Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Rescoring Interview)

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On April 28, 1999 was notified that Buena Vista Home Entertainment had scheduled an interview with Joe Hisaishi regarding the new score for the English version of Castle in the Sky. More importantly, we were given the opportunity to supply questions that would be considered for use during the interview. On April 29, 1999 at 6:30 PM (PST) submitted a series of questions, gathered from various members of the Miyazaki Mailing List. As an added bonus, was given the honor of premiering the official transcript of the interview on its site.

On July 14, 1999 received the official transcript from Buena Vista Home Entertainment which can be read in it's entirety below.

Team Ghiblink wishes to extend it's sincere thanks to Buena Vista Home Entertainment for the opportunity to be the first to make this interview available to the fans and admirers of Joe Hisaishi and his music.

1. What was the difficult part of creating the new arrangement for "Castle in the Sky"?

  • The original is about 60 minutes long in total. This time it will be more than 90 minutes. The amount of music increased dramatically, which means there was a lot of new material I had to write. But my musical style 13 years ago was totally different from what it is today. And in some cases, the way that I write music has changed. If I just added new material in places that needed additional music, balance-wise it would turn out terrible. So there was nothing I could do but rewrite the entire piece. That was the hardest part. Another thing is that the original melodies are very well known in Japan. So it was really hard writing a new version while still maintaining the original's integrity.

2. You said that you had a new style, a new way of working that you didn’t have the first time. I wanted to ask you how it's different, and what’s your style now?

  • My music has gotten much better. And technique. I have really developed technically. That's why when I looked at these old scores, I thought to myself, "this is terrible!" and I wanted to rewrite them. But when I tried, the balance of the music just kept getting worse and worse. What I mean is, when you look at the scores from 13 years ago, they were very fresh in their own right and it's important to preserve the "freshness" of that time. The expressions and ideas are truly good. But my orchestration technique has come a long way since then and I found myself in a constant battle of "old" versus "new".

3. What were you able to do this time that you weren't able to do with the original? In what ways is it different because of your improved skills?

  • This time I focused on bringing out the rhythm a little more. So now there is more of an overall "pop" feel. It's easier to relate to. To give it this feel, I brought the rhythm out much more. I used synthesizers to — how can I put this — "drive it". In the synthesizer recordings, especially considering the rhythm section, I had to make the sound of the orchestra and the rhythm section "bond" together at a higher level. That is a big difference from the last time.

4. Are there any specific passages or scenes that you’re really proud of in this new version?

  • Near the beginning, the scene where she is being chased by the pirates. I especially like that one.

5. So, tell us about the overall emotion or theme...

  • Before I even get into emotions and theme... The Hollywood style of using music to introduce characters and explain what's on screen is a method that I don't normally use in Japan. However, I'm a fan of Hollywood movies and I watch a lot of them. So I changed my usual approach to make the music more listener-friendly. I guess you can say that was the foundation of the entire production and everything was done accordingly.

6. Has this been an enjoyable process; taking the Hollywood style and incorporating it into your own?

  • I don't know if it was enjoyable... but the biggest thing for me is to take the director's message; the number one message of the movie, and apply music to it in a spiritual sense. That is more or less my personal style. This particular piece is an action/adventure movie so the action and movement of the characters is prominent and unmistakable. That's an aspect I really took into consideration. But you work on it for months and months, and within all that you try to bring out your own style. For instance, in the climax scene, up until that point the sound of the orchestra is violently pounding. But at the point of true climax, when everything is crumbling away, that powerful music suddenly changes to nothing but a chorus. I wanted to be sure to bring out the sadness which was being conveyed. I believe that scene turned out really well, and I think that sort of thing will become "my style".

7. How did you pick the music for each character?

  • All the basic themes come from the original. So the main theme would be the friendship between the main characters Sheeta and Pazu. Another would be, of course, the castle in the sky because the movie is "Castle in the Sky". Another one would be Grandma Dora, a very brave old lady. There are, of course, many other themes; like emphasizing trombones when the soldiers and the military appear. I wanted to separate the events of the movie using different musical characteristics. That was an area that I wanted to thoroughly cover this time.

8. What was your point of reference? What influenced you in writing this sort of movie score?

  • I don't really use any point of reference when I write. One thing, though, is that the entire dialogue is in English. This alone changed the entire atmosphere of the film. The feeling of moving can I explain "moving forward". I had a certain image of Mr. Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky" , but watching this [English] version I experienced a completely different world. And because the world of Hayao Miyazaki is recognized worldwide, even in English it's still his world. And there is a certain "strength" that his world possesses which works anywhere. I think that's what inspired me the most.

9. When you saw Mr. Miyazaki before this project, what did he say about the project?

  • He told me to do something completely different. He said that the original will always be there, so approach this one in a totally different light.

10. Do you think you did a good job with this score?

  • I believe that the finished product is very good. But I've been doing this extensive work for quite some time now and I'm really exhausted! The reason I'm so tired is because more than half the score from 13 years ago has disappeared and the synthesizer sequences that I used at the time are all gone. Because I couldn't just ignore them, I had to first reproduce them, then look at them all and start rearranging. So it took twice the effort. If I'd known that would be the case it would have been much quicker to create the new score from scratch. I did suffer through that.

11. Do you think the sound was very emotionally expressive when the orchestra played your piece?

  • The Seattle Symphony Orchestra is very good and everyone is giving their best effort. In that sense the music they are producing is exactly what I had envisioned, so I'm very pleased. For instance, I worked with the Czech Philharmonic last year and I've worked with an Italian orchestra. I did it in Italy because I wanted an orchestra that could really "sing". In that sense the Seattle Orchestra is extremely mechanically sound. And, how can I put this... although I haven't seen a strong, individualistic quality in them yet it is obvious to me that they are a very well balanced orchestra. And because there are so many different styles of music incorporated in this project, I believe that the Seattle Orchestra is best suited for it.

12. Do you always play the piano solos yourself?

  • I usually play the solos myself. When I write music I make it a rule to always play the piano myself. Just as a song's dynamic changes with the singer, I believe that I must play my own music so that my flavor is there. Because I had to write so many scores this time, I decided to record the piano segments first, before my hands got too stiff to play [jokingly]! Then I brought those recordings to the orchestra. I was afraid that there might be a problem with balance if I used the piano in the orchestra. So I recorded them beforehand.

13. What sort of music or artist has influenced, or had an effect on you lately?

  • There aren't many people who influence me. But for instance, in the movie music arena, of course I've listened to those who make music for Hollywood movies; such as Hans Zimmer and, who was that, James Horner? And a couple of other people. But I can't say that they've influenced me.

14. Has there been a recent film score that you've especially enjoyed — a standout for you?

  • Recent movies? Hmm...Princess Mononoke.

15. How was the experience of working with Disney different from your experiences working with the film studios in Japan?

  • The Japanese filmmaking industry has certain elements that are very old-fashioned. Of course I work on Hayao Miyazaki's projects, but most of my work is in the actual motion picture arena, not in animation. Japanese filmmaking is old-fashioned by nature, and even the music making is old-fashioned in some aspects. For instance, even though the technology in the music field is rapidly evolving the industry doesn't embrace it. Furthermore, because music isn't something that you can see with your eyes, everyone seems to shy away from dealing with it. Working with Disney, I felt that every staff member loves music and loves movies. And they all have their own set opinions on how the business and the music are structured. I felt this was a huge difference between the two industries.

16. Do you want to do a plug for anything?

  • No, not really...