Yoko Kanno and the modern soundtrack

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Feb 25 2011, 4:12

Currently listening to 菅野よう子's soundtrack to Wolf's Rain. I've heard her stuff for Cowboy Bebop, a bit - and knew I liked it because of Tank! I knew she combined lots of different styles for her soundtracking: when I heard the Bebop soundtrack I remember thinking it a bit of a mess, style-wise - even though I admired what she was trying to do. After all, I'm a polystylist myself. "Polystylist"? also a music snob possibly.

But she is seriously amazing. Her music is not diverse for the sake of being diverse. It is top quality music. There are moments of true excellence on this album. Of course the whole album is not brilliant from start to finish. The way I see soundtracks, they are meant to accompany images, and that is the reason they are composed. If the music doesn't work on its own, you can't condemn it as bad music UNTIL you have considered whether it fits its original purpose. Of course, it's possible that some of it IS 'bad music'. I haven't seen the anime 'Wolf's Rain' yet, so I can't comment.

If soundtrack music does work when separated from its film accompaniment, this usually sets it apart as really good music. I think soundtrack music is some of the most evocative music around - which is odd, as you would imagine that the images do enough evoking of their own. Music traditionally has worked fine on its own, too. So why does the moving image bring out great music?
I think it's also connected to the musical period we live in. Film itself has only been around a little over 100 years, whereas music has been around much longer. I think that gives soundtrackers much more to choose from, style-wise... there are other reasons too.... technology means we can hear music from all periods of history, and from all parts of the globe - once an impossible concept.

And getting back to Wolf's Rain, that's another notable aspect. For this album there were recording sessions all over the world: in Poland (with a classical orchestra), Brazil (with the Brazilian singer Joyce singing in Portugese), in Japan (chiefly for the instrumental tracks), in America (Steve Conte singing in a rock-oriented style) and in Italy (Ilaria Graziano singing in French). It seems to have been a truly international effort with many excellent musicians involved. And the styles that Kanno has written in are a testament to her flexibility and genius as a composer. She's awesome!

To summarise, I'm enjoying it.

Even the somewhat hippie track "run, wolf warrior, run" has a certain attraction.... somehow the lyrics for many of the songs are very affecting and well chosen. (There were six different lyricists on the album.)

Like I said before, not a flawless, superb album throughout. But a wonderful discovery for me.

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