Meet Conisch, the Composer behind Pokémon: Twilight Wings


In our third round of interviews with
the creators of Pokémon: Twilight Wings,
Conisch gives us a fascinating look into the process of composing the music for
the series and the ideas that went into the score.

Q: I understand you wrote
the music for Twilight Wings. Can you explain exactly what that entails
in the context of the production process?

A: I compose the type of
music that’s commonly known as a soundtrack—the musical accompaniment to a play
or theatrical work, sometimes called background music. For animated works, I
receive the creators’ artwork and footage with the cast’s voices included and add
music to it as I watch. There’s a lot of variety among scenes that require
music—sometimes it has to get at what someone’s feeling, for example, and other
times it might have to evoke the image of a specific place. But for each scene,
the music I compose is designed to bring out the overall effect or concept of
the work.

Q: Does that ever create
situations where you’ve composed something in advance based on your concept of
what the work is like, but when you pair it with the art, you find it doesn’t
quite match?

A: Frequently, yes. Sometimes the mismatch
arises from the animation or artwork, but hearing the actors’ voice work
sometimes changes my concept of the work, too. Hearing the voice actors’ actual
performance has often inspired me to change something I’d already written.

Q: I understand that
different types of music can completely change the impression of a scene or
change the feel of a work—any work, not just Twilight Wings. What do you
place the most value on when you’re composing?

A: The short answer is that
I want to create music that uniquely embodies the work. Since animated works
aren’t filmed but rather created, in many ways, when you make an animated movie,
you’re building something real out of a dream. But in order to make that
happen, I think it’s crucial to consider how everyone—meaning the creators and
the audience—can become immersed in the world being created.

For me, music has always
been the gateway into that dream world. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved
comics and cartoons—I used to play pretend all the time, imagining that those
worlds were real. (Laughs.) I felt like I could enter the world of a certain
work just by hearing its music, and that formative experience for my young self
was what led me to become a composer.

That’s why creating music that uniquely embodies a work is the theme of my soundtrack
composing and the thing I value most.

Q: By the way, if you had to
describe how you picture the “core sound” of Twilight Wings, what would
it be?

A: That sure is difficult to
put into words. Of course, the series’ music itself has its melodies, plus the
accompaniments…and then you’ve got sounds meant to create a certain effect, plus
percussion—all sorts of sounds. There are these different elements present, and
the way you choose to combine them can really change the atmosphere of the
music.

The
melodies are key, too, but sometimes just one of the sounds in that tapestry
you’re making is what creates the whole atmosphere, you know? (Laughs.)

Q: And sometimes you just
hear that certain sound or certain melody and instantly realize, “Oh, it’s that
song,” right?

A: That’s the ideal outcome. I always hope to
create something like that.

Q: Did you know about
Pokémon before this project? Did you have a favorite Pokémon, or any memories
or stories that stuck with you?

A: I certainly did know
about it. In fact, one producer I met after high school gave me a project as a
sort of gateway into being a professional composer, and that was to take
“Smile” by Toshiko Ezaki—an ending theme for the Pokémon Advanced
animated series [in Japan], which was airing at the time—and arrange new
versions of it, such as for string quintet, for a CD release. I’ve also been
lucky enough to compose some music for commercials for educational Pokémon
toys, and I even sang on some of those songs.

I’m really glad those
opportunities led to me being able to return to the world of Pokémon in this
way. I hope I’ve been able to return the kindness I’ve received.

Q: Have you ever played any of the games or watched the TV series
or movies for yourself?

A: I’ve checked out the movies and other works,
although partly in a professional capacity! And I had them take me along to some
of the orchestra recordings for the movies, too, since they were related to what
launched me into being a professional musician. I’d always dreamed of seeing
the actual recording process with my own eyes, and doing so really let me get a
feel for how the whole project is put together, as well as a glimpse into the
atmosphere of the world they were creating.

Q: The songs that play throughout Twilight Wings feel
natural to the ear and tend to make the characters and Pokémon more captivating
to watch, making things stand out more. What were you thinking about as you
wrote them?

A: Thank you very much for the compliment! This relates somewhat to
what I said before about what I had in mind as I was composing, but the big idea
underlying everything was that Pokémon is a story with a nearly 25-year
history, and I approached my work with the goal of making a gift for the people
who love the world of Pokémon. I was trying to convey the very atmosphere of Twilight
Wings
through music.

This
might get a little technical, but for example, let’s look at how Nessa grows
over the course of Episode 4. I came up with a musical phrase to serve as a
motif for Nessa herself. Then I would vary that theme, like changing it a
little after she’d gone for a ride on Milotic. The goal was to have Nessa’s
progress show through even in the music. And people have contacted me directly
to give positive feedback about that choice, even from other countries! That makes
me really glad. It feels like I succeeded.

Q: There’s a lot of music in these roughly six-minute episodes,
but the series’ ending theme seems like it left a particularly strong
impression on the audience. Can you tell us what you envisioned for this song
and what you were thinking as you composed it?

A: The director, [Shingo] Yamashita, told me he thought there was
something mathematical about classical music and that he liked music with
classical underpinnings and thought that might be a good fit. So I kept that in
mind. I have a feeling what he said stemmed directly from the inspiration he
also drew on for his creative process, so if the music I created left a strong
impression on everyone, then maybe I managed to pull off the type of sound the
work needed.

The director also specifically told me he wanted the ending song
to be the most memorable. Based on that, I felt like I should make the ending
theme a sort of message to all the people around the world who love Pokémon. I
think there’s a lot that we as humans can learn from Pokémon. I hoped to depict
through music the beauty of this wonderful world, where there’s no
discrimination or division and everything is embraced.

Q: Were there any particular parts of composing the music for Twilight
Wings
that you took extra care with, or struggled with, or that left a
strong impression?

A: The search for a musical
style that uniquely embodies this work. The search ended up spanning all types
of musical genres, and sometimes creating crossovers between them. This was
something I both took extra care with and struggled with at the time.
Ultimately, though, each part of it was so rich, and I remember it as an
enjoyable—even thrilling—process.

I’ve watched each episode through hundreds of times in the process
of making the music, too, so it’s extremely hard to choose a specific moment,
but if I had to pick, I’d say the first episode left a very strong impression
since it served as my entryway into Twilight Wings.

I don’t know how much I should say, but personally speaking, the director, Mr.
Yamashita, put a little bit of himself into John’s character, so seeing John
take his first step toward his dream was extremely moving.

As a result, I think it ended up as an excellent opening, extremely delicate and capturing
both a sense of tension and moments of comfort as well.

Q:
Out of all the many pieces you wrote, are there any you’re particularly fond
of? If so, why?

A: I’m actually still in the process of writing
the music for the final episode at the time of this interview, but I have a
feeling that the pieces I write for this final episode will end up being my
favorites. It’s still just a feeling, though, and I can’t really give a reason.
(Laughs.) There’s a lot that’s still taking shape, so it’s hard to say.

Q: But right now, as
you’re working on that final episode, you’re feeling like its music might be
your favorite of all?

A: Yes, that’s right. With that in mind, if I
had to choose a favorite out of what’s been completed, I might choose the piece
I mentioned before from the fourth episode: the song that plays after Nessa
rides on Milotic’s back. That scene was a relatively long one for this series,
but I think I succeeded in composing a piece that captured the feeling of her
progress.

Q: Now, can you tell us about any
highlights you’re looking forward to—including musical highlights—from what’s
to come?

A: That would be whether or not John will actually
get to go see one of Leon’s matches! I think the way John chases after his
dream is extremely well depicted.

I’ve still got things in the works, too—by the time this
interview is published, I’ll hopefully have composed a score that will give
John’s dream an extra boost, so I hope you’ll keep an ear out for that.

Q: Lastly, is there
anything you’d like to say to fans of Twilight Wings and of Pokémon as a
whole?

A: I’ve gotten
messages from lots of people as I’ve been composing, which is probably in part
thanks to the way the episodes have been released with this monthly cadence.

Those messages have given me great strength during these times that are hard on
everyone.

As someone working in the entertainment industry, I’m in a position where I often
get to be the one who is providing courage and encouragement to others [through
my work], but this time I was on the receiving end of those feelings. It made
me very happy.

It means the world to me
to have been able to work on a score while consciously aiming to make it a
thank-you gift to the listeners who encouraged me. I hope my heartfelt
gratitude comes across—thank you!

I’ve also gotten a real sense of how irreplaceable the world of Twilight Wings and
Pokémon is for many people, thanks to the interactions I’ve had with fans on
Twitter.

I think it goes to show how truly important it is for us to have somewhere we feel
like we belong as we go through life.

It made me think that perhaps a shared love for Pokémon could help reduce strife
and conflict between people.

Because of that, I hope everyone out there will always continue to keep Pokémon by your
side.

It’ll make me lonesome to see the last episode arrive, but if the call ever comes
again, I’ll come back anytime. (Laughs.) Let’s meet again somewhere!

About Conisch

Conisch is a composer and pianist born on April 19, 1981. He graduated from Tokyo’s Waseda Jitsugyou High School in the general education curriculum and partially completed a program in composition at the Toho Gakuen School of Music. Afterward, he studied composition under the musicians Masakazu Natsuda, Naoko Hishinuma, and Hiroshi Yamaguchi. He is a trustor and member of the Japanese Society for the Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), as well as a member of the Japan Composers & Arrangers Association (JCAA) and the president and representative director of Soranone, Inc. He is affiliated with the musical unit AYACONI.

Remember, all seven episodes of Pokémon: Twilight Wings as well as the new special episode, Pokémon: Twilight Wings—The Gathering of Stars, are available to watch on Pokémon TV—here on Pokemon.com or using the Pokémon TV mobile app—or on the official Pokémon YouTube channel.

Be sure to read all our interviews with the Pokémon: Twilight Wings creative team!

Pokémon: Twilight Wings Interview Part 1: Mizutamari Higashi, Illustrator

Pokémon: Twilight Wings Interview Part 2: Sou Kinoshita, Screenwriter



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