Painting with music is an overused analogy. Yet Japanese composer, pianist and conductor Joe Hisaishi did just that amidst the walls of Forum Karlín. On April 24, this prodigy of instrumentals came all the way from Japan to close the Film Music Prague Festival 2017.
A young cultural event, Film Music Prague started as a simple concert to support a non-profit organisation “League against Cancer.” And they have come a long way since those 2011 noble yet humble beginnings. A unique audiovisual experience, Film Music Prague recreates famous soundtracks live inside the rarest venues the Central European capital offers.
The simple gold, black and white posters hanging in every metro station wowed the audience with three concerts this year.
On April 22, Palace Žofín chimed up with Craig Armstrong’s A Story of Love. Scottish composer is tied with blockbusters like “Cloud Atlas,” “Great Gatsby” or “Perfume: The Story of the Murderer.” Together with Praga Sinfonietta & VOX Pragae Chorus he revisited some of his most known pieces. A day later Filmova Filharmonie led by conductor Chuhei Iwasaki made spectators’ skin crawl with “Alien: The Symphony.” With help from Kuhn choir and BONI PUERI boys choir, Forum Karlín became the newest victim of H. R. Giger’s space monster.
But, the atmospheric darkness of Nostromo was soon chased away. The dreamworld of Japanese animation studio Ghibli is one of the few Far East influencers to touch children from Europe and the USA. Movie tale about a young prince Ashitaka and princesse Mononoke or importance of friendship in “My Neighbour Totoro” puts to shame many Western bedtime stories.
Director Hayao Miyazaki’s picturesque animation won over even the harshest critics. His most renowned work, 2007’s “Spirited Away,” collected prizes all over the globe.
However, the tales are sent further over the rim of imagination with the minimalistic music accompanying them. The acoustic wizardry in “The World of Joe Hisaishi” let a fully packed Forum Karlín hear what the forest spirits are whispering about. A man of slight build, Mister Hisaishi conducted The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, played the piano and never forgot to give credit to all the participants who helped his work come to life. In a world where many aren’t happy with their position in life, the spell was even stronger by seeing Mister Hisaishi so enthusiastic about the compositions he produced. There is a power to music being made in real time.
In case of Ghibli, where melodies cascade like a river, chase around the trees or imitate playfulness of the rain, the Orchestra lets them tell their own stories. A picture is worth a thousand words. But, in case of Hisaishi, a tune is worth a thousand pictures.
However, the program wasn’t built solely on Ghibli. Hisaishi worked with another great Japanese director Takeshi Kitano. Soundtracks for films “Kikujiro,” “Hana-Bi” and “Kids Return” proved Hisaishi’s ability to adapt the music to any kind of script. Lastly, the old Japanese legend about a princess born from a bamboo is retold by Isao Takahata in “The Tale of Princess Kaguya.” And there is no better composer for such an imaginative story than a man, who made music for every Ghibli movie.
The World of Joe Hisaishi was an experience beyond just an orchestra concert. It was a journey back to the world of spirits, magical creatures and childhood that would have been much bleaker if people like Hisaishi didn’t see beyond the veil of reality.
Photos courtesy of Matěj Třasák