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1 The Legend of Ashitaka
2 The Demon God
3 The Journey to the West
4 The Demon Power
5 The Land of the Impure
6 The Encounter
7 Kodamas
8 The Forest of the Gods
9 Evening at the Ironworks
10 The Demon God II - The Lost Mountains
11 Lady Eboshi
12 The Tatara Women Work Song
13 The Furies
14 The Young Man from the East
15 Requiem
16 Will to Live
17 San and Ashitaka in the Forest of the Deer God
18 Princess Mononoke Theme Song (instrumental)
19 Requiem II
20 The Battle Drums
21 The Battle In Front of the Ironworks
22 The Demon Power II
23 Requiem III
24 The Retreat
25 The Demon God III
26 Adagio of Life and Death
27 The World of the Dead
28 The World of the Dead II
29 Adagio of Life and Death II
30 Ashitaka and San
31 Princess Mononoke Theme Song
32 The Legend of Ashitaka Theme

by Timothy Georgi

Music can make or break a movie. In animation, the soundtrack is even more important. The combination of the art and sound helps make a scene complete. Music can set the mood for a scene. It can show us the urgency of a battle. It can help us feel calmness and then hit us with something unexpected. All this and more can be found in the sounds of Princess Mononoke. Director Hayao Miyazaki illustrated to composer Joe Hisaishi the feeling of the film through several poems about the characters, the forest, and the gods. Hisaishi took those poems and the feelings behind them and created the sound that is Mononoke.

With most instrumental soundtracks, the songs can be categorized into three groups corresponding to the type of scene that they are used in. The first is the Action scene. These are the scenes that put you onto the edge of your seat or make you root for the "good" guy. The next is the Emotion scene. These are the scenes that evoke some type of emotional response, be it love, hate, peace or any combination of emotions. These are usually closely tied to the visuals. The last type of scene is what I call the Transitional scene. These are the scenes that happen between the big emotional and action scenes. The music in transitional scenes usually ties two scenes together with some type of familiar musical elements. These can be character theme music or title themes. In Princess Mononoke, these scenes and the music that accompanies them create an effect that transcends the boundaries of traditional soundtrack music. They create a story without words where the feeling of the music speaks.

The Sound of Action

Miyazaki has repeatedly stated that Princess Mononoke is an action film. With a multitude of fights and chases, there are plenty of opportunities for action music to make an entrance. There are several tracks that lead us through the action sequences of the film. Composer Joe Hisaishi used a combination of bass instruments and high pitched instruments to create the sound of tension for a good majority of the action pieces. Track 2, "The Demon God," illustrates the use of the two in a fast-paced chase. The pounding rhythm of the bass drums and the sounds of wind instruments create a sense of urgency.

The Sound of Emotion

Emotional music is a great part of Princess Mononoke. The story lends itself to the emotional side many times through the film. The most emotional selection is track 30, "Ashitaka and San." Here we are treated to the sounds of their triumph over the powers to destroy the forest. The main feature in the piece is Hisaishi-san on the piano with orchestral accompaniment in the background. The song weaves its way as the forest is rejuvenated and flourishes right before your eyes. On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum we have track 22, "The Demon Power II." Hisaishi again uses the combination of the high and low-pitched instruments to create a sense of darkness and death, then proceeds to shift the emphasis to something more lively. The song ends on a somber note as a dark, sad feeling reenters into the composition. Those quick changes in emotional moods takes us on a nice rollercoaster ride, leading us to an action encounter.

The Sound of Transition

There are very few places where the music takes the back seat in Princess Mononoke. Those places where it does are the Transitional scenes, where the music is, literally, "background" music. These are the places where dialog alone isn't as effective. In track 5, "The Land of the Impure," the resident monk of the film, Jigo, tells a story. It's a quiet scene that, without the music, would have been fairly dull without something in the background. Another scene that fits the Transitional scene definition is when Ashitaka takes some of the injured men of Iron Town through the Forest of the Deer God and then meet the adorable tree spirits, the Kodama. Track 7, "Kodamas," gives us a more playful, upbeat feeling as we are introduced to the small, clicking spirits. The music paints a bright, happy scene that bounces along and leads us to the object of the film, the Forest Spirit.

The Sound of Silence

There is one notable item from Princess Mononoke that is often overlooked. It won't be found on the soundtrack itself, but is still significant. It is a cinematic element that is used throughout the film that is probably the most effective, silence. Now, you may say that the element of silence is a contradiction to my original premise on animation soundtracks. Art and sound are essential to the complete vision for an animated feature. There are several places in the film where the still sounds of the forest provide us with more insight into the happenings of the moment than any set of dialog could. Silence allows us to take the visuals and fill in the blanks in our own minds. Add that effect to some of the greatest background music to ever be set to anime visuals and you have the perfect combination for telling a story without words.

Overall, the soundtrack is one of the best ever written for an animated feature. With all the feeling, action, emotion and power that could be put into a film like Princess Mononoke, the soundtrack is a great testament to Miyazaki's vision to only produce the best animation in Japan. Hisaishi caught the message behind what Miyazaki had intended for Ashitaka, San and crew and presented it with great feeling. The Princess Mononoke soundtrack is a perfect addition to your music collection if you're a fan of high quality soundtracks or great instrumental music.




Princess Mononoke

Distributed by
Milan Records

Release Info
Catalog #: 73138 35864-2
Release Date: 12 Oct 1999
Length: 59 min 30 sec
MSRP: $16.97



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