Silence is peace: instrumental music is different

Have you ever heard of an album created with an unlimited budget? Although rare, renowned mangaka, screenwriter and director Katsuhiro Otomo has already approached composer and neuroscientist Tsutomu Ōhashi, also known by the pseudonym Shoji Yamashiro, who founded the huge Japanese music collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi, to compose the band. original and music for a million dollar multi-adaptation film he was directing from his 1982 manga series, Akira.

“It was a luxury not having to worry about deadlines or budget constraints on this project,” Yamashiro said in an interview for The Akira production report, a 50-minute behind-the-scenes documentary recorded in 1988 alongside the creation of the dystopian film.

I think of the above quote every time I revisit Geinoh Yamashirogumi’s Akira (Symphonic Suite). Reissued as vinyl released by Milan Records in 2017 to commemorate AkiraOn the occasion of the 30th anniversary of, my first introduction to the hour and 11 minute soundtrack took place in 2019, during a brief and curious period when film scores fascinated me.

In the cinema, the score is to the director what the rhythm is to the rapper.

Without an instrumental, there is no successful record; no rapper has a voice appealing enough to sell arena-sized rooms by performing his a cappella rhymes. Music affects the tone, rhythm, mood and atmosphere of a movie. Without score or soundtrack, a film creates a stronger silence.

It’s striking how tumultuous Josh and Benny Safdie have been over the past year Uncut Gems compares to the anxiety-provoking calm of Todd Phillips Joker. Applying this perspective through a musical lens, think of Tyler, The Creator’s third studio album, Cherry Bomb, unlike Frank Ocean’s second studio album, Blond. The sound architecture of these two discs is night and day: one aims to break the eardrums while the other is a hushed caress.

With Tyler in particular, his five full studio albums are sequenced as if they were soundtracks from movies that have yet to materialize. IGOR, its crowning achievement, is the best representation of how Tyler’s director’s eye for detail and musical sensibility intertwine to create a concise cinematic story that sounds exactly as the listener feels. Thanks to self-production, the multi-hyphenate born in Los Angeles has, with each album, improved his gift to bring together all the pieces necessary to build a world in which the listener lives.

IGOR strongly reminds me of Geinoh Yamashirogumi’s Akira (Symphonic Suite).

IGOR Overflows with sequenced instrumentation with unconventional but controlled unpredictability. It’s not structured to be a playlist project. IGOR has a sophisticated backbone. The album’s musical textures are as vibrant as a jar filled with colliding fireflies. The chord-to-chord overlap, sound to sound, voice to voice, feels like a Pro Tools session for each song tossed into a juicer and mixed into a heart-wrenching smoothie. But Tyler wanted us to experience the whole work.

Although Akira (Symphonic Suite) not about heartbreak, both albums share an elastic spontaneity that keeps the music moving. From the overture “Kaneda” to the grand finale “Requiem”, each of the 10 discs exudes a fluidity that moves the music from song to song like a collective work of art. forkKevin Lozano described this approach in his review of the Akira (Symphonic Suite) re-edit:

“Fruit of an unlimited budget and six months of composition and recording, the score of Akira was never meant to be utilitarian or incidental. He aspired to greater heights, to immerse the listener in the world of Neo-Tokyo and to arouse emotions without taking you out of the film once. –Kevin Lozano

What even exceeds the cinematic standard of most scores is how, from a sonic point of view, Geinoh Yamashirogumi was able to create a portal to a Tokyo that does not yet exist, musically, and how it can sound exactly at what the movie looks like: a combination of ancient destruction with dystopian futurism.

This feat is quite impressive considering that Shoji Yamashiro did not read the script or see any scenes from the film before composing the music. It’s hard to believe in the lack of executive direction or source material when listening to a song like “Tetsuo,” the fourth track, named after the movie’s “antagonist”.


How the first 30 seconds of spasmodic synthesizer buildup is like summoning someone or something unstoppable. It’s a rare nine minute song that is a necessary length of time, aptly representing the galvanic atmosphere of a character who has gone from biker punk to telekinetic God.

“The people of Akira are obsessed with the past in a desperate attempt to avoid repeating their catastrophic mistakes in the future.” –Jen Monroe

“Tetsuo” has all the eccentricity of a mad genius, how he fits into lightning booms, how he descends into a dark stillness. How the chords progress with provocative ease and how the chorus adds a simple yet effective hum. It’s easily four different songs mixed into one concept, but there’s never a feeling of dissociation. Every second of the nine minutes completes a complex, powerful, and dangerously frightening theme and character.

Another song I love, “Shohmyoh”, is almost 10 minutes of what I think is Tibetan Buddhist song. The voices sound synchronized as if they were in a collective prayer. Most of the vocal tracks that appear on the album are meditative, poetic, but never important enough to carry the record. Each sound is part of a collective noise, a unified identity that would not be possible with one person.

The songs of Akira (Symphonic Suite) progress unrealistically in sequence, structure and style. Listening to the radio does not inspire such an album. Music is so far removed from a commercial palette that it is no surprise that Geinoh Yamashirogumi has never won a GRAMMY. Awards are given to those who play by certain rules; there are no rules in Neo-Tokyo.

Although he did not share a script, Katsuhiro Otomo provided Shoji Yamashiro and Geinoh Yamashirogumi, a collective of over 100 men and women who do not consider themselves musicians, with creative control over the soundtrack. , asking only for the score. revolve around two central themes: “Requiem” and “Festival”.

“All I did was put it all together and write some totally complacent music that I wanted to hear, others be damned,” Yamashiro said in an interview in 1988. “I have the impression of having moved away with a sword my eyes closed. I feel like I’m cutting through something. But I’m still not sure if I hit what I was supposed to hit or if I just slit my leg open. – “The soundtrack of ‘Akira’ presented music worthy of a visual masterpiece”

Lately, I find myself thinking of the Japanese proverb 見 ぬ が 花 (Minu ga Hana), which means “Not to see is a flower”. It’s a symbolic reminder that what you imagine can be richer than what you see. Listening to music without the lead singer, or in a language I don’t understand, rewards my imagination more than my logic. I cannot think critically about the words I am unable to translate; I can only smell them.

That’s why I find myself playing a lot of Hako Yamasaki, a Japanese singer who released several albums between the 1970s and 1990s. She has a song on YouTube called “Nostalgia”. I read on another website that she wrote the record about her hometown. It’s brooding and melancholy, but there is a startling beauty. Its song will pierce your soul despite the language barrier.

Another Japanese artist that I love is the songwriter and producer of Hiroshima Meitei and his 2019 album Komachi. This is an instrumental project that I found on Bandcamp after reading a positive review. “Some worlds are rooted in fantasy, while others are more rooted in the annals of history,” wrote fork editor-in-chief Noah Yoo, a line that was followed by a sentiment that made me blindly buy the album:

“Meitei draws heavily on these two notions, resulting in soundscapes as indebted to J. Dilla and Steve Reich as to the instrumentation of East Asia and to renowned Japanese producers like Susumu Yokota.” -Noah Yoo

There is something about seeing Dilla’s name alongside a new artist that inspires me to press play. Since the discovery Komachi, the album has always remained in rotation. There is a stillness in the 12 pieces that looks like being washed away by a rain of holy water. The absence of a singer leaves room for your mind to wander. It is meditative listening that will make you feel in touch with the sounds of nature.

“Things go dark when a population has no interest,” Meitei wrote, a post that appears on the Bandcamp page for Komachi. With this album, he sought to “revive the soul of Japan which still sleeps in the dark”. Even without the historical context to judge whether he accomplished such a mission, I found the album to be beautifully obscure in a way that is not popular, but it is upsetting.

In a conversation with a friend over the weekend about instrumental music, he said, “You’ve got to find a voice in there.” This search for a voice is where music and your spirit meet. While I may never set foot in another AMC theater again, I learned a valuable lesson from all the movies I attended before COVID-19: No one is talking, it’s a silence of gold. Catch gold today by listening to music without a lead singer; just the sounds of someone’s imagination. It’s not the most fun, but it’s quite peaceful.

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