Xenosaga Episode II Movie Scene Soundtrack Liner Notes
Yuki Kajiura - Composer - Interview at Victor Studio 215
The mastering is finished and I'm going to arrange the track order one more time, and I'd say honestly that it was a very interesting experience. I had to do some studying, and that was a bit of work, but the happiness of hearing the melodies I wrote matched to Xenosaga's world and played by a large group of strings outweighs that.
Regarding the music I created, the melodies are certainly mine, but comparing this soundtrack to my previous works, I feel, in a good way, that I didn't compose as I would have otherwise. The melodies are my melodies, but I tried to compose while remaining conscious of it as a "soundtrack," and held back a little on the "color".
This is the fourth game music project I've been allowed to work on. At the beginning I received materials and the game, and I finished it (laughs). Once I came to understand the world fully, I participated in meetings. I wanted to know what happened next as soon as possible, so I was happy to get the scenario. Since it's an important game that everyone was so interested in, when I first heard that I was to compose for it, I was nervous but the joy of "Oh, I'm going to create music for this world" was much greater. While I played the game I was fascinated by Yasunori Mitsuda-san's compositions, and I really loved the worldview which they presented, but even when I thought about how I could write the music for a sequel to something so amazing, I didn't feel pressure to write freely from my own worldview. Inheriting the worldview of the previous game, I didn't feel the urge to try to create something that stood on its own. In a way, that's already been done. There's no point in forcing through it. Having that as a starting point, it was actually quite easy.
From the beginning I was only going to do the movie scenes, and it wasn't a problem. On the contrary, it was good that I was able to concentrate on those parts. I was able to do what I wanted in those parts, when it might have been problematic elsewhere. It wasn't as if I didn't want to try doing all of it, but there was also the problem of time. I find writing music for the internal sound source difficult, and although I've done it several times before, I am aware that I'm not up to date with the technology. You need time, work, and knowledge, and I couldn't start from scratch at that point. I figured it would be better to leave that to people who specialize in it.
When I first saw the movie scenes, they were so powerful, even without the lines, I cried. I was able to write music to the movie scenes this time, in contrast to my usual animation work when I don't get to match the images, so I took special care in doing so. Not to get in the way of the images, and such. It's like writing music for movies, because in movies, there is already a strong conception of the whole from the beginning. "The scene lasts from here to here." "There are lines here, so don't cover them over." "Make this part more dramatic." And so forth, down to the smallest details. Much of it was like that. I enjoyed working towards those kinds of goals again. I got a lot of energy from the movie scenes. There were a lot of them where just by watching a melody would form in my mind. There were also times when the scenes got bad reactions, when I probably tried too hard to match the images. Times when I matched the images too closely, times when I put in pointless development, times when I created pieces longer than they should have been, and there might also have been times when I overdid it a little (laughs). But except for those times, I think the reactions were mostly positive.
I went to New York to record the music for the initial trailer, and the orchestral musicians whom I approached really "dig into" music. I told the staff the same thing, but I found it a good experience to pay for a single session and start in a different environment, instead of with the musicians with whom I always work and have built connections. That first piece, from the time of the trailer, is entirely an image theme. It wasn't meant to fit any specfic scene, so I didn't have to leave any gaps for lines or performances, and it's the one piece into which I was able to put anything I wanted. I put in the element of "Let's get going on Xenosaga II!", but it was lucky that I was able to expand the music past that. Besides that, I wrote the piece for the two vocalists I had recently met. In an amazingly short amount of time they made the music their own and since they have such strong individual personalities, they helped me more than anything (laughs).
The beginning of the soundtrack, disc 1 tracks 1 through 4, is continuous. It was created as a single piece, with the same melody and elements running throughout. Although the titles split it up, I was allowed to keep it the way it was on the soundtrack. The same thing with tracks 20 and 21.
Although there isn't one particular way in which I want you to listen to the music, the melody of the ending theme appears in various guises throughout the pieces. I would be happy if people notice that; the same with the resonance of the pieces for strings. For this project, I spoke with the people at Namco, and we will record everything I wrote for the game, without exceptions. I am rarely afforded the chance to listen to everything I wrote from start to finish, so I am extremely glad. The various titles for the pieces are mine, I chose what I felt, attaching each title to its piece. Some of them might not fit the scenes, but I want you to understand that I did create them with their respecive scenes in mind. Personally, I look forward to how the music directors, with their own ideas about the music, will use it. Also, there are a few of the pieces that have not yet been recorded. I've been allowed to add the music used in the first trailer as well as the piano piece that some of you heard at the announcement meeting.
The mixing was done by Yoshi Tamura-san for the Japan sessions, and Tony-san for the New York sessions. The atmosphere of the mix that Tamura-san created changed the thin original synth into something extremely beautiful. Tony prepared the vocals, keeping the vocal inflections pristine. I usually add too much reverb (laughs), and everything surrounding the songs ends up sounding too dry by comparison; it feels suffocating. The producer said that "Tamura-san's mixing is very Hollywood-esque, and Tony's, on the other hand, seems very Japanese". Oh, so that's it, I thought.
Of all the playable characters, my favorite is Jr (laughs). I had liked him from before, but this time he takes a leading role. I want all of the players to be able to enter into Jr's emotional state in this work. When I read the scenario, I got so involved in his character that I ended up composing from my feelings of "Jr, stand up!" at times. I enjoy writing music when I feel "I like this character". I enjoy being drawn into a work and finding a character I particularly like in my projects. Unlike with characters I don't like, with characters I like I find myself making unusually elaborate, unusually long pieces (laughs). So much that anyone who heard the demos would know that I had gotten sucked in (laughs). Outside of the characters are the battles and the emotions. I absolutely had to enter the emotional scenes. I could only begin to compose from there. About the battle scenes, there was one person who told me "The battles seem to be Kajiura-san's weak point. They're not fanfares that play after a battle. You seem pretty bad at writing music for people trying to fight (laugh)". The scales fell from my eyes (big laugh). I will have to stop making pieces where "it seems like we'll win"!
Most likely, those who will listen to this soundtrack will be those who enjoy the world of Xenosaga. I also love the feeling of that world, and I am grateful that I was able to play there. Feeling something like that (laughs), I had a lot of fun composing for the project. I feel "I captured the Xenosaga world in this way" or "this is the kind of music I wanted to hear in the Xenosaga world", and I hope all of you enjoy this soundtrack as well.
Keiichi Nozaki - Sound Producer - Manhattan Meeting Memo
This time as music producer, I dared to choose New York. It goes without saying that New York is truly an inspiring town, in its music and culture. It served as the next site for Xenosaga's music following London, and the liberal environment there helped composer Yuki Kajiura to face the new challenges of the project.
First, in May 2003, she travelled to America to record the strings for "the image theme of Xenosaga II," which was used in the announcement trailer. We met with the conductor Larry Hochman to give him the score and to discuss how it would be performed. From his expression, which displayed good breeding, I honestly felt that as could be expected, the American classical world is as narrow as the one in Japan...it was probably just me. (laughs) His precise interpretations assuaged my doubts, and they did a great job. I felt that Ms. Kajiura, who was next to me checking the score, was satisfied as well.
It was very exciting to hear a real set of uilleann pipes, an Irish ethnic instrument, during the recording sessions — its chanter playing the melody, its drone staying on a fixed pitch, its regulators producing harmonies, its bag storing air — all of the componants of the instrument. The image of its bellows, controlling the air with the arms, comes to mind, I suppose. There are not many players living in Japan at present, so we wanted to do that in New York as well. Mr. Jerry O'Sullivan, who has released several Celtic-themed albums and plays live, was almost frightening at first glance when he entered the studio, but when he played the sounds were unspeakably empty and powerful at the same time, and in an instant the allure of his particular sound transported us. The sounds that floated and sounded had something in them that appeals to the soul, beyond any doubt, and I think that you can feel it on this album as well.
In September 2003, through the auditions that the Recording Coordinator held, I met the star Margaret Dorn. She is a true singer-songwriter who has released many solo albums. In November, around when it was becoming colder, I met her in the studio. It was the first time, and I was again surprised to find that an unimaginably powerful voice could come from such a delicate body. This is a bit off topic, but when she brought ginger tea to Kajiura-san as a present, I thought to myself that she had more of the Japanese sensibility for secrets than us.
This was mentioned in the earlier interview, but it is true that I was helped this time by some wonderful engineers. Besides Yoshi Tamura-san who worked with us in Japan, there were two engineers in New York who helped us, Tony-san and Joe-san. We knew Tony Volante-san through his mixing on Donald Fagen's "Kamakiriad" and also on "See-Saw" and other Kajiura soundtracks. Again, this cool and stylish man created an amazngly subtle mix. And on top of that, the Chinese tea he made was even more wonderful (laughs). Though it was his first time working with Kajiura-san, Joe Chiccarelli-san created a bright atmosphere in the studio. Although he helps many Japanese artists, he was considerate of our requests and created wonderful sounds. His way of carefully guiding each piece to its destination may be the best of any I have yet seen.
Including the 5.1 mix, we went to America three times for Xenosaga's music production. Unfortunately, Japanese CDs cannot produce surround sound, so you will have to enjoy it within the game itself. We met many new people, who inspired us in many ways, but the best meeting may have been our introduction to "Xenosaga." To a composer, a work is a place to release ideas, but from our standpoint, I believe that a work is a school to educate composers. She may not yet have graduated, but I hope you will enjoy this great new Yuki Kajiura sound.
Liner Notes Translated by Ben Schweitzer. Do not republish without written permission.