Friday, October 23, 2020

“Music, Sound, and Nostalgia in My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies" with Pitt's Department of Music, October 29.


The University of Pittsburgh's Department of Music will host Visiting Scholar Kunio Hara and his lecture "Music, Sound, and Nostalgia in My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies" online on October 29.
In this presentation, Kunio Hara explores the essential role of sound and music in how we experience two classics of Japanese animation: Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro and Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies.

Although developed and released simultaneously as a double feature by Studio Ghibli in 1988, the worlds that the two films depict could not be more different. Similarly, Miyazaki and Takahata established differing working relationships with their musical collaborators. Miyazaki, on the one hand, turned to his trusted musical partner Joe Hisaishi early in the production. For the soundtrack of this project, Hisaishi suggested fashioning a collection of newly composed children’s songs as a starting point. On the other hand, Takahata took a more conventional path, using his keen directorial ear to interleave Michio Mamiya’s emotionally restrained underscoring with diegetic music that, at times, creates harrowing and devastating effects.

As a result, the two composers’ contributions to the films interact with their narratives in dissimilar ways, accentuating the gulf between the bucolic fantasy of Miyazaki’s Totoro and the stark realism of Takahata’s Fireflies. At the same time, the two soundtracks highlight the directors’ shared ideas about the ability of sound and music to conjure powerful memories in surprising and unexpected ways.