Joe Hisaishi On Film And Music

Are you a fan of film music? Do you recognize the movie in an instant on the opening notes? And do you remember growing up enjoying the nostalgia of films like My Neighbour Totoro” (1998) or “Spirited Away” (2001)?


Joe Hisaishi shares the “Three Keys” that led him to produce great Music – It is about Meeting the right people, drawing inspiration, and the power of music and film.

The Rock Star

The man behind these amazing film music composed ten feature films for Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli and and Film Director Kitano Takeshi. His compositions are not only huge in Japan but around the world. As such, it is common for two concert performances to turn into three to meet the raving demands of those could not get tickets in time. Just recently on the 24th April 2015, Joe Hisaishi was chosen to opened the Far East Festival in Udine, Italy. The Far East Festival is Europe’s biggest showcase of genre and mainstream Asian cinema. Tickets was sold out in less than a week!

To help you relive Joe Hisaishi’s film music, lets watch Joe Hisaishi in “Studio Ghibli’s 25 Years Concert,” commemorating the 25 years of musical collaboration between composer Joe Hisaishi and film maker Hayao Miyazaki.

Meeting the Right Person

Joe Hisaishi – born Mamoru Fujisawa – in Nagano Japan took up the violin at the age of five. As his music career progressed, he fell under the spell of acclaimed Japanese electronic outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra, who boasts members such as renowned composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Hisaishi’s minimalist and sometimes experimental style was greatly influenced by the Yellow Magic Orchestra and it evolved during the 1970s and expanded into orchestral works.

In the year 1981 Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki was looking for a composer to score his film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). A friend recommended Joe Hisaishi to Studio Ghibli’s Miyazaki. Through this recommendation, the two became great friends and worked together on many projects. This big break led to Joe Hisaishi’s overwhelming success as a composer of film scores.


In an interview, Joe Hisaishi said “My inspiration for my symphony came from various sources in all different kinds of music. I wanted to blend western orchestration with East Asian influences, and strangely enough I found this sort of blend in the score of an animated television series. Avatar: The Last Airbender was a series on the children’s television network Nickelodeon about a world with four nations: Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire. These nations try to live in equilibrium as the Fire nation expands to gain global supremacy”.


Hisaishi has been enamored by the sound of the Taiko drums ever since he went to Wesleyan University, and he found this symphony the perfect forum to use them. The score for the animated television show combines Taiko drums and East Asian instruments with western orchestration, and this inspired the style and instrumentation of his piece.

The Miyazaki films also inspired “Elemental” themes because the films always exalt nature. The melodies and harmonies that Hisaishi uses to accompany these images as well as his use of minimalism in his Kitano film scores inspired much of the melodic and harmonic style of his symphony and has very much been a part of his overall composition style.

Hisaishi also drew great amounts of inspiration from the many great composers of the Romantic era, twentieth and twenty-first century; Beethoven, Berlioz, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Wagner, Phillip Glass, John Williams and Danny Elfman.

Film And Music

Joe Hisaishi has been received around the world in a manner usually reserved for rock stars. Hisaishi believes that the reason his music now spans more than three decades and has travelled so far is due to the two languages of music and cinema cross all cultural boundaries.


The line between film scores and concert works have always been blurred to him, for he is a very visual composer and often attribute images to what he writes and what he hears. This is why he decided to use nature as the fundamental theme of his symphony.

“This is a rare thing, everywhere you go in the world, people share these two things (music and film) and can relate to them.” ー Joe Hisaishi

Joe Hisaishi’s story has inspired many to craft out their own journey to success. Hisaishi did not shun from his own individuality, but embraced it with open arms. He blended western orchestration with East Asian influences while also drawing musical inspiration from the composers from the Romantic era. His individuality and creativity has taught us to have faith and believe in our pursuits – not by walking in the footprints of others, but by crafting our own distinct path.

In Singapore, Conductor Joshua Tan and the SSO once again brings you the best of Joe Hisaishi at a not-to-be-missed concert at the Esplanade. Reminisce and look back on fond childhood memories while listening to music from Studio Ghibli’s acclaimed animation films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service and more… Catch the SSO Pops Concert: My Neighbor Totori – The Best of Joe Hisaishi this coming August 2015! Click here to get your tickets now!

gramercy-admin, Gramercy Talks provides you an insider’s guide to classical music, operas, and musicals in Singapore. We are here to provide you with good musical related content and updates while promoting creativity and innovation through music and the arts.
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