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Atrophy of video music

Yoshihiro Kanno
Composer and Professor at Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Intermedia Art and Science

In the silent film era there was a narrator and musician who would narrate a play and perform music in the movie theatre. After that, movies with soundtracks called talkies appeared, and until this day, "sound" was attached to images.

So, have you ever felt that music played casually in movies and TV dramas of today have increased? The role of music in these visual works must be extremely low-key. If the music is conspicuous, the work is a failure. There is a saying, "It is the power of the image that fills your eyes with tears, but it is the power of music that makes those tears fall at the end." It is a perfect way to put it, but to bring out that single tear at the end, it must be released in an unremarkable manner.

By the way, in recent times, just as it seems more tears are going to fall the music suddenly disappears. This isn't because the aim is for the modern dry expression and not to induce tears. It isn't even aimed at the expression that casts things aside and says "If you've come this far you should know."

The cause of this phenomenon is the "song selection" system for budget cuts. For proper video works, a composer will compose an original piece for only that film after detailed discussions with the director about expression. And because a top-class performer will record the music, it costs an extremely large amount of money. When I was in charge of music for the NHK long-running drama "Homuratatsu", I composed and recorded 10-15 songs every week. In the end there were more than 400 works. In this case, as long as you weren't an extremely poor writer, the song wouldn't finish before the tears started to flow. However, when there is only a small budget, there is the method where about 80 songs are composed as "fate music", "fights", "emotional scenes" and "meeting music", and the selection man will choose the music from those to suit a scene and add it in. Naturally, the length isn't quite right. In the current long-running drama "Taira no Kiyomori", there is, for the first time in a while, music that is worth listening to, but unfortunately the music just slides by and disappears. Because the music is edited well, it fits into the full scale. Editing like this to match the length is my weak point.

Music is an art of time and is made up of feelings. Editing this is like, take something that is made as "a bud appears, leaves appear, and flowers bloom" for example, where the bud appears, a flower suddenly blooms, and after the flower blooms a bud appears again. It is different to saying that it is surreal and fine. Normalizing the editing of feelings is a serious business. Doing it for budget and time cuts the musical emotions to shreds. However, this is not usually noticed. But the listener is not that stupid. I can't help but feel that the audience has turned their backs and started to walk away without even noticing.

"Homuratatsu" Soundtrack Collection 1

Collection 2

Yoshihiro Kanno
composer and professor at Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Intermedia Art and Science

University of Fine Arts and Music with the Master's Degree in 1980.In 1979, he won the Prince Pierre of Monaco Musical Composition Award for his "String Quartet". In 1994, his "Les Temps des Miroirs--L'Horizontale du Vent" for ryuteki, sho, and electronic music became the recommended work of International Music Council sponsored by UNESCO.
Kanno's compositions are founded on three genres--the Western orchestral music, the Japanese traditional instruments, and the computer music. Employing the various elements freely and unboundedly, he has composed a number of pieces based on Japanese idioms and traditions.