Joe Hisaishi is the John Williams
, and has come to be the natural musical complement of Hayao Miyazaki
and Takeshi Kitano
, among other giants of Japanese film
. His name was inspired by American musician Quincy Jones
: using an alternate reading of the first kanji
, Joe Hisaishi comes out to "Kuishi Jo."
His real name is Fujisawa Mamoru, and he was born in Nagano on December 6, 1950. He studied composition at Kunitachi Music School, and released his first album, Information, in 1982. In 1984, he got his first big break with the soundtrack of Studio Ghibli's blockbuster Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Since then, he has won five Japanese Academy Awards for his soundtracks, and has directed his own award-winning film called Quartet.
In all, he has been the composer of forty-seven different movies, including (in reverse chronological order): Dolls, Tom Thumb, Spirited Away, Brother, First Love, Kikujiro, Parasite Eve, Hana-bi, Princess Mononoke, Kids Return, Sonatine, A Scene at the Sea, The Rocking Horsemen, Porco Rosso, Chizuko's Younger Sister, Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, The Drifting Classroom, Robot Carnival, Maison Ikkoku, Laputa, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, and Technopolice. Whew!
Hisaishi's music ranges from piano soloes to symphony airs to taiko drumming—as diverse as the films he writes for. Much of his music is very minimalist, striving for purity of sound rather than complex polyphony. "Summer," the piano-and-string title theme from Kikujiro, is one of my personal favorites.