A way to distinguish an anime (or quite frankly, a show per se) from our lives is that in our daily lives, we walk around the world with only the sounds of the winds, cars, people and everything else filling up your ears with what could otherwise be music. I mean, of course, our lives don't have a background music that plays along as you epically scale the tallest of mounatins (or the stairs at school) or fight the craziests of monsters (or that math-test in school) or have yourself the most amazing and touching moment with your soulmate
(or you just sent a :*-emoticon to your SO) and you might not even have one (sorry...)!
Sure, we could substitue that with earphones and play music that either eats away from your daily data-plan or you just illegally downloaded it and stored it on your device (don't worry, EVERYONE knows). But you did it for a reason, right?
The music that is being played in an anime isn't just some way to fill the void of nothingness that would otherwise be filled with what I describe our reality as; Wind, cars, people and much much more.
But imagine that, our lives actually filled with music that fitted the situation when you need it, to make you go that extra mile, to make you see everything around you as a challenge, to engage deeper into relationships.
To simply amplify your own story
But first, what is an OST capable of?
An OST in a different scenario
Now, we'll talk about something outside of anime as we know it. We are going to make a small dive into the world of gaming.
I've taken three pics from 3 different kind of games.
- The First is from Mass Effect 3
- The Second is from the trailer to Kingdom Hearts 3
- The Third is from Need for Speed (2015)
In each of these pics, you would have heard music playing in the background. Going with the example of Mass Effect (which is a 3PS-RPG-game), you would most likely hear orcheastral and bombastical scores to add gravity to the situation. That urge to succeed and staying alive while accomplishing your mission will be critical to the OST as it will keep you FOCUSED on the game.
With Kingdom Hearts (which is an Adventure-RPG-game) you would most likely hear light-hearted music with a sense of freedom to do whatever you want. The need to continue on and explore more while experiencing the story will be critical for the OST as it will keep you FOCUSED on the game.
Racing through the streets of Need for Speed (which is a pure Racing-game) will most certantly keep you heart pumping adrenaline and with that epic rap/pop music playing in the background, the sense of being a REAL streetracer is more apparent and you'll want to hit those corners harder, breaking those speed-limits faster and crossing the finish-line first of all, keeping you FOCUSED on the game.
Every one of the OST in every game has the purpose on keeping you FOCUSED in the game. By mixing and adding different timings in the game, as well as the melody and instruments used, you can manipulate the player into taking a boss-battle way more seriously than a tutorial
(And here's a pro-tip. When studying, listen to game-music as it is designed to keep you focused while other music is there to make you enjoy it, thereby distracting you)
It may seem simple to create an OST as you can pick any song you like, like you can with the OP or with the ED, with some restrictions of course.
But no. I would rather say that creating an OST is by far the hardest to do in anime that is music-related.
You have to consider many aspects when fitting an OST into an anime, but I'll give you the easiest and most simple explanation as to how and when you choose the OST for a scene:
- First and foremost, the director has to decide on one of two options: Either adapt the music to the scene or adapt the scene to the music. There's of course no real clear answer as it depends on the situation and either is fine. Keep in mind that you can hear what the director has chosen, as the music might feel cut and out-of-sync for a second if the fore-mentioned is chosen.
- The choice of instruments: A score is something you can see on a paper but an OST is what you hear. On paper, notes are everywhere and the choice of instrument should never be specified, as it leaves more variety and choice of depth to the scenes. A mix of a guitar and a piano might preferable for a mellow scene over some techno and drums, right?
- The speed: The director might even speed up or slow down the music to fit the situation and execution better. This is then a mixture of the first point, where the director both adapts the music and the scene with each other. A more slower pace can mean a more serious tone (like sorrow or action-heavy) while a faster pace gives a more freespirited tone (like happiness or a sense of hope)
- Bass: A more bass-focused OST allows the scene to shift towards the heavy-side of the emotion-spectrum (intensity)
- A voice: Although not that uncommon, many OSTs contain a voice of some-sorts to elavate the situation further.
The Three examples
Before, I showed you three examples through games.
Let's go back to our roots and show you three anime-examples.
- The First gif is from Shokugeki no Souma
- The Second gif is from Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
- The Third gif is from Aldnoah.Zero
Again, you would be hearing music in each and every example. This time, the animation is going to keep you focused, leaving the OST to do its job better in anime.
Now, you'll see Souma cutting some vegetables. Would some guitar and happy piano make more sense in a extremely compeitive anime?
What you would hear right now would be BATTLE-MUSIC, fast and brutal and what you are actually seeing is a fight so epic that it clenches your fist and widens your eyes to the fullest. You feel every beat of the heart and your breathing start to match up with the music, making you physically invested into the scene and you feel a rush of awesomeness surge through your body.
The OST has elevated and defined the scene.
In the next gif, you would see Kaori cry. Now, is it tears of happiness or tears of sorrow? The smooth piano playing very slowly and using mellow tones gives you the answer pretty quickly. Then, you feel your own tears coming up as you keep watching, listening and feeling with more than just what you see, but with your heart. Every emotion you see from them, you feel and therefore making you again, physically invested in the scene.
The OST has elevated and defined the scene.
In the last gif, a small and quite calm but imminent sounding build-up to the climax are being heard in your ears as the Landing Castles decend upon our Earth. You know people are going to die. You know that a war is starting. But as it hits the ground, the music reaches its climax as every, single, human within the vicinity get literally snuffed out. Your eyes widen and realise what potential and danger the Martians poses to Earth now. You changed your mind, war isn't about to start. Shit is about to hit the fan.
The OST has elevated and even REdefined the scene.
The OST is there to amplify the scene
Now, there's a small topic I'd like to bring up. Most rom-coms and even certain shows use the piano and guitar as their primary instrument of choice.
But depending on what kind of anime it is, the OSTs might have to change entirely.
The anime No Game No Life is all about gaming, revolves around games and its plot is basically a game (but not like SAO).
Wouldn't it be fitting with game-music then?
Well, that's precisely what Madhouse did. They hired a game-composer and made epic scores like "Falling on Disboard"
In Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, the main focus of the entire show is playing the piano, which the OST reflects greatly by adopting the music from the piano and mixes and distorts the music to fit in as an OST in different situations
Keep that in mind :)
Now, the hardest part would be to actually create the OST. But, that's not my job, unfortunately...:)
Now, this Card is a part of my own series where I put up more anime-related posts such as discussing, analyzing and showing you parts of Anime that makes an Anime an Anime! Every topic from the technical aspects, core elements and even entire shows are collected there so make sure you check out and follow "Why anime?" collection for more posts about and around anime! :D
Please feel free to comment your thoughts on the topic and suggest one! :D
And if you want to leave a direct feedback, you're more than welcome to message me :)
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'til next time!