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The Mashup Makers
~Creating 72 Uniquely Harmonized Songs~
▶ Yo Oyama
ZIZZ STUDIO: Audio Producer
In addition to composing and arranging music, as well as working as a recording and mixing engineer, Yo Oyama also plays guitar and bass for the Muse's music.
Favorite Song: "Fruit of Evil" as performed by Aoi Fuji
▶ Katsuo Kawasumi
ZIZZ STUDIO: Songwriter
Katsuo Kawasumi wrote twelve of the Muse's songs in Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord.
Favorite Song: "Shadow Boundary" as performed by Saki Mitsuki
▶ Ikuko Ebata
ZIZZ STUDIO: Lyricist
In addition to acting as the Supervising Director and Production Assistant for Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord, Ikuko Ebata also oversaw the Latin translation in "Ignis Fatuus" by Kaori Oda.
Favorite Song: "Ignis Fatuus" as performed by Kaori Oda
▶ Makoto Kitano
Compile Heart: Producer
Favorite Song: "Notes of Faith" as performed by Yui Ishikawa
Time for a little chat with ZIZZ...
What made you decide to take on this project?
At first, my guess is you thought the music would have a very active feel to it, but what did you think when you heard the music would be mashup-focused? (Mashup: A musical technique of combining two different songs into one.)
It was certainly an unprecedented idea.
Combining the music of two characters, one light and one dark... I'll be honest, at first, I didn't really see it. But, you mentioned that you'd already been refused by another company, and I remember you saying something like, "We know it's worthy of being rejected out of hand, but please hear us out."
Yeah that sounds about right.
At first we reached out to another production studio, but they told us: "We get what you want to do, and if it was one song combined with one, that's at least something that's been done before. But three combined with three? Or six combined with six? As interesting an idea as that is, it's just not possible." They came back to us with a lot of other ideas, like asking if we wanted one song with different arrangements, but that just wasn't what we wanted to do.
When thinking about someone who might be interested in this idea, ZIZZ STUDIO came to mind. We had originally planned on asking them to help out with background music but then we thought, "Why not ask ZIZZ STUDIO to do the whole thing?"
When I first heard the idea, I had a feeling that this might be pretty tough. Then they said they wanted to do six songs combined with six other songs.
Yeah, that was the starting point.
I said "Look I can't promise we'll be able to do this, but let's start by combining one song with another." Let's try making a Light and Dark song, combine them together, and take it from there. That way, if it didn't work out and we got fired from the project, well, at least we tried. But I was pretty interested at that point.
We went through a lot of testing to match the major key Light song, and the minor key Dark song, but it really impressed me when we managed to combine the first two songs.
I thought, "Whoa, this is actually very interesting!" Plus, there were so many thing I learned from making that first song.
When we got the initial response, "Hey that was great, everybody liked it! Please do the next two or three!" Honestly, I was a little nervous about it!
After we got that first song done we were like, "Alright, let's move on to 2x2 now!" Take it in steps, you know? Like, how far can we take this?
Yeah, you were pretty good at persuading us. You were like "How about you try doing two next? And, if you can do two, you can do three right?"
You were very encouraging and before I knew it we were working on six!
And while it was certainly an interesting project at the start, I feel like it became one that was actually worthwhile in the end.
We couldn't hear the overlapping words when the songs were combined.
What were some of the issues you had to be aware of when crafting lyrics, and how did you approach differentiating the songs?
At first we had temporary lyrics (just singing things like "la la la"), but we soon realized that we couldn't really hear the words when the songs were combined because they started overlapping.
When we put together tentative lyrics, we noticed that if the words of the two songs were totally different, we couldn't understand them. I told Kawasumi-San to make them rhyme or something! (Laughs)
At first I was told we had three Light songs and three Dark songs coming in, then remember being told "Alright, just got six more songs!" And I thought, "He really took the job. Oyama-San is really going to write six Light and six Dark songs..."
I sure did! (Laughs)
But you kept saying "Can we do it? I'm not sure about this..."
We always felt like, "Well, if a song's come in, we've got to write it." On this project, Ebata-San wrote the tentative lyrics for me. It was quite different than the way we normally write lyrics, don't you think?
I wouldn't say that. Kawasumi-San basically rewrote the lyrics from scratch!
I think the development team was quite surprised when they heard how different the song was from the one they were used to hearing, but they seemed to accept the new versions pretty quickly.
That's right. For us, it felt like moving up to the next step.
Ideally, it would have been best to have the words overlap where the notes overlapped, but given the sheer number of melodies, that would have been impossible. So rather than have everything rhyme in areas where the musical notes overlapped, I tried to have the vowel sounds of the lyrics overlap as well.
This wasn't because Ebata-San ordered me to do it that way. Rather, I figured that no matter what type of content I make in the future, I probably wouldn't have the opportunity to mix six songs with six other songs again, so I wanted to put out something really exceptional. That led me to think about what type of approach I should take. It was very challenging.
I really felt that you did a great job of matching the lyrics with the game's theme surrounding resonance.
With "resonance" being a keyword in the game, I thought, I should really try to make that a theme of the songs too, so I began looking for places to use that word in the songs. Because the Japanese word for resonance can either be broken into four parts "kyo-u-me-i" or two parts "kyou-mei" it was very easy to find places to use it in the songs.
For example the Light song "Eternal Fairy Tail" can have its melody broken into four parts ("ta ta ta ta") and the Dark song "Fruit of Evil" is a two part pattern ("ta ta"). As you can see, "kyo-u-me-i" and "kyou-mei" both easily fit in there.
Ah, I get it! You explained that easy enough for a regular person to understand!
The birth of a different kind of joy
Tell us how you felt when you created these mashups and how they made you feel.
You want us to actually talk about how we combined these songs, huh? Are we allowed to talk about that publicly? I'm a little worried somebody will copy us! (Laughs)
Well, with this project, we had a Light character and a Dark character, and we had to blend their two songs together. This meant we had constraints that normal compositions doesn't have, namely matching song tempo and structure.
If the tempos aren't exactly the same, the songs will fall out of sync. As for song structure, we have an A and B verse, and our chorus sections, C and D. A, B, C, and D all were made to have 16 measures, which allows all the songs to develop in a similar way. When our C chorus hits, everyone gets really pumped up, and when the songs are joined, they fit so neatly together.
I've heard that people often like to use an ABC song structure (Verse/Prechorus/Chorus or sometimes Verse/Verse/Chorus), but why did you choose to go with this ABCD pattern instead?
There are a lot of songs out there that use the ABC structure, but we felt if we stuck to an ABC pattern throughout our process, the songs might get stale. That's why we added the second "D" chorus.
The hook in C is designed to have enough energy to make people open up and want to sing along to it, so I think it's fair to call C the main chorus, and D an extension of it.
C and D are related, so they're not completely separate, it is just there to open things up a bit more. C and D working together make both parts really come alive.
Indeed, it definitely changes the high point of the song.
That's right. In fact, there are some songs where D is really the highlight of the song. There are some Light songs where C is filled with notes and D is much less so, so when those Light songs are combined with Dark ones, there's an interesting flip that occurs.
If you keep the number of notes the same, then you run into the previously discussed issue with lyrics, so has the songs progressed we tried our best to vary the number of words.
I see, thanks for explaining that!
We have to talk about key too. If the songs were in completely different keys, they wouldn't match, so all songs are in the same key. The Light songs all have a bright major "Do Mi So" progression. The Dark songs all have a minor "Ra Do Mi" progression which gives a kind sad feeling.
This is called "relative key", where the key and chords all start in a similar place and will sound pleasant when combined together. Making one song under these constraints is one thing..... but making twelve? And making those twelve sound as different as possible? That's really difficult to do.
Of course, changing up the tempo would change the feel of the songs, but we were constrained there too. Making twelve different sounding songs with the same tempo was really tough.
Another thing about merging the two songs... We talked a bit about it before with lyrics, but I did a fair bit of research on mashups. Musicals occasionally will join two songs together, but typically one song is sung, and the second song is added on as a follow up. There are many classic mashups in the past, but the roles of the two singers are typically very well divided, so it's easy to merge the two of them together.
We found that it is easier to hear the lyrics when there are as few overlapping notes as possible.
You mean like a back and forth dialog, right?
There are many songs like that in the world, but if you do that, each song will be filled with gaps in lyrics, weakening the power of individual songs. We struggled a lot with that, but in the end we decided to get rid of those self-imposed restrictions and just said, "I guess it's okay if they overlap." (Laughs)
Then, the test version came out really well, and there were so many moments that created a different type of joy, a different kind of emotion. That's when we decided not to run from combining the two sounds, but rather to embrace it.
We managed to make it through combining the six on six songs, I just hope that all 12 sounds sound different enough... I knew that if two songs were played at the same time it would be almost impossible to know what the song was about but I didn't really think about that! (Laughs)
That's right, I remember Oyama-San telling me that "If we have 2 x 2 songs, it should be fine, but doing 3 or 4 four songs with the same key and tempo, they will for sure start to sound similar. But I'll do my best to make them sound as different as possible."
As we took things step by step, I remember that towards the latter half of production, we would notice things like "Oh this phrase sounds similar to this one..." or things like that, but overall I think all the songs turned out really great.
We should also note that all of the songs are sung by 12 different singers. We wanted to make sure that each song made the most of their individual talents, so each song had ability to stand on its own merits. We wanted to make people excited at the parts of the song where they should get excited, and move people where they should be moved. So we started by making 12 songs and then it came to combining them... Each song with 6 different other songs.
Sometimes the lyrics would overlap a little bit but I would think "I guess this is alright," and I would give it the go-ahead on our side. Then I would send it to Kitano-San to listen to, and we repeated the process until all twelve songs were complete.
As you can imagine, it was far more complicated than the usual composition process.
You said that once a song was done, you tried mixing it with the 6 other songs. How did you decide on which ones to adjust?
I wondered about that too.
For example, when we combined a Light piece of music with a Dark piece, the Light piece on its own might sound great, but when combined with the Dark piece, the Light piece lost some of its integrity, so I would end up tweaking the Dark piece slightly. My goal was to make the Dark songs make sense with the Light ones.
So, in places where the chords in the backing tracks were out of sync, I would correct them so the two would blend together nicely. I made sure not to disturb the counter-melody, but with the mashup, there were places that could be tweaked to an extent. I was actually pretty surprised about that.
And how were you able to correct those trouble areas? (Laughs)
Right... I asked Oyama-San to make a copy of the music score for me, with all twelve songs at once.
What exactly do you mean by that?
Here the twelve Light and Dark pieces of music are all lined up vertically, so you can see all of the music at once. As you can see, I did my best to align the vowel sounds and notes vertically as much as possible. You don't see this kind of thing often.
It's the first time I've ever seen something like that!
I always figured it might be easier to write songs with counter-melodies if the main melody and chorus were written on the same sheet. This is a kind of application of that theory.
An applicable application! But you were only talking about a one main and one counter-melody, not 12...
We had discussed it before, but a counter-melody will typically involve a main vocalist and a backing vocalist blending different lyrics in to the chorus. There are many songs that exist like this, but in this case, that type of song was a no-go.
Kitano-San specifically stated that he didn't want the song to have a main and counter vocal arrangement, but rather two main vocalists confronting each other. Both the music and lyrics should act as a confrontation between Light and Dark.
The melody is constantly playing, so there's really no space to rest. It's like the music has a lot of density and it's always moving.
If we set up a mashup where one song is going and the other is resting, we would have ended up with individual songs where there was too much downtime for an individual song. Each song needed to be able to stand on its own.
That's exactly right. This was a totally new experience for me, and I'm not sure how everyone will feel when listening to it. But I think once people get into it, they'll find themselves pleasantly surprised with how well everything works together.
We even went so far as to do period research.
What were some of the issues you were conscious of, and what difficulties did you face while creating the music?
From a composition standpoint, the hardest thing was not getting stuck in a rut. At first, I was able to come up with a lot of variations; I was able to make some upbeat songs, ballads, thumpy songs, fun songs, etc. That said, it was very difficult to come up with twelve different patterns in the same tempo.
As difficult as it was, toward the end of the project, I found myself focusing more on the music and less on the details. I have a feeling that made it more difficult for the lyricists but, I just ended up saying. "Sorry, I'll need your help on this one."
Personally, I feel like given the collaborative nature of the work, the two sides were able to use their strengths to create one great song, which in turn created even better mashups.
I think another important aspect was that we were in change of creating all twelve songs. Typically with a project this difficult, the work would be spread out and handled by many people.
In this case, I think the fact that it was such a small team creating the music ensured that there was a unity to the work that might not have been there otherwise.
We even went so far as to do period research. We asked ourselves things like "Can we really use the word 'steam whistle'? Do trains exist in the world of Fairy Fencer F?"
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