On Presentation

I was fortunate to be part of the recording sessions in 1998 when Disney came to Seattle to recorded the orchestral soundtrack for the English version of “Castle in the Sky” (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) with members of the Seattle Symphony.  The original collaboration in 1986 between director Hayao Miyazaki and composer / conductor Joe Hisaishi for the original version of “Castle in the Sky” had been critically acclaimed, and a lot was riding on this new version of the score being recorded in Seattle.

Source: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

The director, composer and production crew had all flown in from Japan for the session, and arrived to the soundstage a couple of hours before the session. We were recording in a space with superb acoustics in Seattle known as “The Chapel”.  In an earlier life, this recording space had been the Sanctuary of the St. Thomas Catholic Monastery and is now the site of Bastyr University. Among the entourage was the Japanese music copyist for the sessions, who arrived with two suitcases containing the printed music he and his crew had prepared for the orchestra and conductor, which he had hand-carried with him on the plane.

Part of my job as the music librarian for the sessions was to set out the scores for the conductor, and the parts for the musicians. When I opened the first suitcase, I was stunned to see that each individual “book” of music for the players was carefully wrapped in rice paper, and tied with a thin black ribbon. Since I started my music preparation business in 1995, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the very best music copyists and engravers in the industry, but I’d never seen anything like this before, or since, in terms of presentation.

The scores for the conductor were also beautifully presented; hand-taped and bound with black cloth book-binding tape; one score book for each reel of the film. As the musicians began unwrapping the gift of music I had placed on their stands, I took note of the smiles and murmurs running through the orchestra.

I could see that the music copyist’s attention to detail extended to the music notation on the page as well. This was world-class music preparation and presentation!

In subtle ways, printed music notation can be the vehicle which brings the performance of a score to life. The quality of the workmanship and the presentation of the printed music can have a positive impact on a rehearsal, recording or performance.

It was certainly true for the “Castle in the Sky” score. The soundtrack recorded that day was magical.

Best wishes,


6 Replies to “On Presentation”

  1. Robert,
    What a great story! I totally agree about presentation. I believe it shows respect for the players, conductor and client. It lifts the mental state of everyone involved and makes for a more pleasant and more smoothly running session or rehearsal.

  2. One of the many lessons I have learned in living with someone of Japanese ancestry – presentation is key, in so many ways of life. Fascinating story, as I did not know of the SSO’s connection to the score (we are big Miyazaki fans). Thanks!

  3. Thanks for sharing this experience. Being Japanese myself, this does not surprise me at all. The Japanese (as with many Asian cultures) are all about presentation. That was so cool how that transformed the recording session.

    Kinda makes you wonder about people who come to job interviews dressed inappropriately. What are they thinking, anyway?

  4. Inspiring story! Just one more reason why it’s one of my favorite soundtracks. Something I will definitely take note of for the future!

    1. It’s a very good question, Jonathan. Unfortunately, in the whirlwind of events surrounding the session, the unfamiliar names and accents I was trying to process during the introductions, and the years that have past since, I’m not able to recall his name – but his craftsmanship is definitely remembered! I don’t own the DVD, but it might be listed in the credits if you are interested. ~robert

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