Most celebrated for his alternating touching and dynamic orchestral film scoring, Joe Hisaishi is a prolific Japanese composer of classical works, film scores, and experimental electronic and animation music who is best known for his beloved collaborations with Studio Ghibli animation director Hayao Miyazaki on classics films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.
Born Mamoru Fujisawa in Nakano, Japan, Hisaishi began studying the violin at age five and went on to major in music composition at the Kunitachi College of Music. He released his first album in 1981. Titled Mkwaju, it was written for percussion ensemble with keyboard and computer programming. That was followed in 1982 by Information, credited to himself and his oft-used pseudonym for collaborators, Wonder City Orchestra. 1983 marked his first film score and first collaboration with Miyazaki, on 1984's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. With moments of sentimental strings and percussive fanfare, its range marks the dramatic emotional content of his scores to come. He continued to write original music outside of film, releasing dozens of his electronic and classical compositions throughout the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, all the while continuing to score films and provide accompanying image albums, vocal albums, and more for anime. Highlights of his collaborations with Miyazaki include animation scores for 1988's My Neighbor Totoro, 1997's Princess Mononoke, 2001 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature Spirited Away, 2004's Howl's Moving Castle, and 2013's The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.
He also scored multiple films for live-action director Takeshi Kitano, including Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or nominee Outrage, a yakuza film released in 2010. Several compilations of his classical and film music were released over his career, and while Miyazaki took a step back from feature film production in 2013, Maestro Hisaishi continued to compose film and video game scores and make appearances conducting orchestra concerts in Asia and Europe. ~ Marcy Donelson