In an interview conducted after the premiere of the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra -World of Tres- in Tokyo, Kingdom Hearts series composers Yoko Shimomura, Takeharu Ishimoto, and Tsuyoshi Sekito were asked about how it feels to work on live music for an orchestra. Among the topics covered, they talked about the creative process that goes into the Kingdom Hearts concert tours. They revealed that they experienced difficulties in choosing a setlist and arranging each track, ultimately settling on 77 tracks which represent the entire series and Kingdom Hearts III in particular. They also discussed what they found appealing in each others' musical styles, and expressed gratitude toward the fans for continuing to enjoy their concerts.
Following this interview, series director Tetsuya Nomura wrote a short comment, where he described the editing process for the concert's video footage and talked about his previous appearances at the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra performances. Here, Nomura noted that it's no longer a surprise when he appears. Hinting that he may no longer show up, he told fans to be eager about the next event.
What is your impression of having finished the Japan Tour (Tokyo) on the first day of the World Tour in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America?
Yoko Shimomura: Above the fact that the schedule was laborious, the combination of what I wanted to do and what Mr. Nomura (Mr. Tetsuya Nomura) wanted to do resulted in a tremendous amount of content, so I'm glad and relieved I could deliver a near perfect premiere.
Takeharu Ishimoto: I have done some recording in the past, but since it was my first time doing a full orchestra concert live, it’s like testing a new brush…… (laughs).
Shimomura: Let’s go with “I went up the stairs to adulthood” (laugh).
Ishimoto: I think doing music through concerts is its ultimate form. Shaking the atmosphere with musical instruments and voices, being able to listen to music like this is only possible at an event. I think it is very important how much impact we can leave and how we present something that’s worth the money to the public in front of us. It was a concert that could impress even myself.
Tsuyoshi Sekito: It was a great time to share the professional spirit of the conductor and performers to the public, I was very excited.
This concert lasted nearly 3 hours and had a setlist containing many medleys. What kind of concept did you choose?
Shimomura: I’m really bad at picking one option if there are many choices. So, for example, in the first half part that played tracks previous works in the series, I didn’t pick any song from a specific world, but rather generic tracks that often take place during the game. And on the contrary, during the second part in which play KHIII tracks, I immediately thought to include all the worlds’ songs. Moreover, I did not separate the field and battle themes, but put together each pair of songs from each world. I was careful to make you feel like you were experiencing the game.
What were your impressions about hearing a live performance in full orchestra?
Sekito: Right now, a large complex is being built in front of the company, seeing the progress of such a large-scale construction every day, I thought "wow", but what I want to say (laughs) is that when humans join forces, we can do great things. I also felt that during this the concert, it was the symbol of crystalized power from many great composers, arrangers, and performers.
Mr. Ishimoto, you mentioned in the brochure that the music from the world you worked on, "The Caribbean", was your favorite, but it was the first time you were in charge of the music in KHIII, how was it?
Ishimoto: I think that everyone has a strong impression of the music from the film, and for example, doesn’t it tend to be negative when a new actor plays the same role? So at first, I thought it was a tough job (laughs). However, I think that I could create a song that was worthwhile after turning that pressure into a motivational force, and becoming serious by saying, “No matter what is said, it will all be fine.”
When did you plan the “Kingdom Hearts Orchestra -World of Tres-”?
Shimomura: Before, we had a talk where I said that I want to do a concert centered on the music of KHIII after the release of the game, but I can’t say when it started moving in a concrete way (laughs). With a concert Tour of this scale, we had a fairly short preparation period to do so.
This time, various songs are played in medley, but how many songs are included?
Shimomura: We picked 77 tracks. Looking at the playlist, I was worried if we would be able to do it or not, and so we did……
Was the arrangement rather difficult to make?
Shimomura: Indeed. There was a problem of how to put it in that time length, since the approximate time for the concert was fixed, and we have been asked to “Cut 5 minutes somewhere please”, I think that the person who was put in charge for this purpose asked for a great deal of work.
Mr. Sekito and Ishimoto, about your own songs, did you have to respect a specific order like "I want you to arrange it this way"?
Ishimoto: I just leave it to the extent that I can say a few words back to what was presented.
Sekito: Same for me. It seems that the arrangement was a great deal of work, but the result was a very well-balanced and a wonderful one, as the Gummi Ship songs were made into long songs, whether they were in the wrong order or not.
Earlier, you said that you and Mr. Nomura put what you both wanted to do, what kind of thing specifically?
Shimomura: For the first part Mr. Nomura rather wanted to put a compilation of music originated from the previous works of the series, and KHIII songs for the second part, that was the proposed composition. I was okay with either the first or second part for the one focused on "KHIII", and past songs as medleys, with a few gaps between the new songs. In thinking like this, I wished to pull out a result like this to achieve what I want in Mr. Tetsuya’s plan.
Please tell us what you find appealing about each other’s music, Mrs. Shimomura, Mr. Ishimoto, and Mr. Sekito.
Shimomura: Mr. Sekito’s songs contain many elements. It feels like there is a lot of stuff moving in and out. It leaves an impression of something that is very elaborate. Many of the songs he’s in charge of are exciting, even battle themes are bright and cheer me up. I really love this kind of colorful songs made by Mr. Sekito.
Even at this concert, I thought that it would be good if Sekito-san's songs had an arrangement like that, but even if I didn't say anything, the arrangement would have ended up like this anyway (laughs). On the other hand, Mr. Ishimoto’s are straightforward and rocky. Those songs are snappy. Although the two play the same guitar, I feel that there is a contrast to Sekito’s, what they have in common is that their songs on both sides have sweet periods and epic parts. I felt that it was a great match for KHIII.
Sekito: Shimomura's songs have piano that's super cool and catchy. Now, on the one hand, catchy songs can be learned quickly, but then they also get boring fast, but Shimomura's songs are catchy and they don't bore me. For me, I think that's fine for other artist's music but because I want to study and become [her] rival, I'll listen until I'm bored and I'm worried I won't digest it, and Shimomura's songs just really don't get boring. I'm thinking "What does this mean???", all frustrated. Honestly, I've analyzed who knows how many of Shimomura's songs. Kingdom Hearts, of course, but also music from Front Mission and The Third Birthday and stuff.
Shimomura: Wha—? Scary! (laughs)
So is that for work?
Sekito: No, it's my hobby. (laughs) I thought “I am going to study”. There were just some small parts in Front Mission. I feel that Shimomura's music, in a pretty short time changed harmonies. That's what I don't get tired of; well, one of the big things. I've discovered all sorts of stuff on my own.
Mr. Ishimoto, what about you, sir?
Ishimoto: An artist generally has 'habits'*; I'm the same way. I feel that all sorts of "Shimomura-style" fans like those 'habits', so they go to see concerts again. With Final Fantasy XV she did something different; you might be surprised how many drawers she has [to pull things from].
(* t/n: the word he used here has some weird connotations. It's not just a habit, but a compulsion; this particular wording is associated with kleptomania.)
Lastly, I would like a word about the KH fans from each of you.
Sekito: [I think] The audience was really moved; I clearly heard the sniffling. And me, too; listening to successive KH series' songs' choruses and thick ensembles make the corner of my eyes burn. I'm happy to share this wonderful concert with all the fans out there, including KH3's fans.
Ishimoto: Music can't be expressed in words. For the things we can't say in sentences, we have music. For the full body feel of music, going to the concert hall for a live performance is best, I think.
Shimomura: When I first started work on KH, I didn't think there would be a sequel, let alone orchestral concerts for it. It's like a dream, it's still the most incredible feeling. At this concert, I noticed there were fans attending who had also been at the last concert; I feel like I cannot be thankful enough. There are a lot of fans out there who are doing what they want to do, responding [to the music] and giving back [to the performers]; there's a lot of energy there, and being able to realize that [exchange] in a concert is very joyful.*
(* - t/n this section is just...really difficult to translate, just like Ishimoto said in his response. As a musician myself, I completely understand her meaning, but so many of the words I put in aren't on the page. The give and take of energy in a concert between the audience and the performers is very intense, and that is the 'power' that is in the original text. I translated it as 'energy' since that's a more common English expression for this live concert experience.)
Shimomura: Here, without being boastful or flying off in ecstasy…well, I'd like to fly off for just a little while (laughs), but I feel like I don't want to betray the people who helped me and cheered me on by not making works of art again and just letting my head swell up. So from here on out, let's look forward to Kingdom Hearts games and music together!
Director: A message from Tetsuya Nomura
Well then, did the people who were here last time also attend this time?
I was there as well.
Without surprise each time I appear, I could feel a piercing atmosphere of “He will show up anyway”. Maybe I got used to it, I pushed back the schedule by talking too much. Per next time, I’ll refrain myself to show up on stage. I think I make them all feel like “Will he come, or not?”. If there is a next time, that is.
Well, back to the topic at hand. Actually, for the preparation of this concert, the editing started three weeks before the first performance, and the video editing a few days ago. And speaking about the shape the concert took, it is fair to say that synchronizing the pictures and the sound brought back a bunch of awful memories to the members of the orchestra. Nevertheless, it was a very moving concert, as it was perfectly performed alongside the video during the show.
If there is a next time, for those I came to up until now, and to those who couldn’t come, I hope you will make it to the next event.
Only this time, I might not come.
That will be all.
What did you think of this interview? Are you excited for the upcoming international performances of -World of Tres-? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!