Review #95: (Soundtrack) Joe Hisaishi – Spirited Away

Film – Spirited Away (2001)
Composer – Joe Hisaishi

Spirited Away is a Japanese Anime movie from Studio Ghibli. The film was written and directed by the brilliant Hayao Miyazaki, known for other Ghibli films Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro. Spirited Away is basically a coming of age story, focusing on a young girl ‘Sen’ and the abandoned theme park her and her family visit whilst moving house. Studio Ghibli have had a long relationship with composer Joe Hisaishi and this film was their most perfect collaboration. Hisaishi seems to just understand how to write dramatic and peaceful music that matches Miyazaki’s artwork and storytelling perfectly.

From the get go with the song ‘One Summer’s Day’ the tone and style of this movie has been set. The piano is the main instrument, the orchestra (percussion, horns, strings) are there to back up the piano or come in at the more dramatic moments to create a larger sound. The tone these instruments portray throughout range mainly between suspense, wonder and awe, the three main themes i feel the movie touches upon. As mentioned piano is kind of the main instrument, however the styles that are played differ between each song, often slow ambient pieces, but then introducing more oriental melody and harmony to attach the set pieces and location to the music. This soundtrack feels more of a mixture between the straight ‘songs’ that can be listened to individually, such as ‘One Summer’s Day’ and ‘The Sixth Station’, and the pieces of music that are really attached to what is happening in the scene ‘A Road To Somewhere’, which is smart, creating memorable songs that can be listened to/purchased separately to the movie.

The music, the art and the story of Spirited Away are a near perfect collaboration of imagination and pure talent. The soundtrack includes pieces that make the listener what to go out, learn how to play piano and then learn those pieces, simply for their unique and peaceful sound.

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