76
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_HALr0IsZs&index=8&list=PL998C56312C4F1A76
Full playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL998C56312C4F1A76
Also, I've just found a channel with many Choro Club albums, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtWVaODk6wbEWi750tq-3fA
I also love the soundtrack of the first ova, by Gontiti, which is less acoustic, with synthesizers and pop arrangements. It also fits very well the manga.
Modified by Pyschoneurosis, Dec 11, 2018 7:58 AM
 
#3
Dec 15, 2018 9:27 PM

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"What is Counterpoint?" short YouTube video

Sorry for the delay replying, I have a mild obsession with tracking the music I listen to via Lastfm; now I've added every video to the track listing here (I'd use the artist tag 樋口康雄, but there's no album listing with a tracklist under that tag). Lastfm user jeff071 wrote in 2010, "His Gundam X score is the best Gundam OST, though possibly under Yoko Kanno's work on Turn-A Gundam." I wish I could weigh in on that (though again, my POV is crude), and sometimes I wish I could drop everything and watch all the Gundam, but no, not yet.

Phoenix 2772 on VGMdb: https://vgmdb.net/album/24835

I'm a bit reluctant to listen to this before seeing the film. I have a somewhat mystic regard for Tezuka's Phoenix, though I've never read or watched any of it. I would have liked to read it before watching any of the anime, but I'm such a slow manga reader that now I'm thinking I may start with this film.

...

Yep, this is exquisite. I wonder whether there's any dialogue in the Prologue part, because this could score something like Disney's Fantasia. I hope that's the case. Ah, I see that "Phoenix 2772 starts with twelve minutes without dialogue," good.

That's really ideal in a way, getting a composer to adapt existing work which they (hopefully) created without restrictions or time constraints. (Though in good cases, those can drive creativity.) Ever since reading this, I've wondered how many of the composers I like resent having ended up as "mere" screen mass media composers.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/close-your-eyes-and-listen-michael-nyman-has-a-problem-and-its-nothing-to-do-with-turning-50-its-1464663.html
The fact is, Nyman finds himself caught in the classic trap of the commercially successful composer: while the classical music press dismisses him as a mere 'film composer', the cinema critics seem unable or unwilling to appraise him as a composer at all. The prospect of an Oscar nomination for The Piano can only make matters worse. Not that Nyman seriously expects to win - 'because my music doesn't do what American filmscores are expected to do'. But even a nomination would be enough, he says, 'to open a few floodgates that would in turn ensure that those doors that are already closed on me would be even more firmly shut'. As he adds, with a wry laugh, it's not exactly going to persuade the South Bank to commission a 50th birthday piece from him in March - let alone secure the opera commission that has eluded him for so long.

I once saw Hollywood composer Bruce Broughton speak, and he explained that directors/producers tend to like the stock temp score attached to rough cuts so much that they'll demand the composer imitate it, sometimes to the point of apparent plagiarism. He said he was fortunate in some of these cases that his own music was used as temp score. Now, when I hear an apparent ripoff, my first assumption is that the composer was forced into it... though I suppose that's not always the case. :P

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is coming up in my manga queue, I guess I'll read/watch that first before listening to the music :)
 
#4
Dec 16, 2018 8:02 PM
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The prologue of the film made the same that Up but 30 years before. It's a really interesting piece of the history of animation, I'm glad I found it. Regarding Tezuka, I've only read one of his mangas, Apolo no Uta (which I think has no translation in English), and it's really good. It's similar to Phoenix in that it consists of stories in different contexts and historical stages. You could start reading some of his short works, as Apolo no Uta if it you cad find a translation.
I've also heard that Hans Zimmer had to plagiarize his same song many times because directors loved it, so now he simply don't allow them to use it as a stock temp score. I guess it's the sad consequence of writing music for something as the modern Hollywood. Also, it must be difficult for almost every popular soundtrack composer to be recognized as "serious composers", specially in the most academic ambits.
I haven't seen the ovas, but I'd recommend you to read the manga first. it is so atmospheric and well drawn that it is difficult for any adaptation (except for its music) to give an experience at that level (like Berserk for example, that ended in the most tragic results).
 
#5
Dec 21, 2018 6:59 PM

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Ha, that's nice for Zimmer, having enough clout to prevent that now.

At least with some composers, we can probably safely assume that they don't care if they never get that recognition. I think that when I hear how Kenji Kawai originally wanted to be a nuclear engineer, failed at engineering college and dropped out, went to a music school, wasted time and was a bad student, joined a rock band, won a prize, then quit and started writing music.

Will do, thanks!
 
#6
Dec 22, 2018 5:09 AM

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Comparing mainstream Hollywood (and whatever shit it has been churning out for the last 15 or 20 years) with a niche industry like the Japanese anime business (and to a lesser extent, the Japanese game and film/TV industry) is a bit of a stretch IMO. There are probably different issues, but as far as we know, there are also way less creative restrictions and media music isn't as looked down upon as in the West.
 
#7
Dec 23, 2018 12:09 AM
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@ndroae Damn, I didn't know that. I've only heard some of his openings and endings, but I really love them.
@velego I guess you're right, they're totally different worlds, also I don't really know enough about both industries to give an informed opinion. At least the academic ambit should be as closed as in the west.
 
#8
Dec 23, 2018 3:30 PM

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(From the Sawano thread)
nDroae said:
I wrote, I think in 2016:
In my listening these days, anime scores (orchestral and otherwise) have for the most part taken the place film scores held when I was younger. The communities even have composers with similar reputations: Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno are like John Williams, beloved and deeply respected by all. And Hiroyuki Sawano is Hans Zimmer: creator of "epic" pounding scores in the biggest blockbuster shows, adored by young fans, but often criticized for recycling and laziness, for being handed gigs that should have gone to other composers, and for generally making film/anime music worse. (I observe this, but I remain strongly a fan of both Sawano and Zimmer, haha.)

So I have a bit more insight on that "recycling" facet now :P

I suppose Kenji Kawai's backstory fits, considering how similarly controversial he seems to be. I didn't even know his name until _NTx introduced me to him in 2016, and I still haven't heard much by him. I got the story from the video interview that I plundered as a source in his thread - https://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=1742636
 
#9
Dec 23, 2018 9:24 PM
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I can not say to what extent it is not his fault, but clearly the industry does not make originality easy at all. And Kenji's story is pretty representative of his style I guess, someone without a clear direction in his life who was able to express those feelings through music!
 
Dec 23, 2018 10:41 PM

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I believe the current standard reaction to that would be "Oof." :D

From interviews with Kevin Penkin, it does sound like he was allowed freedom on Made in Abyss (diverse sounds/influences, including Sigur Ros). I would expect that when producers decide to hire a gaijin composer, they must want something different from anime norms. Of course every producer/director is different, so I suppose in either industry one may find some who are hands-off about music, some who know what they want in a helpful way, and some who are both controlling and inept.

In this interview about Rising of the Shield Hero, Penkin says "Tamura-san’s really good to work with, because Tamura-san has a very clear vision for Shield Hero, so he knows what he wants and when he wants it. However, he’s also very respectful if he thinks that we just want to try writing music away from thinking about too many specific things, and just sort of trying to get almost like an imageboard of the music and then try to focus it down from there. We have a very good back and forth!"

With Japanese interviews I tend to take any positivity about work experiences with a grain of salt, because they seem much more reluctant to burn bridges than westerners tend to be. It would be smart for an outsider to play by those rules too. But I'm not that cynical - my default reaction is to believe that quote is honest. :D
Modified by nDroae, Dec 23, 2018 10:53 PM
 
Dec 25, 2018 2:33 PM
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Japanese hierarchy and labor culture is no joke, but as you say it must depend on the case. For example in Cowboy Bebop it really feels as if they have just been given the freedom to make the music they wanted, although it's a really special anime in every aspect. And very probably if they hire a gaijin it's because they want a "gaijin sound", the japanese usually think that way.
(btw, merry christmas!)
 
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