Now then, I hear you had a really rough time getting approval for the orchestral recording from Miyamoto-san when you were making the previous game. How did that go this time?
We were very timid about approaching him this time, too. Since we'd done the same thing for the previous game, you'd think he'd give us the OK right away; on the other hand, though, since this was a sequel, we were also worried he'd say, "Why don't you just use the property we had made for the last game?" So first, in order to show Miyamoto-san how well the music from the previous game had gone over, we made up some presentation materials for him.
You put together material to illustrate just how much value there was in an orchestral recording, you mean?
That's right. We took two days to make up the materials, then gave them to Miyamoto-san and told him to read through them first. Then we said, very timidly, "We'd like to make an orchestral recording this time, too", and, without missing a beat, he said "Sure, why not?" Just like that. "We did it for the last game, so I'd guess the players are looking forward to it, too", he said. Then, since he'd told us, "In that case, why not?", we said, "Great. Then we'll take these materials back with us," and headed back to our work stations!
I see (laughs). To begin with, I think the concept was rooted in the fact that this game had a good, solid foundation in the first game, and that foundation hadn't been entirely used up; since that was the case, building something new on top of that foundation would let you create something even more appealing. I bet Miyamoto-san was thinking that, since this had turned out to be a good idea for the last game, of course you'd do it again this time.
I think that's what it was. I'm pretty sure he was thinking, fundamentally, "Why not take the parts that were good and make them even better?" Then we actually put in more orchestral music than we had in the previous game. In addition, we also put in some big band-style music6. Here, listen to this piece. Yoshi Star Galaxy Music 6Big band: A style of jazz music performed by a large group of players on instruments such as trumpets, trombones, saxophones and drums.
What do you think?
It's clearly different from the orchestral music. I’d say there's something a bit nostalgic about this piece, as though you can feel the current of previous Mario games running through it.
That's it exactly. So, Kondo-san, if you'd provide the commentary.
Well, uh... I did create this piece, true, but... Why me?
Just keeping things interesting (laughs).
Well, during the previous "Iwata Asks", I said something like "I really meant to write more songs, but I didn't get many".
Yes, I remember that.
So this time, I was in charge of five songs, but after the fact, I thought I'd been given tough topics for three of them: the Yoshi tune we just played (Yoshi Star Galaxy) and the song that plays on Starship Mario, plus the one for Bowser Jr.'s fortress. I thought it might be a subtle revenge from Yokota-san, because I'd said that.
And what was your real intention there, Yokota-san?
Since Yoshi makes a new appearance in this game, I thought if I wrote the tune myself, it would probably just turn into an extension of the Super Mario Galaxy music.
So you thought bringing in someone other than yourself, with different tastes, would make Yoshi stand out more.
That's right. On top of that, Kondo-san is particularly good with Yoshi's tunes, and I went out on a limb and asked him not to make it orchestral.
In the beginning, the game director told me he wanted a tune like something from a primitive age. The game is set in space, among the stars, and I had to evoke an atmosphere of “ancient times” in spite of that, so I really worried about what sort of tune to write.
And what made you decide on this arrangement, after you'd done all that worrying?
Since we ended up having blue sky in the background, I didn't have to stress so much about creating a "cosmic" atmosphere. So then, in order to reinforce the "old-time" image, I used a drum.
There was some drum patter in there, wasn't there?
Yes. In the series up until now, they'd add percussion to the music whenever Mario rode Yoshi, so I thought that sort of African drum rhythm might work well. First I came up with the rhythm, and then when the melody came to me, it was this tone, roaring up from deep inside...
And that was the saxophone?
Right. I had them use a baritone sax, and that's the tune we ended up with.
This tune was recorded in another session, not in the orchestral one?
It was on the same day, but we used big band-style woodwinds and brass instruments, and had them create a fun, swinging piece.
Was it your idea to try for a big band sound, Yokota-san?
Well, while I was negotiating with the representatives at the musicians' office, I learned that some saxophone player who'd been active all over the place would be participating in this recording.
We'd always intended to have it be a non-orchestral piece, and I thought it would be okay not to use real instruments. But we ended up using a real saxophone, and I'm really glad we did.
The "live" sound you get with real instruments certainly does have a different feel to it.
It really does.
I think when you use real instruments, there's an emotional impression which gets communicated to the players, and it makes the game more enjoyable.
Actually, when I finished this tune, I was pretty worried. I wasn't sure if it would be good enough. But nobody vetoed it.
No, quite the opposite; I think it went over very well. The game starts with grand, magnificent music, and then you hear this tune at a fairly early stage; I think hearing it really gives the players a sense that, "Oh, this is different from the last game". Only, when we say we did pieces like this, too, it may make it sound as though we cut back on the orchestra...
But you didn't at all.
No. There were about sixty orchestra musicians, but we also had ten big band musicians attend the recording session, in addition to the orchestra. So there were around seventy performers in all.
Twenty more than for the last game. In other words, the music for this game has more of a full orchestral sound to it than the previous game, and on top of that, it also has lots of new big band accents.
Exactly! That's exactly what I was trying to say!
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