Director Hayao Miyazaki’s working relationship with composer Joe Hisaishi is up there with the other great film pairings: Sergio Leone with Ennio Morricone, Alfred Hitchcock with Bernard Herrmann, David Lynch with Angelo Badalamenti. Working together they attain a symbiosis of sound and vision, one of the reasons their work has become part of film history. But it’s also rare that a film composer gets to celebrate that relationship with a stunner of a retrospective concert like the one above.
In 2008, Hisaishi conducted and performed at a two-hour retrospective of 25 years working with Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli. This mammoth performance at the 14,000-seat Tokyo Budokan was big in every way: six featured vocalists, the 200-member New Japan Philharmonic World Dream Orchestra, the 800 combined voices of the Ippan Koubo, Ritsuyuukai and Little Singers of Tokyo choirs, along with a 160-piece marching band made up of members from four high schools.
The concert features selections from Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, and what would have been his most recent score at the time, Ponyo. For those wondering when the marching band and color guard turn up, it’s 50 minutes in, playing selections from Laputa, Castle in the Sky.
Hayao Miyazaki met Joe Hisaishi in 1983, when his record company recommended him to score Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. They became true friends and collaborators, and the director himself appears just after an hour in to speak to the audience.
“After [our first] meeting,” Miyazaki says (according to a translation in the comments) “he sent me some piano sketches, which are used in many scenes in Nausicaä anyway, and those were so amazing that I played tapes of them on my desk over and over again while I was working…I have been working thanks to so many pieces of luck, and meeting him is definitely one of them. I guess I couldn’t wish for better luck than that.”
For someone whose music is often romantic, beautiful, and relaxed, the composer says the work doesn’t come easy.
“The most painful element of my life is composing because sometimes nothing comes to mind,” he told the South China Morning Post. “It is very hard and very difficult. Sometimes the result is zero, but I go to bed and I feel something and some idea is born. So in the end there might be a composition, but the experience is often most painful.” For those who have recently seen similar memes of Miyazaki being super hard on himself, it’s no wonder the two are friends.
A few in the YouTube comment section actually attended the concert, and this quote from “Love W” sums up what was an emotional concert for Ghibli and Hisaishi fans:
“It was also quiet afterwards. No one was talking very loudly, even with hundreds of people streaming out of the building. I think everyone were just too touched and wanted to reflect over what they had seen.”
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.