miércoles, abril 29

Behind the Scenes Part 7: Yoko Kanno (Music Composer)

The music for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is like jewelry sprinkled all over, glittering in an assortment of colors. From a minimalist rhythm to a scratchy guitar passage, a cool vocal in Russian and a singing piano melody, the background music for the Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. series is a medley of numerous compositions.

We interviewed Yoko Kanno, who has been for five years responsible for the music score of Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. from the first season in 2002 to the latest Solid State Society in 2006. How did she fulfill her mission?

Part 7: Yoko Kanno (Music Composer)
"I had this image of a formal and rigid "manly" world for the original comic. So I tried to think of ways to destroy that world."

Profile Born on March 18, in Miyagi Prefecture, Yoko Kanno is a music composer, arranger and pianist. She has written and performed music for many commercial films, TV dramas, feature films, animation and video games, and is currently one of the most world-renowned of Japanese musicians. She wrote the score for famous animated works, including Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop, Vision of Escaflowne and Wolf's Rain, and is the most trusted composer by veteran and new-wave directors such as Yoshiyuki Tomino, Shinichiro Watanabe and Shoji Kawamori..

Do you remember your first thoughts when you were offered to compose music for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex?
I had heard of the name, "Ghost in the Shell" but I had only a vague idea of what it was really about. When I told my staff that I had an offer to work on this "Ghost in the Shell" thing, they were jumping with joy. Especially the male staff. They all loved it and said, "You must!" So I checked the original comic, and boy, it's very erotic. (lol) Most of the crew was composed by males in their 30's or 40's, so I thought, "Wow, this is what they like?"

You thought Stand Alone Complex was going to be an erotic anime! (lol)
That's right! But when I met with Director Kamiyama, he said he wanted to do J.D. Salingers' The Catcher in the Rye. You know that my first impression of the comic was erotic, (lol) so I was really curious how that would relate to The Catcher in the Rye! After talking with him, he turned out to be naive and sounded quite pure hearted. Above all, he had passion. And besides I like literary works including English works, so I thought I might be able to fulfill that task.

"I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes"  a line from J.D. Salingers' The Catcher in the Rye appears in the Laughing Man logo (left). In the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, we can see numerous copycat offenders that simulate the Laughing Man, like Aoi (right). However, the original Laughing Man never makes his appearance in the series.

What was your intended musical approach to Stand Alone Complex?
I had this image of a formal and rigid "manly" world for the original comic. So I tried to think of ways to destroy that world. The theme I had in mind was, "be human." It represented the sentiment of "why don't we take it easy and be more like a human being?" - instead of being a workaholic salaried man working for his company. Or be it Tachikoma wishing to become human. I wanted to express these "tangible fuzziness," sort of. For the opening theme song called "inner universe," I had an image of digital bits and composed a score consisting of recurrent quick beats.

What were the actual exchanges between you and Director Kamiyama in the process of composing the scores?
Actually, Kazuhiro Wakabayashi, the sound director, gave me a menu to follow while composing the soundtrack. He has an extraordinary talent with words. He communicated delicate emotional feelings to me with his writings that were like poems. For example, in S.A.C. 2nd Gig, he wrote, "A man with a Japanese sword, Kuze. Things that go through his mind..." It was like I could imagine a scene from a movie. That was the menu I got.

What was your impression of the first episode, "Section 9" of Stand Alone Complex?
This is something like a habit of mine, but when I team up with a new staff member, I get into a thorough discussion until I am totally clear about the project. As for Stand Alone Complex, when I saw the first episode, I felt I understood what the director was aiming at, but I felt that was not "initiated" yet. So after the first episode was completed, I had a discussion with the director and Wakabayashi-san. We actually talked about things that were not at all related to the anime. For instance, we debated about the current entertainment environment. I expressed my idea of "what" and "how" we should connect to the audience. Others talked from their point of view. It was very stimulating. We were like students activists  naive and green, too much thinking, all talk and no action, sort of. Not that I was into it, no. (lol)

The melody run rabbit junk was used in the scene where Motoko barges into a high-end Japanese restaurant in episode 1. This score is now used as the theme melody when Section 9 strikes the offender's hideaway, but using that music for that scene in the first episode was in fact Kanno's idea.

Creating the music for Stand Alone Complex, that counts 52 TV episodes and one feature-length OVA, resulted in a 5-year endeavour. It is not very common to work on a project for such a long time, is it?
I think I've been very lucky to be a part of many successful projects. Actually, when a title is positively received, I'm often asked to do the music for the sequel, too. But at that time I get very panicky, because I feel a certain pressure to do better than the previous work. But strangely enough, I didn't have that dilemma with Stand Alone Complex. Maybe that's because when I worked on the first season, I had to deal with enormous pressure and inner conflict. The original manga was already immensely popular and when they decided to transpose it into animation it, there was a lot of pressure. So when I worked on S.A.C. 2nd Gig, I simply enjoyed working with a staff that had accumulated experience. It was obvious that the director himself as well as the staff around him were all more experienced than when we worked on the first season. I felt I didn't have to rush to accomplish something. That was a good thing. I had no worries.

I see. The progress Director Kamiyama and his staff made became a secure foundation for the project.
Simply put, they were the brainy theory-loving kids when we started out with Stand Alone Complex, but by the time we were working on S.A.C. 2nd Gig, I felt they were expressing more emotion and made good use of their intuitions. I sensed that sort of change in Director Kamiyama and his staff.

For Solid State Society, where did you get the ideas for your scores?
The script was so exciting. I in fact devoured it in a sitting. For a TV series, we usually compose music ahead of time, but for this particular project, I really wanted to synchronize the scores with the scenes to share this ingenious world with the audience. I actually did match the scores with many of the scenes. In Solid State Society, individual parts had separate identities. This was an underlying theme on the personal level. It's difficult to explain. I'll give you an example. Motoko, if I put it in catchy words, had her divided identity dwelling in different parts of her body. It was like she had her "self" here as well as another "self" over there, I think. Two years had passed since S.A.C. 2nd Gig, and she can now integrate or disintegrate her body parts of her own free will. This was how she came about to be. That was my assumption. My personal objective was to illustrate her progress, flexibility and strength in my music.

Did you read the script and the storyboards really thoroughly before working on the scores?
It wasn't necessarily a "thorough reading," in terms of what it literally means. I would quickly read the script. Maybe in twenty minutes to get that valuable first impression. Then I put it aside and compose the score with the holistic image of the story.
I usually look at the storyboards too, but frankly speaking, I am not very good at deciphering them. I seldom read manga, so I don't know how to shift the pictures in my head. I rather design with the images I get from reading printed material.

Solid State Society deals with complex and realistic social issues. What were your thoughts?
I don't know what to say. (lol) If I take them seriously as social issues, I can't make music that really explodes. What interested me was not really the theme, but the flow of things; how they told the story. It might be that it is not the language or the words that compel me to compose. I could say that I'm driven by a sensitive world that precedes words as a form of expression.

You compose based on your impressions of images from the anime?
Well, you see, I think music is closer to emotions. When I say that it precedes words, I mean closer to pure emotiveness. For example, I feel I compose music to express my feelings that arise from seeing the everyday world around me. Vague and raw feelings which are not clear enough to be put into words. To give you a more specific example, the primitive and unresolved feelings such as "This person interests me," "I don't like that person, but I can't ignore him/her," "I want to go, but I don't want to leave," or "It will be dangerous, but it will be fine." You know what I mean? I think I am fascinated with expressing feelings that can't be expressed well with words.

Is it easier to put them into musical notes than words?
Yes, I would say that. A violin's tone can sound scary or powerful with a tiny variance in how the instrument is played. A slight vibration of a note can deliver a minute nuance that you can't express with words.

Did you use Sound Director Kazuhiro Wakabayashi's music menu as a guide for your work again this time?
Of course. I have composed about 35 or 36 scores in total for Solid State Society. And I received menus for 70% of them.

Which of Wakabayashi-san's music menus was most impressive?
I must say the menu for the scene with Togusa and his daughter. It was most solemnly written. I think the director had a special sentiment for it too. I felt this was an important scene, so I wanted to dedicate more time to it and for this reason I left it until the end. But when I actually set out to work on it, I just couldn't get on with it. So I pulled out all the scores I composed for Solid State Society and listened to them. It was strange. The first piece I composed, which I thought I would never use at the time, fit perfectly. This was a total coincidence. If I meant to do such a thing, it would never have happened.

When a person renders a scene, generally, the outcome depends on the person's preference. Some people tend to lean toward negative views and others, positive. I prefer something that is a mixture of various perspectives or opinions and feelings. I am attracted to something that barely exists at the balance between things. If you push on with monotone or only use a certain pattern, perspective or point of view, people will get bored. The brain is not the only active factor in music creation. I sometimes wait for a coincidence to take place, use my body to create, or borrow someone else's brain, and at times, my emotion goes out of control. I would always like to blend in these cluttered qualities into my work.

Do you compose music using your head or is it more to do with your senses?
Actually, I don't really know the details of the storyline even now. I read the script once quickly. I just ignored the details, and there are parts that I don't even remember. But it's the best way for me to create music. It doesn't work for me if I get absorbed in thought. From my experience, it's best to give priority to my first impressions.

Let's talk about the opening song, player. I heard you had a chance to talk with Tetsuya Nishio, who was the animator for the opening sequence.
This is another strange story. We were chatting about dream interpretations. Kamiyama-san was with us too and I asked him, "Tell us about your latest dream." He replied, "Something to do with red." Then I looked at him - he was wearing "red" glasses and had "red" sneaker strings. He had an unforgettable dream about the color red and was trying to investigate what it meant to wear red.

But I've heard that you told Nishio-san, "White is the theme color."
It might be a rebound to 2nd Gig, which had a blackish color tone - I am not sure. I don't remember telling him that. Maybe because Nishio-san's head went blank at the time. (lol)

What about the climax scene of Kusanagi and Batou?
Yeah, right. What was that? You know the scene where Batou puts his arm around Kusanagi's hips. What was the intention? I'd like the director's clear answer! (lol) Anyway, this movie had a very nice ending. It felt different from the previous TV series. This time, I could feel their passion, like, "We will be back!" Until now, the series ended with Kusanagi saying, "The network is vast" and that felt like a statement without an answer. But this time around, I felt an energy surging forward. I thought this feeling was very important. And that led to date of rebirth, which was used for the credit sequence at the end.

I understand from your words that your music is made with your love for the project and the staff. It seems like your eagerness to enrich the content comes through in your music.
The ultimate root of my music making was a love letter. When I was in kindergarten, I really liked one boy and I composed a song called, "I like you very much" for him. This was the first song I composed. I guess I couldn't say it with words. But I could with music. So it is true that even with Solid State Society, I compose a score to tell the director, "I love this scene!"

Director Kamiyama said he was grateful because, according to his words, "Kanno-san composed score after score as if a big sister was helping me out."
Ha-ha. (lol) Next time, I might try to compose from Motoko's stance. You know, she is quite sadistic and cruel, don't you agree? She is more likely to say, "You are totally dumb." (lol)

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