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Soundtrack of the Month 06/2011: La Folia – Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess

Soundtrack of the Month 06/2011: La Folia – Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess

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While I still have a large list of soundtracks I have in mind for Soundtrack of the Month, I wanted to take the special occasion of OSV’s third birthday to once again visit the work of the legendary Joe Hisaishi. Yes, it’s been three years to the day since we featured Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (my personal favorite Ghibli film) as our introductory Soundtrack of the Month.

Just what is La Folia: Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess, and why haven’t you heard of it? As it turns out, the Ghibli Museum in Japan is home to a small theater where shorts by the studio are shown exclusively to guests. Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess is one such short that started airing in November 2010 that I had the pleasure of seeing on a recent visit to Japan, and I was immediately impressed not only by the film, but by its classical soundtrack.

Find out why I think it deserves to be Soundtrack of the Month after the jump!

While waiting for the cinema to open with my neat little film strip ‘ticket,’ I hit up the gift shop, which is essentially an entire floor of the museum. Inside was a wide assortment of different Ghibli goods, including everything from magnets to puzzles to dolls to expensive jewelry. I quickly gravitated to the soundtrack section, of course, and started listening to some of the soundtracks that I hadn’t previously seen.

As an avid fan of Studio Ghibli’s work, I was familiar with most of their full-length features, so I jumped into the soundtracks for their short films. I didn’t know at the time that it was Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess that I’d be seeing 30 minutes later, but upon listening to the samples inside the gift shop, I was immediately won over by the Baroque classical music I heard.

“Is this really Joe Hisaishi?,” I thought to myself. As it turns out it wasn’t. It’s rather the work of Antonio Vivaldi, who is my absolute favorite classical composer behind J.S. Bach. No wonder I fell in love with it so quickly. Joe Hisaishi comes in by arranging the popular “Folia” motif, which is a chord progression that Vivaldi popularized.

So, just what is this soundtrack? Well, the film itself contains no spoken dialogue, and only features this heavy Baroque soundtrack. The story centers around a disgusting looking beast of a witch who brings an egg to life to act as her servant. One day while doing some chores, some dough that Egg Princess is working with comes to life as well, and the two sneak out of the castle on an adventure. The witch becomes enraged and attempts to capture the two, even going as far as to bake Mr. Dough at one point, but eventually King and Queen Egg save Mr. Dough and Egg Princess, and all live happily ever after.

Yes, it’s kind simple, but it’s definitely fun and whimsical, and Hisaishi’s emotional arrangements really capture this. The score is only a little over 10 minutes in length, which is almost laughable for a Soundtrack of the Month feature, right? Well, I’d say you’re wrong. Even though the soundtrack is composed of a single motif with several subsequent ‘variations,’ it still covers a lot of ground. From the classical “Motif” with its harpsichord and strings to the playful “Variation 1” with extensive use of pizzicato strings, then from the legato and tear-jerking “Variation 2” to the sweeping and majestic “Variation 3,” then on to the folksy “Variation 4” with click-clacking percussive elements and the explosive “Variation 5” that is bursting with energy, you’ve got the whole story here. “End Tune” sports a more regal sound, returning with harpsichord and bringing in triumphant brass.

I loved this short film, and the soundtrack is a large part of what made it so enjoyable. Heck, I loved the soundtrack and bought it even before I saw the film or knew that I’d be seeing Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess, as if it were fate drawing me to it. While the fact that I bought this in Japan at the Studio Ghibli museum and then had the pleasure of seeing the short film may enhance even further my personal enjoyment of this soundtrack, I still think others who haven’t seen the film can enjoy the simple elegance of this album.

Fortunately the album is available online from CD Japan and Play-Asia for 1,200 Yen if you’re interested in checking it out for yourself. If you’re a fan of classical music, you won’t be disappointed!

What do you think of Hisaishi’s approach? Are you surprised that he occupies himself with scoring even these short films by Studio Ghibli?

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