The Films of Hayao Miyazaki Celebrated in a Glorious Concert Arranged by Film Composer Joe Hisaishi

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.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Makes 1,178 Images Free to Down­load from My Neigh­bor Totoro, Spir­it­ed Away & Oth­er Beloved Ani­mat­ed Films

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Pro­duc­er Toshio Suzu­ki Teach­es You How to Draw Totoro in Two Min­utes

A Vir­tu­al Tour Inside the Hayao Miyazaki’s Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Muse­um

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.

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  • Bruce Wayne says:

    The col­lab­o­ra­tion between Bernard Her­mann and Alfred Hitch­cock is noto­ri­ous for the fact that Her­mann did not like work­ing with him. He actu­al­ly have said that Hitch­cock fin­ish­es his films only 60% and he is rely­ing on the music to car­ry the rest.

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