1Up Interview with Yoko Shimomura

Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance

1Up has conducted an interview with Kingdom Hearts series composer Yoko Shimomura. They ask her  about how she composed for the latest entry in the series Dream Drop Distance. The title of the interview is called “The Evolving Sounds of Kingdom Hearts 3D”. Check out the interview below:

1UP: Nearly every element of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance deals with the concept of dreams in some way. How did this theme influence the composition of music in the game?

YS: I kept in mind the concepts of “dream” and “night.” Many times, I came up with musical phrases that were sort of fun, out of the ordinary, and fluffy.

1UP: The music in the Disney sections of KH3D evoke the spirit of their sources so well, particularly Tron: Legacy and Hunchback of Notre Dame, without using music from the films. How do you go about capturing the essence of those worlds through the use of original compositions?

YS: Thank you. This is actually a tradition that I’ve kept since the first Kingdom Hearts. First, I get information on words that describe the stage (for example, it was “night” or “amusement park” this time). I also look at the artwork of the stage, and repeatedly watch footage (just small clips) of Sora moving around in that area. Then, I get my imagination going as I picture the original film in my mind. The important thing is not to watch the original films during the creative process. If it was a title that I’ve previously seen, I depend on my memory; if it was something I’ve never watched, I will watch it and wait for a while before starting the creative process. If I worked at the same time as watching the film, or immediately after watching it, then there’s a possibility that the score will just be an imitation.

1UP: Dearly Beloved is a theme that became iconic after KH1, and yet it still sounds fresh in each subsequent installment. Please explain the process of going back to a theme and reimagining it for each new chapter in the series.

YS: There are times when I can say “Yes, I’ll go with this feel” right after coming on board a project, and times when I just have to continuously wait until I come up with how I would like to proceed. Actually, I always try not to think too hard when coming up with a theme.

1UP: Are you forced to think a bit differently when composing music for a handheld title as opposed to a console game? How is the creative process in an entirely new project (such as Parasite Eve) different from one that is built upon an already existing foundation (like KH or Super Mario RPG)?

YS: Since KH3D used prerecorded music, it’s actually a better sound source than the first and second Kingdom Hearts games on the console. (The first and second installments did not use prerecorded music, but used internal sound sources controlled by MML [Music Macro Language: a programming language that lets the console generate sound using its internal sound sources].) In the actual process, there are additional measures you can take to accommodate for speakers on a handheld device, such as making the bass come out stronger, or beefing up the low tones, but the synthesizer operator is very good, and so I don’t have to worry about all of that and create my music freely.

In terms of entirely new vs. building upon an already existing foundation, the creative process is definitely different. If there is an existing foundation to a song, first and foremost I make sure to not disturb its world, and I try to lean towards that world as I get my imagination going. If it’s entirely new, I try to come up with something a little crazy and explore the range and possibilities. It’s as if I go out the furthest first, then come back in and refine my work by cutting into it from many different angles. But in either case, the process of “getting closer to the essence of the work itself” is the same.

Source: Square Enix Press