- Dengeki & Famitsu interview Yoko Shimomura and Kaoru Wada following Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath- for KH13
—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.