Saturday, February 6, 2010
Since the beginning of his career in 1978, Koji Ueno has been composing music that encompasses multiple styles and genres from pop to new age, from orchestral to electronic and dance oriented. Having achieved a reputation as one of Japan’s most promising musicians after joining the Guernica ensemble, he has worked with some of the best musicians in his country such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, with whom he authored the soundtracks for the major motion pictures Oneamise no Tsubasa and The Last Emperor.
In one of his most singular musical moments, Ueno participated with Haruhiko Shono and the Synergy studio for the creation of the music score for the best-selling CD-ROM experience GADGET: INVENTION, TRAVEL & ADVENTURE. As an addendum to the results of my research, already presented in last year's interview with Haruhiko Shono, I now publish a brief interview where this gifted and erudite musician discusses a few interesting subjects regarding his valuable contribution to the game - later resulting in that rare album entitled Resonances of Gadget: Quasisymphonic Movements and Noise Montages. I was also surprised to learn that some of his influences when composing this soundtrack were musical masterpieces of my own personal predilection.
CG: As a composer, you have a reputation of someone who is constantly looking for new challenges. In what circumstances did you enter the project of creating this soundtrack?
Ueno: I was the first composer choice of Mr. Shono and his office. They knew about my admiration for the art of the pre-war/war time, Russian avant-garde and machine age which were also of special reference to that locomotive he designed for the game.
When Mr. Shono was a university student he was a fan of my band Guernica, whose concept was the combination of pre-war avant-garde and pre-war popular music.
One of his university friends who was also a Guernica fan asked me to make music for his graduation art work and introduced him to me around 1983 or 1984.
CG: Some years after the original release of GADGET, Synergy produced a renewed version. Was the same soundtrack used or did you create new themes for "Past as Future"?
Ueno: I can’t remember exactly. During the production of that project I handed my works to Mr. Shono directly who later edited and overdubbed them – a process in which I had no participation. I do remember, however, that in "Gadget Trips/Mindscapes" I made a lot of new material.
CG: What did you base your music on - were you given game materials or simply Images, sketches, ideas?
Firstly I was asked to made music for the trailer of Gadget for its promotion. That trailer already had many designed materials such as the locomotive, some of the characters and locations. I selected suitable digital sampling data as several timbres of that trailer music and then I constructed music to fit into the timing of the scene changes of the video.
Eventually, that material became the theme "Overture: Invention, Travel and Adventure". Many materials later used in the game and the movie were reductions of that. The following variations were made using a method similar to film scoring techniques, based on scene images and the story itself. I remember that the tracks Overture, Tranquility, Contradictions and A Recollection of the Future, from the soundtrack album, were the first themes I composed.
CG: What motivated you to create the music? You focused heavily on the industrial and engineering part of that universe; but also on the deep psychological trance with eerie noise montages: what did you intend to make the players feel by listening to the music?
Ueno: I think "Gadget" has something like a feeling of oppression throughout the whole game.
And has what we may call industrial mysticism, as well as the feeling of destin sans issue. Maybe those themes were the most inspiring. Anyway Mr. Shono's designs were of great artistic beauty, so I was keeping those in mind when I was composing. I’ve also tried to make music that wouldn’t weary the player.
CG: What are your thoughts on GADGET and your interpretation of it?
Ueno: Nightmare of 20th Century? Do the retro-chic machines dream of autocratic brainwashing?
CG: The train theme is possibly the most emblematic of all: its beat pattern being so contagious. Tell me more about the conception of this theme in particular.
Ueno: When I saw the train sequences for the first time I felt that they required some like constant beat and that it needed to suit the tempo of the scene – while not evoking any memory of a dance music or techno beat! So I selected sampling material by classical percussion instruments bearing in mind that the time of the music should be cross rhythm, not just a simple 4/4 or 3/4.
Later, I tried to play some of samplings on keyboard. There, sampling material can be played slow to fast combining different rhythm (tempo) by playing more than a single note. This is how I found the exact material and tempo.
Anyway it's important to read the exact tempo of the scenes. Maybe that is also one of film music techniques.
CG: Finally: in terms of musical composition, what were your references to the creation of this soundtrack?
My greatest influences were: Edgard Varèse, Arthur Honegger’s Pacific 231, Sergei Prokofiev (Symphony No.2), Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith’s The Planet of Apes, Béla Bartók, John Cage, Louis and Bebe Baron’s Forbidden Planet, Charles Ives, Leoš Janaček’s Glagolitic Mass, Frank Martin’s Petite Symphonie Concertante, Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening and Aaron Copland.
Given its extreme rarity, I converted the soundtrack to a suitable MP3 quality that is now available for download.