Joe Hisaishi

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About Joe Hisaishi

Joe Hisaishi is a less-is-more composer who achieved fame as a maximalist while still holding onto his minimalist impulses. Born Mamoru Fujisawa in Nakano, Nagano, Japan in 1950, he was exposed to hundreds of films a year by his cinephile father. After scoring his first animes in the early '70s, when he was enthralled by new age and electronic music, he changed his name to a Japanese take on Quincy Jones (“Quincy” can be written with the same kanji in “Hisaishi”). His 1981 debut, Mkwaju, is an album of African-inspired minimalism for percussion ensemble, but Hisaishi switched gears in 1986 for his first film with Hayao Miyazaki. Laputa: Castle in the Sky expanded his synthesizer sketches into lush orchestrations for international audiences and heralded the start of a long partnership with the Studio Ghibli cofounder. Hisaishi’s emotional rollercoaster of a score for films like My Neighbor Totoro (1998), Princess Mononoke (1997), and Spirited Away (2001) reflected the heroes' bravery, innocence, melancholy, and sense of enchantment. While playing John Williams to Miyazaki's Steven Spielberg, Hisaishi also produced pulsating (and Japanese Academy Award-winning) music for Takeshi Kitano's 1993 gangster film, Sonatine. But he has declared 2009’s Minima Rhythm, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, to be his favorite of his own works, a grand, symphonic interpretation of melodically minimalist ideas that reconciles the austere and colorful aspects of his brilliant career.

Nakano, Nagano, Japan
December 6, 1950
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