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sinfonia-drammatica-interview-with-chris-huelsbeck-and-yoko-shimomura

Sinfonia Drammatica Interview With Chris Huelsbeck and Yoko Shimomura

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Chris Huelsbeck and Yoko Shimomura, East and West of video game music meeting in a grand concert. Who would’ve thought it! But this is becoming a reality in unique concert in Stockholm, Sweden: Sinfonia Drammatica. The concert will combine both Huelsbeck’s Symphonic Shades with drammatica, Yoko Shimomura’s orchestral album. Arnie Roth will be conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, and as a special treat to those lucky folks able to attend (I hope to be one of them myself!), Chris Huelsbeck and Yoko Shimomura will even be available for a meet and greet.

We had the chance to interview both of the composers and get their thoughts about this unique East-meets-West event, and also got their opinions on each other’s music.  We’re definitely looking forward to the show on August 4, 2009, so click the link to see what they have to say about it!

OSV: Thanks for giving us an opportunity to talk to you both. I must ask: how did this come about? How did you two decide to do a concert together?

Huelsbeck: When Arnie Roth conducted my two concerts in Cologne last year, he loved the music and said he would like to perform it again in the future. One option was the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, which he had worked with in the past. Symphonic Shades producer and Sinfonia Drammatica consultant Thomas Boecker then had the idea to combine music of Yoko Shimomura with mine into one concert, to create a symbiotic and interesting East meets West program that could attract the needed attention. Thomas Boecker has worked as the production coordinator of the drammatica CD recordings, so he knew Yoko Shimomura already.

Shimomura: I got the offer to to participate the concert from Thomas, whom I worked with for my best album. I, of course, said “Yes!” to such a wonderful offer.

OSV: How much was Arnie Roth involved in making this happen? He is a strong proponent of videogame music in concert, which is really wonderful. Did he arrange for the two of you to meet and get this started, or was it an initiative that you came up with yourself?

Huelsbeck: Arnie Roth is very dedicated and excited about game music and he has a good connection to the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. He and Thomas Boecker were really the driving force to create this event. I’ve been a fan of Yoko Shimomuras work since Kingdom Hearts, a PlayStation 2 game from 2002. When I heard the music in a commercial, I had to go and buy it, despite the fact that I didn’t own a PS2 at the time! Instead I went to a friend and played it there, just to be able to listen to the music. I have actually not met her yet or talked to her personally, but I’m looking forward to meeting her in Stockholm.

Shimomura: Arnie san was the main guy, and I got the offer.

OSV: How did you decide on what songs to play? Was it easy to pick out songs or did you have to struggle to make a list that both were satisfied with?

Huelsbeck: We discussed all our personal favorites after the concerts in Cologne, but also had a general idea what we definitely would want to perform. Ultimately Arnie Roth and Thomas Boecker came up with the right mix of Yoko Shimomuras and my music. I think it is a terrific selection.

Shimomura: What I did was, I gave them a list of the popular pieces of mine. Choosing the songs wasn’t very hard, and had no problem with it….. However, I am not quite sure what the people outside of Japan expect, I know what the Japanese fans want, though. I hope the people coming to the concert will enjoy my selections.

OSV: How did you feel working with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra? Were there any lingual barriers to overcome?

Huelsbeck: I had the honor to be there a few years ago with the PLAY! concert series (which was also conducted by Arnie Roth) and they performed an earlier suite of Apidya music, which was absolutely great. They are some of the finest musicians in the world and the atmosphere was amazing. Language is really no big deal in Europe because almost everybody speaks English pretty well.

Shimomura: I am so honored to have such a wonderful orchestra performing my music. I am ashamed of myself not being able to speak English, but I believe that the music will break the language barrier.

OSV: The Konserthuset is a wonderful building. How does it feel to have your works performed in such a magnificent place?

Huelsbeck: The Konserthuset is surely one of the best concert halls in the world and also has a long standing history, including being the place of the Nobel price awards. The hall sounds awesome, and also has a great visual feel and ambience. It’s been such an honor the first time my music was played there and this concert is set to top that feeling.

Shimomura: It is just unbelievable. I am very honored, and I think I am very fortunate.

OSV: Of course these are two concerts brought together, and so there was already material available. I’m sure people will be wondering whether the two will melt together as one or feel like two seperate concerts. Are you aiming to blend the two styles together, or perhaps interested in highlighting how diverse the music industry is, with material from practically opposite corners of the world?

Huelsbeck: We deliberately mixed up the tracks after careful consideration of the mood and energy to make it one cohesive concert experience. So it’s not just one long section of Shimomuras pieces and another long section of mine. I believe they will play very well after another.

Shimomura: I am not sure about it for the time being. I, myself, am looking forward to it actually.

OSV: You share some common ground compositionally–both of you are very melodic, as well as piano-focused. Will we see this reflected in the concert? I am hoping for some great piano concertos!

Huelsbeck: Yes, the piano is prominently featured in several pieces, including the ambitious piano concerto of Turrican II – “The Final Fight.”

Shimomura: For my songs, I think they will perform something piano concerto-ish, since Drammatica itself has a lot of piano concerto kind of stuff.

OSV: As a composer and a fan of both your works, I can’t resist asking this: have you ever considered writing some material together?

Huelsbeck: I’m always open for collaboration and it would be a great honor to work with a gifted composer like Yoko Shimomura. The concert is a good start and let’s see how she feels about it… :)

Shimomura: Collaboration? You mean 2 of us composing together for the same game? If we have a chance to do it, it is definitely possible.

OSV: In a larger context, do you think concerts like this open the door for composers from the East and West to meet and work together not on just events like this, but on game scores in the future? How soon do each of you think we’ll see the barriers broken down in terms of collaborative scores?

Huelsbeck: With games getting bigger every year, it’s actually pretty common already to have more than one composer working on a project. Collaboration could also be beneficial in the sense that each composer has different strength and styles. Of course you would still want to make the soundtrack experience cohesive, but with careful selection of the composers, team and a vision, it could result in a better and more diverse end product.

Shimomura: Lots of songs are needed even just for one game, so it is quite common to have multiple composers working on the same title. I think the thing is, whether there is a game company willing to offer both Japanese & western composers to work together or not. It could happen tomorrow or years later – who knows?

OSV: One last question: what’s your favorite track from eachother’s work?

Huelsbeck: With all the great music of Ms. Shimomura, it is difficult to choose one, but “The Other Promise” from the Kingdom Hearts series is one of my favorites.

Shimomura: This is a tough one. Honestly, I just cannot pick “the” favorite one – I really like them all. So I cannot really answer the question. Sorry!

OSV: Thank you so much for letting us speak to you, and let me personally say that I’m really looking forward to this concert and hope to be able to speak to you both there!

[Special thanks to Thomas Boecker for coordinating the review.  Translation by Shota Nakama.]

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