Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Rescoring)

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The music of Laputa: Castle in the Sky was composed by Joe Hisaishi back in 1986. Hisaishi redid the music in 1999 for the English version of the film, Castle in the Sky. Disney had considered a theatrical release in the United States, and hence requested him to update and upgrade the music.

In an interview in Keyboard Magazine (the Japanese version) August 1999 issue, Hisaishi said the following:

"According to Disney's staff, foreigners (non-Japanese) feel uncomfortable if there is no music for more than 3 minutes (laughs). You see this in the Western movies, which have music throughout. Especially, it is the natural state for a (non-Japanese) animated film to have music all the time. However in the original Laputa, there is only one-hour worth of music in the 2 hour 4 minute movie. There are parts that do not have any music for 7 to 8 minutes. So, we decided to redo the music as (the existing soundtrack) will not be suitable for (the markets) outside of Japan.

"If we just add new music, it won't go well with the music made in 14 years ago. So we completely re-recorded everything. Of course, we can not demolish the melody of Laputa, so I changed the arrangement of it while keeping its integrity.

"The American way of putting music in a movie is basically very simple. They just match the music with the characters. For example, when the army shows up on screen, you hear the army's theme. The music explains the screen images--that is the point of Hollywood music. Until this time, I avoided such an approach, as I felt that it would make music dull, although I understand such an approach. But when I redid (the music of Laputa this way), I learned a lot.

"We do not have a concrete plan for the soundtrack (album) release yet, but (the completed soundtrack) is great. Miyazaki-San was also very pleased."

Production Diary

The following is an unofficial English translation of the production diary at Hisaishi's official home page, concerning Hisaishi's work on the music of Castle in the Sky.

© 1999 by Wondercity Inc.
Translated without permission for personal entertainment purpose only. This is not, by any means, an accurate word for word translation, and the translator is solely responsible for any mistranslation or misunderstanding.

[Only the part in the diary that is relevent to the Laputa recording was translated, and the translation of some of the technical terms about music may not be exactly accurate. The diary seems to be written by a person who works for Hisaishi.]

March 2, 1999

  • Meeting for the American version Laputa recording, which will start tomorrow. The important point [of the new recording] is to express America-ness, without losing the exquisite balance of the Miyazaki movie and Hisaishi music. For the past several days, Hisaishi-San has been absorbed listening to Hollywood movie soundtracks, studying the "point" to hit for Americans.

March 3

  • Recording of the American version Laputa. We've started the first piece. Do you remember the music at the beginning of the movie? Yes, the piece which was used in the scene where Dola clan attacked Goliath.[1] In the American version, this piece became really powerful. The following sessions should be interesting.

March 4

  • Continues the recording of the American version Laputa. We are still working on the first piece. That means... yes, the piece has been considerably extended. And it is really great, as it suits [the scene] very well. It was interesting to see the film with a different sense.

March 8

  • Laputa recording. Today, we worked on second and other pieces. The opening piece is already longer, and the depth[?] of sound is more than twice of the original! That also means we have more pieces of music than we originally expected. Hisaishi-San already has a complete image in his head, and ideas come to him one after another. Today, he easily finished three pieces. What a great guy!

March 9

  • Continues the recording. Before we started, we checked the finished part again. As anime is made of a vast number of cels, when we put music to it, we have to cue the timing down to a single "frame," which is shorter than second. It is a time-consuming work, so how you use time is important. With his long-time experience in movie music, Hisaishi-San does know the points. All of the staff members were impressed with his efficient way of working.

March 11

  • Laputa recording. Although we had a one day off, Hisaishi-San works on Laputa without missing a beat. He is now completely at home with 3st. [Studio 3?] of Wonderstaion, and keeps working in good mood. Currently, what concerns Hisaishi-San most is to create the sounds that can be accepted in a multi-ethnic country like the United States, while valuing the original material as well.

March 15

  • This is the "Laputa week" as we work in the studio from Monday to Friday. We have a very regular schedule for Laputa work, as we get in the studio around noon and finish around 10 pm. Hisahishi-San actually proposed such a schedule. He was concerned for the staff, as it is unhealthy and tiring to be in a dark studio for 10 hours a day. (Thank you, Hisaishi-San!! From all the staff members.) Thanks to it, the work is proceeding very well. Today, we finished the scenes from the one where Pazu plays the trumpet to the scene where the Dola clan come to find Sheeta. And the music in these scenes is splendid! I really want the fans to listen to it as soon as possible.

March 16

  • Today, we worked on the scene where the miners' boss has a contest with the pirates. This become such a fun piece, that when it was put together with the screen image, it made us laugh so hard. Engineers and staff members were trying to suppress their laughs while working. It made me re-realize the fact that "you never get bored with good music and good images, even if you hear and see it many times."

March 17

  • Although we did a big piece yesterday, we did another big piece today. Today, we worked on the chase scene with the Dola clan. The piece was considerably rearranged and made really powerful for the United States version. I was amazed at how the piece has changed. The work is progressing well.

March 18

  • Today, we worked on the scene where Pazu and Sheeta fall into the mineshaft. Two pieces have been newly composed, and they give a fresh feeling. It seems that Hisaishi-San is indeed conscious of Hollywood. There are a lot of pieces of music.

March 19

  • Today, Pazu and Sheeta were finally caught. There are many cues from here to the scene where Sheeta is rescued, so it is hard to fit the music. Many of the pieces used here still have the old sequences, so we can rely on them.[2] But as they were changed to have a completely new feeling, we had a lot of work.

March 23

  • We still have a lot of studio work this week. Today, we worked on up to the scene where Sheeta was rescued from the Tidis fort. As many pieces now have a faster tempo, the sense of speed has increased. But that means more pieces have to be newly created. Unlike the old days, computers make it possible to do the cue fitting fairly accurately. So [with this new technology] we could do many [different] trials, by changing the timing frame by frame to find the best cue. The time has progressed.

March 24

  • Today, we worked on the scene where the Tiger Moth leaves to find Laputa. How do you set music to the interactions among characters on the Tiger Moth? This is the opportunity to show Hisaishi-San's talent. He said that he has been thinking how he could make an American audience accept this scene, which is far more subdued compared to the action scenes. And his long-thought plan was a huge success! I really want people to see this scene.

March 25

  • Today, we worked on the scene where the Tiger Moth was attacked by the Goliath. This piece has become a lot longer, as it continued on to the piece [where they see] the Dragon Nest. A lot of acoustic strings have been added, and it became really powerful. And when we finished this piece, a Disney producer visited us. He looked fairly pleased with what we had done so far. We exchanged many opinions at the following meeting. We had thought that we had already added a lot of pieces, but the producer said that he wanted to add more. That's just like America.

March 26

  • Do you remember the theme of "Taijyu" [Huge Tree]? Today, we put a new life to this magnificent theme. Now have more advanced computers and keyboards compared to the time when the original was made, so we added a lot more sounds to the new "Taijyu" theme. On the other hand, we had some problems in recreating the sound we used in the original... After we finished the work, we talked over beer, about such things as the memories of Laputa and the remaining works.

March 27, 28

  • Hisaishi-San and the employees of Wondergroup are going to Izu for the company trip.

March 29

  • Although the weather could've been better, we all enjoyed the trip and got refreshed. Actually, Hisaishi-San planned this trip for his employees. What a great guy to have such a concern for us, even though he himself is so busy! At the party, we all enjoyed ourselves and drank to early in the morning. Next day, Hisaishi-San went to golf. As he loves any sports, I heard that he got fairly low score, although he hasn't played for a year... Anyway, it was a fun two days, and we now work on Laputa with renewed feeling. We made some adjustments and additions to the theme of "Taijyu" we had done the other day. In it, there is a great piece that uses counterpoint. But the climax is still coming. There will be more great pieces for sure.

March 30

  • Starting today we are going to start work on the climax scenes, one after another. Pazu and Sheeta try to free Dola clan, who were caught by the military. As the sounds were put to even their slightest movement, it naturally has irregular rhythm. While staff members were having hard time taking the rhythm, Hisaishi-San finished this piece right away. Actually, Hisaishi-San is very good at rhythms. But will the orchestra who has to play this piece do OK?

March 31

  • We are now at the scene where Sheeta and Muska go into the center of Laputa. To express the mysterious feeling, there was no music in the original. But the request from the American side was exactly the opposite. They wanted some dramatic music to express this mysterious feeling. This really emphasized to the staff members the difference between Japanese and American feelings, but Hisaishi-San seems to have expected it from the beginning. As if to say "Leave it to me!" he finished writing up to the scene where Muska reveals his true identity at one stretch. Although the piece sounds fairly dynamic, it suits the scenes very well, so fans, please check it out!

April 2

  • The last climax! It's the scene where Laputa collapses as Pazu and Sheeta say the forbidden spell. While a children's choir sang the theme acappella in the original, the piece now has the orchestra sounds. It now has a solemn feeling as if it's a requiem. Maybe it's the magic of the music, but Muska, who is such a dislikable character, now looks somehow tragic. After this, we put a piece to the scene where Pazu and Sheeta meet the Dola clan again. We have finished the production of American version of the Laputa soundtrack for now, which took more than a month. Hisaishi-San was a bit tired, but he seemed fairly happy about this production of the American version of Laputa.

April 3

  • Rechecking the not-yet-finished Laputa American version. Basically we add sounds or extend time. This is an important process, as we can evaluate (the music) more objectively after a while. We can see Hisaishi-San's position towards creation, that is, not saying OK till he is really convinced. And today, after a bit of changes, the American version Laputa is finally finished. Great work, Hisaishi-San! Please relax now! I wish I could say that. Actually, we still have to write the scores for 55 pieces of music for the orchestra recording in Seattle! Neither Hisaishi-San nor his staff seem to be able to take a rest for a while.

April 5

  • We have coordinated the schedule for the orchestra recording of Laputa. For this recording, Seattle (a city in the United States) was chosen. The Seattle Symphony, which enjoys an established reputation for performing the Disney film music, will perform. Hisaishi-San wants to create the American version of Laputa with a real American sound. Currently, we are planning to go to Seattle in early May. Hisaishi-San and the staff members are all looking forward to it. Fans, if you know anything about Seattle (such as good restaurants), please let us know!

April 7

  • A meeting at the office. We recheck the recording schedule in Seattle. The American version of Laputa has 55 pieces of music! To record them within a limited time, we need an elaborate time table. From the number of sessions per day to which instruments are to be used, the staff worked frantically, with Hisaishi-San's opinions and advice. I hope that we can finish the recording safely, without an accident as the one we had in Italy.[3]

April 9

  • Today, we recorded the piano part of Laputa. The piano solo is, of course, performed by Hisaishi-San. These days we can get any instrumental sound from a computer, but Hisaishi-San says "If you want sounds that are alive,then the live sounds of the instruments are the best!" Indeed, when you compare them, the live sounds are better. We finished the recording after 3 hours. Now, we start the hellish work of writing the score (55 pieces!).

April 10

  • From today, we start the hellish work of writing the score. Considering the number of the pieces, it seems to be a very tight schedule. It will be really hard work.

April 11

  • Spent all day writing the score. Today, he worked on the piece for the scene where the pirates and the miners' boss had a contest. As the piece became thicker, it uses more instruments, so the volume of the music sheets to be written is enormous. Without a break or meal, Hisaishi-San devoted himself to writing and didn't even step out of the room.

April 14

  • It was windy in Tokyo yesterday, but today, it is very fine, and a bit hot. Everyone yearns to go out somewhere, and of course, Hisaishi-San feels the same. But the recording of the American version of "Laputa" is getting nearer, and writing the score is heating up. From day till midnight, he keeps writing with little break. 55 pieces for an orchestra is really an enormous amount. For a while, it seems that we will spend our days this way.

April 15

  • Writing the score. Today, he worked on the scene where Dola and her men chase Pazu and Sheeta. Among the pieces for the American "Laputa", this is one of the thickest pieces of music with a full orchestra, so it is a great deal of work to write the score for it. At the same time as writing notes on music sheets, we have to coordinate the distribution of instruments and registers while rechecking the scene. We started right after noontime, and when we realized it was already dark outside. Hisaishi-San just kept writing without taking a break.

April 16

  • Hisaishi-San says his throat hurts a little bit. Maybe he caught a cold because he has had such tough days recently. But he still concentrates on writing the score without taking a break. The finished score is made into the score sheets for each part by a phototypesetter, and then they are divided by the staff into sheets for the orchestra and the master copy (the reserve for emergency). But just copying such music (and is has 55 pieces!) keeps the staff very busy.

April 17

  • Still writing the score. As Hisaishi-San just keeps writing, his arms and shoulders now hurt. He went to get massaged for an hour or so, but even the masseur was surprised at how hard his shoulders were. He finished three pieces today. Tomorrow, he will take a rest.

April 19

  • Today, we recorded two pieces. For the opening scene where Tiger Moth flies the night sky, we used "Kena" (or "Quena"), a South American pipe.

April 20

  • Started writing the score again. As there are so many pieces (55 pieces), we can see no end to it.

April 21

  • Still writing the score. Although the basics have been already input into the Mac, when it is converted into the score, it comes out different. Hisaishi-San says, he had to change it as it has been played in his head. No wonder it takes time.

April 22

  • Still writing the score. When will it end? In the plan, it will be finished on 27th, but the plan is just a plan.

April 23

  • And still writing the score. When he finishes one piece, he marks the number of the piece in the M table with pink magic marker. It seems that we are beginning to see a bit of pink.

April 24

  • Writing the score. The new pencils for this project are now a lot shorter.

April 25

  • Hisaishi-San took a break from writing the score today. It's not good for his health if he just keeps going. But I'm sure that he is doing some more work at home. Staff members are busy checking the music sheets for each part, or arranging the multi-tapes.

April 26

  • And writing the score. Now we see the end to it. We only have two more pieces to go!

April 27

  • Soon after he came to the office, Hisaishi-San just finished the two pieces. This was the end of the score writing. Great work, Hisaishi-San! It had so many pieces, Mr. Ittoku Miyake and Mr. Atsushi Nagao had also helped us for several pieces. Thank you very much. And further, today we had a recording of a lute, which is a kind of medieval guitar. I couldn't imagine that that piece of music would use such an instrument! But it sounded great.

April 28

  • As he is leaving for the US tomorrow, we are very busy doing the final preparations. It will be recorded with the Seattle Orchestra. The volume of the music sheets is just enormous. I worry if only three staff members can carry such an amount. And the printed sheets for each part had arrived in the last minute, so we had to check them at the same time. We definitely have to stay up all night tonight. At 3 o'clock in the night, Hisaishi-San brought us very expensive boxed steak dinner. It was really good. Thank you!

April 29

  • After all this, we finished checking the sheets at 6:30 in the morning. We had almost finished packing, but we decided to do the rest in the afternoon, and retired. And when we came back in the afternoon, the packing was already finished. It seems that we will manage to carry them. And we went to Narita (airport). And trouble! The luggage was overweight. They say that one luggage can only carry up to 32 kg, but that our luggage (music sheets and multi-tapes) weighed 57kg. Somehow, we managed to put the surplus into other luggage bags. And they left for Seattle on the 3:55 flight. Hisaishi-San looked fine, although he didn't get much sleep. We, who stay back in Japan, wish that the recording will go smoothly.

April 30 - May 9

  • Recording and TD [trackdown] in Seattle. We will publish the Seattle Diary later, so please look forward to it!

May 10

  • The production of "Laputa" in Seattle for 10 days has finished without a mishap, and Hisaishi-San has returned. He looked a bit tired, but with his usual smile, he said "Hello, home! Good to see you guys", and started the meeting with staff at the airport. It seems that he was working on his next project using a notebook PC, even during the 10 hour flight. Hisaishi-San is such a powerful guy, going for 24 hours a day! We, staff members, re-realized it. Anyway, he went straight back to home. We hope he can rest well, at least for tonight.

June 1

  • Today, [Hisaishi-San] went to Studio Ghibli to report on the completion of the American version of "Laputa", and to listen to the soundtrack. I heard that they listened to the revised "Laputa" soundtrack with a state-of-the-art sound system, together with Takeda-San and Mr. Alpert from Tokuma International. I also heard that Mr. Miyazaki was pleased [with the new music] as well.
  1. He probably meant the airship, not Goliath
  2. Here, "sequence" means the sound data for synthesizer.
  3. We have no idea what the "accident in Italy" refers to