Akira Miyagawa X Tomohiro Yoshida:
Yamato Music Talk

From the Yamato 2199 Concert 2015 program book, February 2015

Composer Akira Miyagawa followed in the footsteps of his father Hiroshi Miyagawa to create the music of Space Battleship Yamato 2199, and sound director Tomohiro Yoshida is a self-proclaimed Yamato fan. Here these two, who both worked on the score, talk about the music of both Yamato and this concert.

(Interviewer: Osamu Kobayashi)

Akira Miyagawa

Born in Tokyo, February 18, 1961. After graduating from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, he took charge of show music for the Shiki Theater Company and Tokyo Disneyland. Since then, he has composed for many musicals such as Mikokumaru, Hamlet, and Miracle. In 2004 he released the big hit Matsuken Samba II. Other than his performance activities, he currently serves as music director of the Osaka City Orchestra and Akira Miyagawa & Ensemble Vega, with whom he does regular concerts.

His BGM activities include writing music for Little Angel of the great plains Bushbaby (1992) and Mazinger Edition Z: The Impact! (2009). [See some of his other anime credits here.]

Tomohiro Yoshida

Born in Tokyo, 1968. Animation production company West Cape Corporation, sound production company Arts Pro, Freelance sound director for music halls. Some of his other major works are Romeo and Juliet (2007), Strike Witches (2008), Yamato Resurrection (2009) and Locodol (2014). [See a longer list of credits here.]

His first work for West Cape Corporation was to write commentary for music selections in the Space Battleship Yamato Eternal Edition series from Columbia Entertainment.

Interviewer: First, what can you tell us about this concert?

Miyagawa: Three years ago, the Yamato Orchestra Big Ceremony 2012 was held in the same venue, the Maihama Amphitheater, mainly with wind instruments. But this time, the purpose is to relive the world of the movie with a musical soundtrack played by a live orchestra. Since it’s already well-established that it’s popular to perform Yamato music with a brass band, I think doing the previous one with wind instruments was interesting. But performers can get tired, and no sound can come out if they’re not blowing, so I did my talks during the intervals. (Laughs) Therefore, it became quite long in terms of time.

However, this time I thought the opinion would be that it doesn’t seem like Yamato music if it doesn’t contain the expected strings instruments, so I decided to make it a so-called symphonic concert with a symphony orchestra gathering together woodwinds, percussion, and strings. In that way, instruments of different origins and birthplaces mix their sound with each other and a symphony orchestra is formed out of that.

But even if I say orchestra, there are variations on that. For example, an orchestra could operate like the NHK Symphony Orchestra, or it could also be a group of musicians who gather to play or record a performance in a studio. Because there’s no proper name for this, it is called a studio orchestra. This concert is performed by a studio orchestra.

Interviewer: The same orchestra can sound pretty different.

Miyagawa: The biggest difference is how it’s organized. A classical concert is organized with roughly 60 or 80 people, which is too many for a studio orchestra. But that’s not quite what I mean. Of course, it wasn’t organized like that in the case of Yamato in the past, either. For example, there were two contra bass players in the Yamato orchestra. But the sound is constructed by how the microphone is positioned to make good use of the acoustics of the studio. In terms of musical instruments, the biggest difference from a classical orchestra is the use of drums and electric bass.

Slogan under the logo reads: A new orchestra sound
woven from light, sound and picture is here!!

Yoshida: To tell the truth, this is actually the fourth symphonic concert for Yamato. Hiroshi Miyagawa lead the first one at the beginning of summer 1978, performed by the New Japan Philharmonic, Nobuo Hara, and Sharp & Flats. It toured in five big cities, finishing at the Shinjuku Koma Theater. The next one was performed after Final Yamato with Kentaro Haneda leading the NHK Symphony Orchestra. Then there was the 2012 Big Ceremony, and now this.

(Translator’s note: there were other concerts in 1980 and 1983, but these were more akin to variety shows with voice performances and songs along with music. See the whole history of Yamato concerts here.)

Interviewer: That’s surprisingly few.

Yoshida: That’s right. Among those, I think this is closest to the flavor of the first one, because of the combination of orchestra and band. Since it returns to the form of the starting point forty years ago, I think it will be filled with deep emotion.

Interviewer: This concert is formed of Part 1 (A Voyage to Remember) and Part 2 (Ark of the Stars). Was the format of reliving 2199 through music your suggestion, Mr. Yoshida?

Yoshida: No, it happened naturally while everyone talked. A lot of pieces were born in the last three years, so we decided to put a break there. The first half, A Voyage to Remember, generally uses music from the TV series because the number of pieces is so large. We thought about using the second part to balance it.

Interviewer: Is it unusual for a sound director to be involved in a concert?

Yoshida: That’s right. But if anything, I’m here more as a fan of Yamato. It must be done by someone with a feel for it. It’s better if it follows the traditional musical flow of the past Yamato. I wanted to cherish it.

Interviewer: To go into some of the backstory, I’d like to ask you about the origins of the Yamato 2199 compositions.

Miyagawa: When recording for the TV series, some of the work was to reproduce the original pieces, and some of it was to write new motifs. Because the work is itself a remake, the music couldn’t be too adventurous. That’s why the music has a feeling of, “now you behave yourself.” (Laughs) But after that it could expand, so Ark of the Stars was made with the feeling of “could we do this?” It has a big white canvas to write on.

Interviewer: Mr. Yoshida, did you also feel this way about the music menu?

Yoshida: This goes back a little, but when the 2199 music was first ordered, my initial thought was, “what is Space Battleship Yamato?” What came out of that was the decision that it wouldn’t be Yamato without the music of Hiroshi Miyagawa. Both Director Izubuchi and I shared the feeling that the music was, first and foremost, the point of origin. And while Akira Miyagawa recreated the original 73 tracks, we would get him to make some new ones.

When I read the scripts, I found that it digs very deeply into the depiction of the Garmillas side this time, and at first I thought we would need a large number of tracks to follow it. With that, plus the intention of the director, I thought specifically about what kind of music we would need. And when the new scores were completed, wonderful melodies such as Ambition were born.

Interviewer: What sort of orders were there for the new pieces?

Miyagawa: The preliminary step was a meeting with Director Izubuchi when he told me about the emotions. He asked me for some specific samples. I think Mr. Yoshida came up with a menu when he heard that, and when we talked about how the music would sound, he would say, “this kind of feeling with this sort of timing.” I had the challenge of how to make it in that form. I think Mr. Yoshida has good standards, so I put my full confidence in him. And we had a lot of exchanges where we’d say “how about this?”

He’d come to my workshop in the evening and talk via headphones. I didn’t know very many sound directors, but it’s unusual for a composer and a sound director to play catch-ball like that, isn’t it? Usually I would just send the music to the client and it often ended with them saying, “That works, thanks.” But with 2199 it was different. Because Mr. Yoshida is the sound director, it felt like I was working while trusting his ear. Maybe it’s because he’s been doing it ’til now, or possibly because he can’t help but do Yamato this way.

Yoshida: Before we started, I had to come to grips with a work with 73 tracks plus new pieces. At first we were lost with all the different things to do, but gradually we narrowed our focus to the vital ones. It’s not like all 73 tracks are vital. That was the assessment that formed. I think that was concentrated into the music of Ark of the Stars.

Miyagawa: I think the music of Ark of the Stars was the culmination of our work. It can be said that the TV series, in other words the music of A Voyage to Remember, was the necessary step to produce it. So the first part of this concert is basically about learning and the second part is about application.

Interviewer: From among these songs, did Mr. Yoshida select those used in the concert, since he was in charge of it…?

Yoshida: That’s right. But there was a lot of music we couldn’t leave out, so it was difficult. I had to choose, though. Did I have to be conscious of how it synchronized with the story, or separate it clearly into a Yamato block and a Garmillas block?

Miyagawa: Speaking of synchronizing the story and music, I think it went really well in the last part of Ark of the Stars. Despite not hitting you in the face with it saying “Now it’s time to be serious!”, it was perfectly adapted to the mood without being overly sentimental. It felt like all the pieces functioned organically without any waste. The ending suite had just the right feeling. Everyone on the staff was excited, too. It wasn’t the sort of thing you could do just by saying “I’ll do it this way.” I wonder if it’s something that had to happen naturally.

Yoshida: You’d think it was natural at first, but it’s somewhat intentional and also had to be done fairly aggressively. Bringing in the triumphant BGM after the suspense, when you do it in such an orthodox way, even if you intentionally try to do something different, it makes the drama feel less substantial.

Miyagawa: In the last part, there’s about three minutes of “armageddon” music after a long battle scene that goes for more than ten minutes, and it ends with The Ark returns to the sea of stars. It’s a fanfare with a victory shout. But if it ended there, it wouldn’t seem like a Yamato ending.

So I had to ask myself, what’s always expected in such a scene with Yamato? After all, Yamato was where “reveling in the afterglow” came from in anime. I think it was established with The Scarlet Scarf. But in Ark of the Stars, Separation (formally titled Muss i denn) becomes the “afterglow.” I thought it worked really well.

Akira Miyagawa: “While you enjoy the music,
I also want you to see the lively expressions
of the musicians.”

Interviewer: I thought the ending theme song Great Harmony also worked wonderfully. It doesn’t feel strange at all to continue into a vocal song.

Miyagawa: It wouldn’t feel strange to end with Separation, either. But we thought we would try something different. Do you think it could have ended with Separation?

Yoshida: I think it could be possible.

Interviewer: While Separation is an insert song, the lyrics are an important motif of the work. I think that’s the first time such a thing was done in the series.

Miyagawa: That’s right. I wonder if it could be done a second time.

Interviewer: After Separation, there’s the epilogue scene with Hijikata and Saito, and then Great Harmony. Thanks to this composition, I think the ending theme song rises even higher.

Miyagawa: It was really good.

Yoshida: There was also the idea of letting the ending theme song run from the epilogue part. That would have made it a long intro.

Interviewer: After we hear the line “It’s Yamato” in the film, the screen goes dark and the ending goes from there, so a wave of new feeling rushes in and you feel shaken, don’t you?

Miyagawa: It’s not just confined to that scene, the staff all contribute from their positions to bring out the ship called Yamato. That’s how I feel about it. I think in that sense, it becomes composite art. Because the movie works properly like that, the decision came naturally to make it part of the concert menu. You could say it naturally worked backward from there. The ending of part 1 is still “Remembrance,” after all.

Interviewer: And it becomes one story.

Miyagawa: It’s like a single song over two hours.

Interviewer: The first piece on the menu is Galactic Route. That isn’t music from the original work.

Miyagawa: I think there’s a little trap you can fall into with soundtrack music, which is that it can be a bit unsatisfying if it is only music. You want some sound effects or dialogue. In order to avoid that, and start with something that invites the audience into the dreamland called a concert, you bring a song into the beginning. I wondered if we could do something other than Outer Space Spreading into Infinity. Instead of that, we used a marching style song for when Yukikaze plunged into the enemy, which was a beautiful image, and I think it has become a new image for Yamato from now on.

Everyone is in this together, old fans and new fans alike, and it’s a message about starting on a fresh trip, isn’t it? The role of a prelude is to bring the audience together in that way. None of the staff objected to bringing this song in at the beginning. It’s good, isn’t it? When you reflect on it, it feels right and makes sense.

Tomohiro Yoshida: “I feel like I participated in
Yamato as a single fan rather than as
a sound director.”

Interviewer: What point are you most looking forward to, Mr. Yoshida?

Yoshida: The respective flow of the endings for both part 1 and part 2. In part 1 Presidential Office – Dying Hope flows into Ambition, and in part 2 Decisive Battle flows into Great Harmony. Those are the pieces that flowed through both the TV series and the movie, and they are reproduced with real music before your eyes.

Interviewer: Mr. Miyagawa, you said before that you didn’t use a synthesizer for the Ark of the Stars music. Is it the same for this concert?

Miyagawa: Let me correct that here, please. In a past Yamatalk, I declared that I wasn’t using synth for the music, but what I meant was that I wouldn’t use it in the ending theme, Great Harmony. Because of Great Harmony‘s melody you’d think I would use a synth, but I didn’t. That’s what I meant, but somehow I ended up saying I wouldn’t use it in the music.

So if you were to ask me where it was used, the Hammond Organ can make a pipe organ sound. Electric guitar and keyboard come in at a couple of places in the concert, too. The goal is to reproduce the arrangement at the time of recording as much as possible, so we have the same number of brass and woodwind instruments, and a synth. Because this amphitheater is bigger than a studio performance, they’re amplified with a mic.

So although this is a concert, I want you to see the image of the gathered musicians performing with pride, and I think it should have the same character as a recital. Chances to bring all the musicians together like this for a recording are decreasing. One result of developing technology is that if you can’t get everyone in at once, we can record each performance separately and synthesize them later. It’s made the world more convenient, but at the same time it’s fraught with the danger of becoming something cheap.

Now it’s a luxury to get a large number of people together to record a performance, and I think there are good luxuries and bad luxuries, but this is a good one. There’s a certain sound that can only be made when a lot of people gather together. Besides, Yamato made that part much more important, so this concert is like a recital for 2,000 guests.

There are many people who say that Yamato was the first record they ever bought. Many others have said that Yamato was the first time they heard an orchestra. Some became classical fans from there. I think there are a lot of anime fans who haven’t heard a raw orchestra before now, and I think this concert is a wonderful chance for them to see how much fun it is. I’ll be happy if they take the chance to jump over the fence.

And in addition to the splendor of the sound, I want you to see the lively expressions of the musicians.

Yoshida: What I think is amazing about the studio musicians is how they get handed their parts of the music right there, and then they just go for it and make the whole thing work. They don’t do much practice over time, and they don’t know who will come in on other parts. Some of them might be meeting for the first time. So I think various good things happen to cause a chemical reaction. It’s one of the pleasures of making soundtrack music, and I hope everyone who comes to the concert can experience that, too.

Miyagawa: When this concert ends, the next thing that ought to happen is a Symphonic Suite. To tell the truth, while I was thinking about the concert menu, the clue had been there all along. The staff was also thinking in that direction, no doubt. For example, isn’t it like a Symphonic Suite when you bring three pieces together? I think I could make it with that feeling. Isn’t that the origin of the Symphonic Suite? There’s no Symphonic Suite for 2199 yet, but there have been a lot of requests.

With as much original music as we’re making, I can’t say that a second Symphonic Suite won’t end up being extracted from it.(Laughs) I definitely want to make a Symphonic Suite Yamato 2199 for our generation.

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

Continue to an essay from the Concert 2015 program book: The World of Yamato 2199 Music

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *