As a companion piece to the article on Japanese composers, I thought I would try and bring it up to date or make it a little more contemporary by focusing upon a handful of Japanese composers that work predominantly on ANIME movies, now Anime is a popular genre of film but does at times become something of an acquired taste. The art work is stunning and original, with the soundtracks ranging from pop orientated songs and tracks, to electro synth scores, traditional songs and rock material. Plus there are more harmonious and theme laden works that at times can be likened to the surging, emotive and romantic themes as created by composers from both the golden and silver age of the film score in Hollywood. Fragile and subdued personas also manifest themselves in the form of delicate and haunting piano solos, breathy woodwind tone poems and emotive and poignant violin performances that all bring a highly emotional sound to the proceedings. Add to this a plethora of fearsome sounding and dark thundering percussive and brass combinations that purvey urgency and create a powerful aura and atmosphere. It is amazing just how many composers in Japan have written music to accompany this often quirky, stunning and visually affecting collection of movies and TV series or one-off programmes.
As with any animation film the storyline can basically be about any subject matter and also as with all animation anything is possible as the film maker does not have to stay within the obvious realms and perimeters of reality, but instead become immersed in a world or worlds that are at times totally removed from our own. Strange and otherworldly creatures appear, talking animals, good witches, bad witches, super human feats of strength and sometimes even for animation numerous off the wall scenarios that literally pop up within these productions. Which have, I must admit completely thrown my line of concentration and at times confused me. I am no expert on anime or indeed the scores that accompany these movies, but what music I have sampled I have liked and found it innovative, interesting and above all entertaining as well as being supportive to the films in question. Like the Italian western scores and the composers who worked on them during the late 1960’s thru to the mid 1980’s. Japanese composers have on anime productions created a sound and also a style that at its birth was fresh and vibrant and has to be honest, remained this way. And, as with the sound that was invented for the Italian western, the music created for Anime has too been the target of imitation by many other composers and artistes, which I suppose is a testimony to its far-reaching influence. Love it or hate it, both the genre and its music are popular.
Composers who have scored Anime productions are of course not restricted to just this genre, many of them produce compositions that are maybe based upon the styles that they employ within movies, but many do write music just as music and the easy listening or new world style is another popular musical area not only in Japan but worldwide. Such as THE COMFORTABLE LIFE SOUNDS SERIES, to which composer Makoto Yoshimori amongst others have contributed too, the composer/musician fashioning lilting and relaxing themes that are mixed with bird song at times trickle over the senses and act as an escape from the everyday rush and stress of life. This type of music I have always thought is in fact film music, but it has no film to enhance apart from ones own personal soundtrack.
But now to a selective look at the composers and we begin with.
Born in Hiroshima Japan in 1969, Makoto Yoshimori, has a delicate and light touch that translates and work well within many of his soundtracks, he is not only a composer but an accomplished and polished pianist. Who has become known for producing a number of non-film music works that have become popular and well known within Japan and Asia, his style and overall sound can be likened to that of fellow Japanese Maestro Joe Hisaishi, his rich and melodious thematic works being affective as well as effecting. The composer began his career in music in the early part of 1986, when he performed keyboard in various concerts. Two years later in 19991, he finished a course at the Osaka Kyoiku University and re-located to Tokyo where he became a member of a band called the Modern Choki Chokies. Between 1995 and 1998 Yoshimori began to become well known for his talent as a keyboard player, becoming more than proficient on piano, accordion and synthesiser. He also at this time performed with the band Hikashuand would play keyboard for musical productions, Via his involvement in so many music genres the composer/musician began to be asked to write soundtracks for various Anime movies, often working with film maker Takahiro Omon. Since those early days he has released a number of solo piano albums and has scored over 20 movies and TV projects.
Born in Sendai Japan on March18th 1963, Yoko Kanno began to take an interest in music when she was a child attending church, she soon began to take lessons in keyboard and concentrated on piano and organ. In her early days at primary school she began to start to compose small pieces and enter these into contests. As she moved into high school Kanno took more of an interest in literature than she did music and it was music that at this time took a back seat in her education. She graduated from high school and attended studied at the Parisian Conservatory before going to Waseda University, where she continued to focus upon literature. But in her free time, she would at times work on transcribing music for various students, and it was via this work that she began to listen to other types of music other than the classical pieces that her parents had restricted her too. She discovered the use of rhythm and also how drums worked in musical compositions, she then joined a band called ELECTIVE and whilst with them started to study the composition and the style that was known as popular music. It was whilst still at University that a video game company approached Kanno and asked if she would write the music for one of their games, which was called NOBUNAGA’S AMBITION The game was a popular one and Kanno’s music too became well known, After, this her musical career took off and she began to work on various commissions for video games, films and TV projects. She has scored over 40 Anime projects as well as releasing albums as an artist in her own right away from motion pictures. Some of her most popular scores include, GHOST IN THE SHELL and COWBOY BEBOP.
Born on April 23rd, 1957, Composer Kenji Kawai, is probably one of the most well-known composers who works in film and TV in Japan. His is famed for writing the scores for a number of live action films as well as contributing soundtracks to Anime projects and video games. After studying at the Tokai University Kawai started to focus upon studying music at the Shobi Music Academy. But after just six months he decided to stop his studies. It was at this time that he and a handful of friends decided to form a band which they called MUSE, the band which performed mostly fusion rock music entered a competition which they won and after this began to become popular, but as in all popular bands the members all seemed to want different thigs so they decided to split up and go their own separate ways and perform what music they liked.
It was then that Kawai started to concentrate more on writing for video games and also scoring TV commercials, which he produced at his home studio. He was then asked to write the music for a play and it was whilst working on this he met with musical director Naoko Asari, and it was via her guidance and recommendation that Kawai began to work on movies and TV projects, the sound he achieves and creates is a fusion of styles and incorporates, a pop or rock sound that is framed by symphonic and instrumental colours and textures which he enhances, supports and further underlines via synthesisers and percussive elements. His scores are driving and theme laden affairs that are not only powerful but are hauntingly infectious.
Now a composer of music for Anime, live action movies and video games, Hayashi, was originally trained as a rhythmic gymnast. It was whilst a gymnast that he began to take an interest in music whilst planning his routines and displays. It was because he sometimes found it difficult to find music to perform to that he began to focus upon teaching himself music and began to experiment with software programmes on his own computer. He had no experience with music whatsoever but based his own experiments in composition on the images he had in his head of his movements, plus he started to read books on the subject and began to research composition and other areas of music, such as sound frequencies, as he became more engrossed in music he realised that his career as a gymnast was limited and decided he would start to create music and sounds for other gymnasts to perform to. So, his career as a rhythmic gymnastics’ composer began. He then became apprentice to the influential DJ and former gymnast Hideo Kobayashi, and whilst with him was taught how to create music professionally, providing music for ice skating, dance and other mediums. It was not long before the composer was writing music for motion pictures, TV productions, Anime projects and games. His sound is varied and the composer makes effective use of voice within his scores, that are accompanied by electronic and synthetic sounds, which are bolstered and elevated via a scattering of symphonic instrumentation.