Dengeki & Famitsu interview Yoko Shimomura and Kaoru Wada following Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath-


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Update 1: Translations of the interview from the Japanese website Gamer have also been added below.

Update 2: Translations of the interview held by 4Gamer.net has also been added.

 

Following the conclusion of the Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath-, Dengeki Online and Famitsu had the chance to interview Yoko Shimomura, the composer for the Kingdom Hearts series, and Kaoru Wada, who arranges the orchestral pieces for the Kingdom Hearts series. Yoko Shimomura and Kaoru Wada discuss the difficulties and process of creating songs for the series as well as all of the work leading up to the concert, including input from series director Tetsuya Nomura.

 

A translation of the Dengeki Online interview can be found below thanks to goldpanner:

 

 

—How are you feeling, now that today's concert is over?

 

Ms Yoko Shimomura (hereon abbreviated): I'm so, so… to the point where I can only keep saying 'so'... super happy. There were some rough patches along the way, but I feel like that's all been digested or something. It's all been chewed down into simple, pure happiness and joy.

 

It's not something I could do alone, I had the cooperation of many people. Like, the heart and soul Mr Wada put into conducting and arranging. The fact that music I made could have so many get involved and come to listen to it is the ultimate joy. Thank you so much.

 

Mr Kaoru Wada (hereon abbreviated): For the time being, I'm feeling relieved that the first day is over. The guests really seemed to enjoy themselves, and there were many who cried at parts as they listened. I couldn't be happier.

 

Having two concerts in one day was very tough, but being this immersed in the music of KH makes me feel blessed as a conductor and arranger. Also to have worked with Ms Shimomura for such a long time. It's been fourteen, nearly fifteen years now, hasn't it?

 

Shimomura: It's been close to fifteen years since the first recording.

 

Wada: Today while conducting, all sorts of memories came to me, like painted paper lanterns. Thanks to you, I felt amazing out there. Thank you so much.

 

—First, Mr Wada, please tell us the important points behind your arrangements. Ms Shimomura, we'd love to hear what you felt listening to the completed pieces.

 

Wada: I was also in charge of the original orchestration for Kingdom Hearts, and I think of course everyone has strong memories of playing the game.

 

I wanted to do that justice, so with my arrangements I took the direction of staying as faithful as possible to the original music while making it more suited for a live concert and giving it intensity.

 

Also, I did my best to convey the intensity and feel of force of sound, live feel, that you get with a brass band rather than a chorus or strings.

 

Shimomura: When he's done with an arrangement, he sends me a demo. The demos are just simple generated tones, so our exchange took the form of me listening to them and imagining what it would sound like (on the actual day), like, "Yeah this works. I'm looking forward to it."

 

But, listening to the rehearsals they day before yesterday, I was so shocked, like, "So this is what was playing inside Mr Wada's head!" Like, so this is what it means to be beyond imagination. I love Mr Wada's music, and I also really love his arrangements, so I can hear him in my head to a degree.

 

But, this was something else altogether. The brass band was a first, so it went beyond what I had imagined, and the truth is, the moment I heard it come to life in rehearsal was when I came closest to shedding a tear myself.

 

—Was there a theme behind the setlist this time?

 

Shimomura: It was definitely to have those who played the first KH relive their memories playing the game, like a vicarious experience. I wanted them to remember, like, "Oh yeah, that happened. Oh yeah, this song," so I decided I wanted to structure things in a way that traced the flow of playing the game.

 

For example, we perform Traverse Town twice, but that probably wouldn't happen at a normal concert.

 

But, I knew I had to put Traverse Town in the medley, even if it went against the standard rule. On details like that, I was conscious of how I wanted it to be, and went along trying to bring it to life.

 

As I did, I was also able to receive supervision from Mr Nomura, who would be like, "Nah, don't you think maybe it'd be better to do this piece?" That's how the setlist was decided.

 

—Were there any orders from Mr Nomura?

 

Shimomura: Not in relation to the concert, not really. He told me about the recited parts he wanted. Mr Wada had to adjust the intro for us for it to be put in. Thank you for that!

 

Wada: No problem. I'll fulfill your every wish (laughs).

 

Shimomura: Mr Nomura also wrote a scenario for us. Usually it's unthinkable that a director would be this involved in a game concert, so I really felt how blessed these titles and this concert are.

 

—I got the impression that KH music suited the wind ensemble very well.

 

Wada: There are lots of pieces that were interesting to make into wind arrangements in particular, and pieces like Hand in Hand that are really suited to it. The music of KH and wind ensembles are indeed very compatible. Well, I wouldn't do it if it wasn't (laughs).

 

Shimomura: Any music can become music that suits a wind ensemble with Mr Wada's magic. Even without an acoustic guitar, even without a chorus, he makes it happen. I think it's so amazing.

 

—Were there any pieces you struggled over arranging?

 

Wada: I struggled over all of them (laughs). But, even though I say that, Ms Shimomura never gave me orders to do it like this or that.

 

Shimomura: I did give simple requests like "I'd like the medley to be like this", and basically to listen to the original piece and "please keep the original feel of the song". That's about it.

 

Wada: We have fifteen years of history, so.

 

Shimomura: Yes, it's like every few years we'll do a recording with Mr Wada for extra KH arrangements.

 

—May we ask Ms Shimomura what Mr Wada's best points are?

 

Shimomura: He's fiery, of course. His pieces get stuck in your head after one listen. They get stuck in your head, so you want to listen to them again, and then you never get tired of them. Time for me to confess my love again here (laughs).

 

—On the other hand, Mr Wada, what are Ms Shimomura's best points?

 

Wada: Her character is amazing. Arranging is like being a cook, you can make a dish no matter what ingredients come to you, but it won't be a tasty dish with bad ingredients. Ms Shimomura's music is haute cuisine level ingredients.

 

She has a unique sense of a world within her music, and broad capacity. The story of KH could not have been told without Ms Shimomura. It's a fact that everyone says they like the music of KH, which is proof.

 

Shimomura: Thank you. I feel like I can go forward with confidence starting tomorrow (laughs).

 

—When it comes to making music, have you been influenced by Mr Wada?

 

Shimomura: Usually, I analyse music I listen to, so music I like; I haven't done Chopin or Raffaello, but things I've heard that stayed with me have definitely influenced me. So, I believe I have been greatly influenced by Mr Wada, too.

 

—We felt a great power, or strength, from each and every piece.

 

Wada: This concert is quite physically demanding. But, I feel the desire to exceed those demands and express ourselves in the music from the players (musicians), too. That makes it very fun to make that music together.

 

There are a lot of pieces that are unusual for wind ensembles, so there was some surprise, like, "We're doing a piece like this?" But, I think perhaps including those became a good motivation for the Siena Wind Orchestra members.

 

Shimomura: Like, we had the violin shredding part performed by the saxophones, for example.

 

—The world tour begins next year. How is the future looking?

 

Shimomura: It's become a long series, hasn't it? I've never had another chance to work for so long on a series, so I have a lot of feelings about being allowed to keep with it, and the titles are very special to me.

 

From now on, I want to go on making music that will live up to the expectations of the fans of the games, and bring them joy.

 

I'm sure I'll cry again at the first rehearsal of the world tour, since I'm hoping to have Mr Wada arrange for me again, and I really hope you will enjoy the live orchestra once again.

 

It's still a little while away, but there's the world tour, there's games to play, and I don't know when but there will be a soundtrack to buy (laughs). I would be so happy if you enjoyed the world of Kingdom Hearts to your heart's content.

 

 

 

A translation of the interview held by Famitsu can be found below thanks to Catherine Mueller (nichiei.translations@gmail.com):

 

 

-The hope to organize the gameplay into something exciting for people who have played the games

 

--First, please give us your feelings regarding the opening day.

 

S: I'm extremely happy. It was as if all of the rough patches disappeared, and I am now reflecting only upon joy and happiness. So many people participated, Wada-san worked incredibly hard on arrangements, and so many people came to listen to my music, so I think this is the greatest happiness I've felt. Thank you.

 

W: I definitely feel a sort of “whew” feeling of relief now that the first day is over (laughs), but the audience was pleased, and there were even people who cried over it. It's tough to do two performances in one day, but to be flooded with KH music is to ascend to fame and fortune as a conductor and arranger. Shimomura-san and I have been working together a long time, close to fifteen years. Memories come floating like a revolving lantern, and she allowed me to direct with a good feeling.

 

--Please let us hear an important point besides arrangement.

 

W: I did some original orchestration, but it's important that I take into account the image and original melodies that everyone who has played the games knows, and give it a new appeal... We did our best to make sure the wind arrangement's acoustic pressure really felt like a live.

 

S: At the time when the arrangements were completed, he sent me a demo made with a simple sound generator. I didn't imagine it at the time, but the moment I heard it in rehearsal, I was surprised to think, “So this is what's going on in Wada-san's head!”

 

W: I'm sorry I'm so terrible at demos. (laughs)

 

S: That's not what I mean! (laughs) “It exceeded my expectations,” that's what I mean. Since I like Wada-san's songs and arrangements, I can hear them in my head, but once they came to life in rehearsal, it made me want to cry.

 

--What was the basis for deciding the set list?

 

S: We wanted to create a program that would kind of organize the gameplay into something exciting for people who have played the games. So, in a regular concert, we wouldn't put the Traverse Town theme into a medley twice, but we did this time. Nomura-san also supervised us, saying, “Wouldn't it be best to do this song?”

 

--Nomura-san was also involved with the reading parts, right?

 

S: That's right, Nomura-san told us, “I want to do this.” Because of that, we adjusted the introduction... Wada-san, thank you.

 

W: I'll do whatever you ask. (laughs)

 

S: Nomura-san also wrote us episodes to use for the readings. He's been the director thus far, and since I don't have much experience directing at all, I think it was a blessing to the concert.

 

--After creating arrangements, are there songs that are particularly compatible with a live band?

 

W: There are songs that really focus on wind instruments, like “Hand in Hand”...But, well, if it doesn't suit a live band, we won't play it. (laughs)

 

S: Whatever song it is, Wada-san can magically make it into a wind instrument song. Even if there's no acoustic guitar or chorus, he can bring it in. It's incredible.

 

--Are there any songs that were tough for you?

 

W: Well, all of them, really. (laughs) But there really weren't any that Shimomura-san told me, I want you to do this or that...

 

S: I just asked that the medley would have this kind of feeling, or that the original image of the song is left. Anything too different from that is...

 

W: There wasn't really anything like that. Since we've been working together for fifteen years. (laughs)

 

--From Shimomura-san's perspective, what is the appeal of Wada-san's arrangements?

 

S: They're warm. The song I talked about on stage (Wada-san's “Customary Dance Song”), just hearing it one time left an impression. I wanted to listen to it again, and I won't get tired of it. What would you call that...

 

W: For the maestro to say those things...

 

S: What're you talking about!? Stop it already. (laughs)

 

--So, from Wada-san's perspective, what is the appeal of Shimomura-san's songs?

 

S: I don't want to hear this! It's scary!

 

W: (laughs) I think it must be that the character is incredible. An arranger is kind of like a chef, and whatever comes to him, he can cook, but if the ingredients aren't good, he can't make something delicious. Shimomura-san really stands out above the rest. She has a unique view of the world, you could say she has a wide capacity, and you can't talk about KH without Shimomura-san.

 

S: I think starting tomorrow, I can live with a little more confidence. (laughs)

 

--Shimomura-san, do you feel an influence from Wada-san when you create songs?

 

S: Analyzing songs and thinking, “Let's make something that feels like this” is something I've never done. No matter how much I love a composer. I just listen to the songs, and maybe somewhere there's got to be some kind of influence left on me... Please don't think “Has this been influenced?”, okay? (laughs)

 

W: No, no, no. (laughs)

 

--From the point of view of the wind instruments, the field medley seemed to have some difficult songs, but how was it in rehearsals?

 

W: This particular concert was physically quite tough. But we wanted to overcome that and express ourselves, that was what I felt from the players. Since the type of music was something not normally for wind players, although they were surprised by it, I think it might have also motivated Sienna (the wind orchestra).

 

--There were a lot of songs that had a clear melody line and couldn't be mistaken for anything else. Shimomura-san, were you nervous during the piano encore?

 

S: When you say that I played piano, it was more like I just messed around, (laughs) but it became a fond memory. But I definitely cannot fail. If I lose my passion there, it will definitely stand out. I gave an unreasonable request to Wada-san: “please make it so that even I can play it.” (pained laughter)

 

--Finally, please let us hear your outlook on the coming tour and the world tour next year.

 

S: I've been working on this for a while, but since I don't really have the chance to work on long series like this, I have a lot of emotional attachment to KH, and I think it's a special title. I hope to not deceive the hopes of the fans, and I want to do my best to make songs that everyone can enjoy. The songs for the world tour are pretty much decided, and I'm thinking that Wada-san will continue to do the arrangements, so I hope everyone can look forward to a live orchestra and a different sound from this time. Please come to the world tour, enjoy the games, and I don't know when it will come out but please buy the soundtrack (laughs), and I hope that everyone feels a lot of satisfaction in the world of KH.

 

 

Tetsuya Nomura-san's Comment

 

I appeared in the afternoon and night shows, but since I unfortunately cannot be in all of the shows, when and where I come out will be a surprise...

 

Actually, the set list and content for this current tour was thought up alongside the content for next year's world tour, so I personally think of this concert as a brass concert and the first half of the world tour.

 

I hope that everyone who was able to enjoy themselves will come next time, and that those who could not come will be able join us someday.

 

 

 

 

A translation of the interview with Gamer can be found below thanks to Catherine Mueller (nichiei.translations@gmail.com):

 

 

“We aimed for a concert that would let people enjoy the history of the series”

 

After the concert's ending, we were able to get comments from Shimomura-san, who appeared on stage, as well as conductor Wada-san. Please check out their post-concerts thoughts on arrangement, each others' talents, and the precious words that only we received.

 

Nomura-san, who also appeared on stage, gave us comments. Here, too, he expresses high hopes for the coming concert tour and next year's world tour.

 

--First, please give us your thoughts now that the concert is finished.

 

S: There were a lot of tough things in preparation for the opening show, but right now I feel only joy. It was not something I could do alone, it was because I had so many people helping me that we had this concert. More than anything, it's a very happy feeling that so many people came to watch.

 

W: I heard that there were some guests in the audience that even cried, and it's a very happy feeling. Being involved in the Kingdom Hearts music up to this point makes me the luckiest conductor I can be. I'm in charge of orchestral arrangements for the Kingdom Hearts series, and I've worked with Shimomura-san for almost fifteen years. While I was conducting, all of the memories I've made up to this point came back to life like a floating lantern. (laughs)

 

-- Do you have anything that you became aware of while working on arrangements?

 

W: I think the fans' image of the game is very strong, so I try to value that, and I thought that I wanted them to get a taste of the original songs live. Also, I did my best to make sure that the wind instrumentals' intensity and sound conductivity came through.

 

S: Since I had listened to the demo tape beforehand, I had thought I was able to imagine what kind of performance it would be. But, when I heard it in rehearsal, it far exceeded my expectations, and I was surprised and thought, “So this is the music that's going on in Wada-san's head!” He mentioned that fans cried, but actually I felt like crying, too. (laughs)

 

--What kind of plans were made for the song selection?

 

S: First, we aimed for a concert that would let people enjoy the history of the series for those who had played the games from the beginning. We wanted them to enjoy the songs and think, “Oh, there was this scene” and remember playing the games. Because we made that rule, Nomura-san also helped supervise us.

 

--Were there any definite orders from Nomura-san regarding the songs?

 

S: He wasn't really involved in choosing the songs, but something Nomura-san really wanted us to do were the reading sections. We lengthened the introduction to smoothly insert the reading portions, which made Wada-san do unreasonable things. (laughs) I haven't really heard if the game director has been involved in concerts thus far. Because of that, I thought it was a blessed performance.

 

--While Shimomura-san was on stage, you said that you had been Wada-san's fan since your days as a student. Can you think of what charms you again and again?

 

S: His songs are really warm! You hear a song once and can't forget it, and it's amazing how his songs make you want to listen to them again, and also mysterious.

 

W: Thank you. To hear that from the maestro is embarrassing. (laughs)

 

--On the other hand, Wada-san, what kind of impression do you have of Shimomura-san's compositions?

 

W: Her songs are full of character, and I think it's amazing that she has her own perspective of the world. When I look at Kingdom Hearts, I can't talk about it without bringing up Shimomura-san. There are ingredients to the arrangements I make, which are needed to “cook” up creations. In other words, if the ingredients aren't good, no matter how hard I work, I can't create something good. On that point, Shimomura-san really creates ingredients that stand out above the rest.

 

--Out of all of Shimomura-san's compositions, are there any that have influence from Wada-san?

 

S: Actually, I don't really deeply analyze any composer's amazing music, including Wada-san's. I think there are definitely parts that subconsciously have influence, though.

 

--The concert tour will continue to Aichi province and Osaka from here, and next year you're preparing for a world tour. Please give us your outlooks and any enthusiasm about this that you might have.

 

S: I've been doing this job for a long time, but I've never taken part in a long series like this before, so to me, Kingdom Hearts is a very special title. I hope to create songs that many people will enjoy and that I will not betray their expectations for the coming shows.

 

--Thank you.

 

Tetsuya Nomura-san's Comments

 

I appeared in the afternoon and night shows, but since I unfortunately cannot be in all of the shows, when and where I come out will be a surprise...

 

Actually, the set list and content for this current tour was thought up alongside the content for next year's world tour, so I personally think of this concert as a brass concert and the first half of the world tour.

 

I hope that everyone who was able to enjoy themselves will come next time, and that those who could not come will be able join us someday.

 

 

 

Translations of the 4Gamer.net interview can be found below thanks to Katie Armstrong:

 

 

 

 

--First, please give us your thoughts now that the concert is finished.

 

S: There were a lot of tough things in preparation for the opening show, but right now I feel only joy. It was not something I could do alone, it was because I had so many people helping me that we had this concert. More than anything, it's a very happy feeling that so many people came to watch.

 

W: I heard that there were some guests in the audience that even cried, and it's a very happy feeling. Being involved in the Kingdom Hearts music up to this point makes me the luckiest conductor I can be. I'm in charge of orchestral arrangements for the Kingdom Hearts series, and I've worked with Shimomura-san for almost fifteen years. While I was conducting, all of the memories I've made up to this point came back to life like a floating lantern. (laughs)

 

 

-- Do you have anything that you became aware of while working on arrangements?

 

W: I think the fans' image of the game is very strong, so I try to value that, and I thought that I wanted them to get a taste of the original songs live. Also, I did my best to make sure that the wind [brass] instrumentals' intensity and sound conductivity came through.

 

 

--Having heard that, Shimomura-san, do you have any thoughts?

 

S: Since I had listened to the demo tape beforehand, I had thought I was able to imagine what kind of performance it would be. But, when I heard it in rehearsal, it far exceeded my expectations, and I was surprised and thought, “So this is the music that's going on in Wada-san's head!”

 

W: My demo was bad. (laughs)

 

S: Don’t say that! (laughs) This is what I realized is something “beyond my imagination”. Especially the first time I heard the arrangement, [H]e mentioned that fans cried, but actually I felt like crying, too. (laughs) Thank you very much.

 

 

--What kind of plans were made for the song selection?

 

S: First, we aimed for a concert that would let people enjoy the history of the series for those who had played the games from the beginning. We wanted them to enjoy the songs and think, “Oh, there was this scene” and remember playing the games. For example, the Traverse Town theme plays twice, and ordinarily you wouldn’t do that in a concert, but the rule was “If you have to play it twice for the right flow, it’s fine”, Because we made that rule, Nomura-san also helped supervise us.

 

 

--Were there any definite orders from Nomura-san regarding the songs? [Was adding the written scenario Nomura-san’s idea?]

 

S: He wasn't really involved in choosing the songs, but something Nomura-san really wanted us to do were the reading sections. We lengthened the introduction to smoothly insert the reading portions, which made Wada-san do unreasonable things. (laughs) I haven't really heard if the game director has been involved in concerts thus far. Because of that, I thought it was a blessed performance.

 

 

--Out of all the KH music, is there a song that is particularly well-suited to brass band?

 

W: When you’re facing the band and they play “Hand in Hand”, it’s an interesting arrangement. Well, if the conductor’s not facing the band, the concert can’t go on in the first place, of course. (laughs)

 

S: But even without an acoustic guitar or a chorus in the make-up [on stage], I think that’s Wada-san’s magic. (laughs)

 

 

--While Shimomura-san was on stage, you said that you had been Wada-san's fan since your days as a student. Can you think of what charms you again and again?

 

S: His songs are really warm! You hear a song once and can't forget it, and it's amazing how his songs make you want to listen to them again, and also mysterious.

 

W: Thank you. To hear that from the maestro is embarrassing. (laughs)

 

S: It was my ‘confession time’ on stage. And Wada-san would say something like that (laughs).

 

 

--On the other hand, Wada-san, what kind of impression do you have of Shimomura-san's compositions?

 

W: Her songs are full of character, and I think it's amazing that she has her own perspective of the world. When I look at Kingdom Hearts, I can't talk about it without bringing up Shimomura-san. There are ingredients to the arrangements I make, which are needed to “cook” up creations. In other words, if the ingredients aren't good, no matter how hard I work, I can't create something good. On that point, Shimomura-san really creates ingredients that stand out above the rest.

 

S: Thank you very much. That gives me confidence to go out and live from tomorrow onward. (laughs)

 

 

--Out of all of Shimomura-san's compositions, are there any that have influence from Wada-san?

 

S: Actually, I don't really deeply analyze any composer's amazing music, including Wada-san's. I think there are definitely parts that subconsciously have influence, though. But please don’t think I’m “under the influence” when I write! (laughs)

 

 

--As for the players in the band, how do you think they felt about the brass band arrangements of KH music?

 

W: This concert was physically demanding, the emotions I wanted to express went beyond the music and the players, but it was fun making music together.

Certainly, when arranging many of the songs for brass band, there was the thought of “Is this really that kind of song?!” and I think the players had the same reaction, which probably wasn’t a good stimulus.

 

S: They said ‘A violin or saxophone should be playing things like this’. It was difficult.

 

 

--What did you think of the mood during the encore?

 

S: ‘Even a dead tree livens up the landscape’, wouldn’t you say? (laughs) [Translator note: This phrase is commonly used when someone wants to downplay their performance] I was allowed to play piano, and it brought back wonderful memories. Since Wada-san was kind enough to give even me an arrangement, I’ll do my best not to make any mistakes next time.

 

--Please give us your outlooks and any enthusiasm about this that you might have about the World Tour and the KH 15th Anniversary.

 

S: I've been doing this job for a long time, but I've never taken part in a long series like this before, so to me, Kingdom Hearts is a very special title. I hope to create songs that many people will enjoy and that I will not betray their expectations for the coming shows.

 

For the World Tour, I think Wada-san wants to take requests, and I’m worried we’ll cry at the first rehearsal all over again. (laughs) Since I think there will be a different feel at each performance, please keep coming and listening to us, please keep playing the games, even though I don’t know the release date please buy the soundtrack, and please enjoy the world of KH.

 

 

 

 

What songs are you hoping will be on the song list for the world tour? Let us know in the comments!

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Glad to read the folks were having fun! I would be possibly crying at those parts too. It's this type of music I would listen to over and over, without me getting tired of it! :) 

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You know something?  This interview made me smile so much, because you could tell by Shimomura and Wada's words that they were deeply immersed with full passion from every second of the concert to its conclusion!  They put their all into their music, and in the end, that's something all musicians do, so that they can resonate with the audience!  I can only begin to imagine how amazing the performance must have been, and I would've probably had goosebumps and cried as well! Gahhh, KH music is so beautiful! :')

 

Thank you for this article, Sora'spromise! :D

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This is good and all but can you please play the Kh3 dearly beloved next tim?

 

Patience, it'll come in due time.

 

Regardless, glad to know that Shimomura is just as attached to Kingdom Hearts as we are and that she feels just as personal about it as Tetsuya Nomura does!

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Patience, it'll come in due time.

 

Regardless, glad to know that Shimomura is just as attached to Kingdom Hearts as we are and that she feels just as personal about it as Tetsuya Nomura does!

I know its just that hearing all these fan-made kh3 dearly beloved music like samyungofficial (something like that) makes me want to play kingdom hearts 3 even more and hear some of its music.

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