The Japanese music store Mora, recently sat down with Kingdom Hearts music composer Yoko Shimomura and arranger Kaoru Wada and discussed the Kingdom Hearts Concert - First Breath - tours in 2016 They also share their experiences of rearranging Kingdom Hearts music for brass and wind orchestras. Thanks to KH13 news team members Aquaberry, Mio-chan, Dengojin, Ryxekoh and Lady Aleister for their translations.
Comic panel translation:
Wada: Since there’s a whole world of feeling in Ms. Shimomura’s music, we can feel the same excitement through the brass band!
Shimomura: Whatever the song the brass band played they sure knew how to honored it with the arrangement. I was so surprised!
Shimomura: And because we were recording in the hall in high resolution we could feel the atmosphere and precision coming out of it.
Wada: I wish middle and high-schoolers doing brass band listen to good sound.
Mora: Today I would like to talk about various thing related to the release of Kingdom Hearts Concert - First Breath -. What do you think of the wind instruments solo concerts composition of the first Kingdom Hearts game that was released last year?
Shimomura: It's a first time with wind instruments so it was fresh.
Mora: Indeed, because usually the orchestrals are made first.
Shimomura: I'm not really good at it, but I was filled with emotion because the first one we did was in Osaka, my home town.
Wada: It's true, we both were experienced with wind instruments but the fact of doing it first with wind instrument was a little surprising and fresh. (Laughs)
Shimomura: I'm sorry. (Laughs)
Wada: There are also some pressure on me as an arranger, but I was a beginner at wind instruments too so I was pleased and excited at the idea of getting close to people playing wind instruments.
Mora: We can feel that the music goes really well with wind instruments. How did the arrangement go?
Wada: Before we already did arrangement of music from Kingdom Hearts so I already understood her view of the world, so I wanted to reproduce that as much as I could. Anyhow, in Kingdom Hearts there are music with chorus and piano. But it was made so that the wind instruments had great impact and pressure even if there also was piano in the music to meet the musical view of Kingdom Hearts.
Shimomura: I remember the question Wada asked me, "What is harder? An orchestral arrangement or a wind instruments arrangement?" And I replied immediately that it was wind instruments. (Laughs)
Wada: In the case of orchestral arrangement, at first we imagined orchestral compositions, and we also recorded a lot of them. So I think that in comparison, the ones listening will directly understand the meaning of the reproduction. But while listening to wind instruments arrangements, at first the ones listening wonder, "There is no chorus and no string instruments, what happened to that song? So I had to make them enter the musical world without it being uncomfortable, so it was a lot of pressure.
Shimomura: Really? You didn't look under pressure at all! (Laughs)
Mora: Is there a music from the concert that left you a great impression? Like one that did justice to wind instruments?
Shimomura: To me it was "Destati", because it was based on chorus so I was thinking about what it would sound without chorus. It was also the first of the concert, so I was still at ease, but it did justice to wind instruments and was brilliant. It's weird to say that such a dark song was brilliant but it was strong, even without chorus, it was still "Destati", and it went so well with wind instruments that I was astonished.
Wada: The original was wonderful.
Shimomura: Jeez. What are you saying? (Laughs)
Wada: There wasn't so many song whose original carried that view. But on the contrary, it was difficult world of the song and voice into wind instruments. So I tried to link the feeling that the song had at his root, this feeling of solemnity and vigor, which was obviously conveyed through the chorus, to the wind instruments. We made the arrangement so that we put the power of wind instruments in the center. Were you pleased with it?
Shimomura: It was wonderful. Thank you.
Mora: I think there are several hundred music in the Kingdom Hearts series but how did you chose which one to arrange?
Shimomura: There was a vote at the time of the album for the 10th anniversary of Kingdom Hearts so we knew which ones were the most popular. So that's how we did our first choices. Then we chose depending on which song would sound good or bad with wind instruments and ones that would be used for a battle medley and for the world medley we chose those that were the closest to their world.
Mora: Indeed, there are a lot of popular songs.
Shimomura: For example, I thought the melody of "The Other Promise" couldn't be without string instruments but thinking about it with wind instruments actually sounded fresh and beautiful. Concerts with only wind instruments are also called Brass Bands and they are usually know for starting with a bang, gorgeous and gaudy song. I thought of this but I feel like brass band convey all kind of feeling such as tenderness and expressivity. We didn't just decided that it wouldn't fit right at the beginning, we did a lot of trial to have good result in which song to pick.
Wada: It was kind of like a pipe-organ.
Shimomura: Yes, exactly.
Wada: With songs such as "The Other Promise", we used that kind of image. With string instruments it held a different feeling, and was more solemn. With wind instruments the hardest part is with weak instruments. With string instruments you can hear weak sounds but with wind ones you can't. So to say the opposite, instead of going for the pipe-organ approach, we used a different approach, we thought that we couldn't do it if used the same vector for each song.
Shimomura: Piano concerto are quite different compared to brass bands.
Wada: Yes indeed.
Shimomura: Although there are a few brass band that include piano.
Wada: There aren't a lot of songs that have piano as the main instruments accompanied with wind instruments. (Laughs)
Shimomura: Sorry (Laughs)
Wada: Don't worry (Laugh). It feels like developing a new repertory.
Mora: It's difficult to balance the volume of the music.
Wada: Yes indeed. Wind instruments are specialize in loud sounds. So the piano end up being covered by that sound. But these arrangement didn't feel uncomfortable when listened from the stage. Thanks to the effort of the Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra at Osaka and Nagoya and the Sienna Wind Orchestra in Tokyo, we managed to have a good balance. So we made so that there was a good reverberation to allow the piano to stand out.
Mora: You already arranged Shimomura's music but while doing arrangement and concert of her songs again tell us frankly what makes the charm of her music?
Wada: You ask me that in from of her. (Laughs) After we decided to make brass band concerts, we already did orchestral ones but I think it's obviously the power and the depth of that power of expression that the melody holds. I think that's what makes the most of its charm. Even if we switched from orchestral to wind instruments, other than that, for example, with chorus ensemble and piano solo, Shimomura’s view of the world she has is well established and doesn't change. Even in simple composition there are complex parts. We did a lot of arrangement for recording or concerts but I was still thinking what would be the best part. So during these years I was conjecturing which way was the best way to go to make the best of her songs. The original view of Shimomura on Kingdom Hearts is wonderful, so no matter which song I had to work on, it was worth it.
Shimomura: Thank you, it’s an honor. Being praised makes me feel like a little kid being encouraged.
Wada: As for classic arrangement, unlike string instruments, we die if we can't take a breath. Because Shimomura's music are sometimes making the performers work too much.
Shimomura: Sorry, that's how game music is. (Laughs)
Wada: String instruments are still okay. I did so much musical performance that my arms hurt. But with wind instruments I would be dead. (Laughs) It's hard to take this into consideration, we do this while we are on stage: at the end everyone is only saying, "Let's hold on! It's almost over. Keep going!" I too composed to my limits, I think it's that meaning, that power of life and death that is conveyed by wind instruments.
Shimomura: Though the brass band concert will be called BRA★BRA FF (Final Fantasy Series’ Brass Band Concert known as the “BRA BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO”), in the middle of the wooden pipe ensemble and the saxophone performance, the brass pipe player can take a break, which basically will not run like that this time. Regardless we have to go through until the end of the set list. Topics such as the impossibleness of keep on continuing ‘the boss medley’ in the end has been discussed before as well.
Wada: Is it okay if we put in a small talk before this song? (laughs).
Mora: It seems like regarding the set list it’s consistently performed with full composition.
Shimomura: I think it’s enough.
Wada: Lastly, to follow up……
Shimomura: I’m thinking of doing the best as I talked to Wada-san earlier.
Wada: Shion (Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra) and Siena (Siena Wind Orchestra) have many young members, including a lot of people who like the game that is actually being played, and because I actually like what I am doing, no matter how hard it is I feel like doing my best with a sense of solidarity towards my team.
Shimomura: While relaxing in the dressing room, I got asked “Is it okay if i ask for a signature and a picture?” (laughs). I feel honored.
Mora: Seems like it’s one of the fans (laughs)
Wada: The fact that composers like Shimomura-san to come to the orchestra and the brass concert is a rare occasion. In classical music there are a lot of people who have already died. Shimomura-san who performed in the encore is also presence with the composers, which can become an encouragement and a fortune for the performers since things like that are not quite common thing to witness.
Mora: Does Shimomura-san also play piano on CDs?
Shimomura: I don’t really play on CDs. There’s basically no time to put in the songs I play on concert’s encore to the CD. At some point, this encore song will be performed somewhere else, so please look forward to it. It would be a good thing if at that time my piano skills are better (laughs).
Mora: I will be looking forward to it!
Mora: Though this time’s high resolution is distributed, please tell me about your position on hearing a brass band in high resolution.
Shimomura: I am recording at the Hall this time, I think that this sound space and the feeling in the air makes the music more rich. If you listen to high resolution songs and songs that are not so, the high resolution songs seem so much more precise. It seems that the atmosphere will greatly affect the feeling of the music. I think that the music sounds fine in a rich place.
Wada: Many junior high, high school, and university students playing music, along with many of those in their teens and 20's do not buy CDs, but many people do listen to the songs they want to on their smartphone by downloading them. In that sense, I think that it would be nice if the teenagers and those practicing instruments listen to music with good sound quality and this is where good sound quality will spread for young people as well.
Mora: I’ll change the topic for a bit, because the previous released CD “Piano Collections Kingdom Hearts and Piano Collections Kingdom Hearts/Battle & Field is also distributed by Mora, I’m hoping more to talk about the creating of piano collection again.
Shimomura: I would like to do the concert again. If you don’t say something like “I want to put out the third piece” it’s not going to come true. (laughs)
Mora: Piano is not really a thing for concerts too right?
Shimomura: That’s right. Though I did a something like a promotional mini concert, I have not yet had a proper held concert. Because the piano collection’s score sheet was also being sold there’s a lot of people playing the songs, since there’s also people who has fully comprehended the song sheet, I am very grateful that those people spend so much time on it. since I am happy about you guys listening, and playing to the songs, it would be great, if I had the chance that is, I would like to create a concert regarding the third piece first, since I started the distribution with great effort, I think it would be great if people who had not heard to my piece could come.
Mora: The score sheet seems fairly difficult though.
Shimomura: It is quite difficult. Kameoka-san’s (the arranger, Natsuhi Kameoka) arrangement is also quite difficult, but it is way more difficult in those days. (laughs) Also I would like to mention that the pianist of the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra - World Tour -, Benny (Benyamin Nus) surprised me with his smooth fingers in the Ōsaka performance.
Mora: I think that both the brass band and the orchestra tour were a great success, but are there any plans for any future performances?
Shimomura: I can’t really say specifically, new songs would be added if there’s another chance. I think it would be great when I can when I can announce Kingdom Hearts III’s song to a certain extent. Since they also play videos in the orchestra, it would be difficult; I would like to try an orchestra in a venue with only using plain sounds without using any PAs. Since it was really great with only sounds in the brass band tour. Also, since the piano collection is out, I also want to do a piano concert. Other things I want to do is to make a music box arrangements. Because Kingdom Hearts is unlikely to tend to head towards the grand entrance, I'd like to do a compact arrangement of music boxes and piano trio as well.
The Kingdom Hearts Orchestra - First Breath - concerts were only in Japan and played in Tokyo and Osaka in 2016. Yoko Shimomura recently confirmed that music production for Kingdom Hearts III will begin after the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra - World Tour - concerts end.
What do you think of Yoko Shimomura’s and Kaoru Wada’s thoughts on the concerts? Did you guys go to Japan for the live experience or simply imported the album? Let us know in the comments below.