Tag Archives: Ilan Eshkeri

Talking With Composer Ilan Eshkeri about Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

This past summer I had the tremendous opportunity to speak with composer Ilan Eshkeri about his score for the video game Ghost of Tsushima. Eshkeri attended Leeds University where he studied music and English literature. He also worked at this time with fellow composers Edward Shearmur and Michael Kamen. Notable film scores from his career include (but are far from limited to): Coriolanus (2011), The Young Victoria (2009), 47 Ronin (2013), and The White Crow (2018). He’s collaborated on several films with actor/director Ralph Fiennes.

How did you get started with being a composer?

Well, really I wanted to be a guitarist in a rock band. While pursuing that dream I ended up working for a composer and not long after became close to Michael Kamen. And then I got my first break writing film music. And I really enjoy having such an exciting career that developed from many different directions all at once. It takes me in all sorts of directions.

How did you get connected with Ghost of Tsushima?

Playstation actually reached out and contacted me about this game. I was initially reluctant because I don’t really like violent, action games, that’s not really my thing. I don’t have any great, moral objection to it, I just don’t know how I can connect emotionally to that. Or, as an artist what can I say about that in my music? What peaked my interest is they’d been using music from an art house film that I had done a few years ago, a Shakespeare film called Coriolanus. The score for it is, I think, very unusual, quite extreme and uncompromising. Typically my work with Ralph [Fiennes, the director] is like that. It was amazing to me that this mass entertainment AAA game and video game studio would be coming to me and referencing this extremely unusual art house music that I’d created.

Then I went to Seattle for a meeting with Playstation and they spent 45 minutes to an hour with this incredible multimedia presentation that talked me through the entire plot of the video game. By the end of that I was completely blown away and sucked into it. It wasn’t what I thought. This is a game about a young man who is in a state of emotional conflict because he has been brought up and trained in a certain moral code. However, in order to save his home and the people he loves he has to go against all of that. This was, therefore, a rich place to write emotional and powerful music.

Was it different, working on the score for a video game as opposed to film or television?

No, I don’t think so, because to me it’s all storytelling. It’s the oldest of human art forms. If we look back at the history of humanity, the earliest form of art we have is cave painting. What were they doing in a cave painting? They were telling a story. We moved from cave paintings to songs, the Iliad, the Odyssey, to theater. That developed into dance and acting with operas and plays; you have all these different forms of storytelling and in the last hundred years we’ve had cinema and that came from the invention of new technologies. Since then, the next step in my eyes is video games. A new technology was invented and humans decided to tell their stories through that medium. And the story of Ghost is about the new ways versus the old ways. So really, Ghost is telling a very old story but through a new medium. To answer your question, my job is exactly the same. I tell the emotional narrative of the story through the creation of music. Whether that be theater or ballet or video games, whatever the medium, eventually I’m doing the same thing.

How did you approach scoring Ghost of Tsushima? Was there a lot of research involved in the type of music and sounds that would be appropriate for such a locale and era?

Yes, absolutely. This was inspired by Sucker Punch, they wanted to bring a sense of authenticity to the game, to the extent that they got reeds from the island of Tsushima in order to make it look more naturalistic. I was inspired by this search for authenticity and I wanted to apply the same thing to the music. I found a professor of Japanese music, Professor David Hughes, who is fortunately one of the leading experts here in London and he was very kind to talk to me and explain things and tell me where to look. I was learning about Japanese scales and harmony and how the instruments worked. Then I worked with a lot of amazing musicians and they inspired me a lot. These musicians were very patient and taught me how to write naturalistic music for the instruments.

So I used a lot of instruments that we know here in the West, like the koto and shakuhachi. But my explorations also took me to another instrument called the biwa. In fact it’s called the Satsuma biwa, there being several types of biwas, but the Satsuma biwa was the instrument that the samurai learned to play. And I’d never heard of it before. What happened is that towards the middle of the last century, the art of playing the biwa had been virtually lost. As I understand it there was one master of this instrument left and had taught a handful of people. One of those is a very inspiring lady called Junko Ueda. And she, fortunately for me, lived in Spain so it was easy to get her to come to London. She spent a lot of time explaining about the instrument, she played a lot and you can really hear about the instrument solos in the opening of the piece on the album. She’s a special performer and I was really lucky to be able to include her on the soundtrack.

When was it decided to blend the sounds of traditional Japanese music with a full orchestra?

That was always the plan. The thing was, how do we keep the focus on the traditional Japanese instruments, how do we highlight them? And for me, how do I use the orchestra within that language? All of the music in the orchestra, all the melodies and scales are all based on Japanese scales and I used two of those. And any Japanese instrument could play virtually any orchestral part. I also built my own system of chords using the notes from the pentatonic (five tone) scale. Everything in the orchestra is based on a foundation of Japanese tonality. Where I needed to, for effect, I broke the rules absolutely, but not often. That was the plan behind the orchestra.

How much time did you have to score Ghost of Tsushima? Did you have any game footage to work off of? Or was it more like storyboards?

There was a mixture, because I came on in 2018. When I started working on it there were storyboards, bits of footage. There was some crude gameplay where I got a feel for the character. It was a lot of different things, many bits of inspirational material. I worked on the game on and off for about a year and a half.

I’d like to give a big thank you to Ilan Eshkeri for taking the time to speak with me about his work on the music for Ghost of Tsushima.

Let me know what you think about Ghost of Tsushima’s music (and the game itself) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: Ghost of Tsushima (2020)

Today I had the chance to check out the soundtrack for the upcoming video game Ghost of Tsushima, which will be available (as will the soundtrack) on July 17, 2020. The music for Ghost of Tsushima was composed by Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi.

 

Ilan Eshkeri is an award winning composer, artist, songwriter, producer and creator. Eshkeri’s work is performed in concert halls, theatres, galleries, on film & television and video games; his eclectic body of work is linked by his love of narrative. Recently, Ilan and Ralph Fiennes completed their third film together -a biopic about Rudolf Nureyev, ‘The White Crow’. This followed the creation of a ballet ‘Narcissus and Echo’, choreographed by famed dancer Sergei Polunin with set designs by David LaChapelle and a ballet commission from Rambert Dance Company.

Shigeru Umebayashi is an internationally renowned composer best known for creating “Yumeji’s Theme” in Wong KarWai’s film “In The Mood For Love”. In addition to also collaborating with Wong KarWai on “2046”, Umebayashi was the music producer and composer for Zhang Yimous’ films “House of Flying Daggers” and “Curse of The Golden Flower”. In “House of Flying Daggers”, he composed the song “Lovers” with soprano Kathleen Battle.

Of the soundtrack, composer ILAN ESHKERI says:

“Ghost of Tsushima is such a beautiful game set in a culture that has always fascinated me, with a powerful and compelling story. Everything about it touched me creatively and I learned so much on the journey. The score brings together Japanese music and instruments, with sounds I’ve performed and a symphony orchestra all led by melody. I hope together it creates an emotional world that touches you and draws you into the heart and spirit of Ghost.”

“When I was composing for Ghost of Tsushima, I was inspired by Japan’s nature, climate, traditional lifestyle and classical Japanese music. When players hear the music, I hope that they feel the hearts of the people of Tsushima – those who love the land, living and plowing with the natural bounties it offers, and those of the warriors who take their katanas and follow the way of the samurai,” adds composer SHIGERU UMEBAYASHI.

Having listened to most of this soundtrack, I have to say that the words of both composers do not do this soundtrack justice. This is, by far, one of the greatest soundtracks I’ve listened to this year. It doesn’t even sound like something you’d hear in a video game, this feels like pure cinema through and through, something I’ve noticed more and more often in video game soundtracks as gameplay in new video games has lately felt more like “it’s a movie but one you participate in.”

What’s really drawn me to the music for Ghost of Tsushima, aside from its cinematic qualities, are how it perfectly blends the traditional sounds of Japanese music with a full-blown symphony orchestra. I thought I knew what to expect when I downloaded this soundtrack to check it out, but I had no clue. This is a perfect marriage of musical styles, and both Eshkeri and Umebayashi should be congratulated for creating something so beautiful.

Two tracks that I must highlight are “The Way of the Ghost” and “The Fate of Tsushima.” The former serves as the introductory piece in the soundtrack, and is ideally suited for that task. While the melody frequently flirts with a melancholy identity, it is otherwise full to bursting with tension, promising lots of adventures to come as the game is just beginning. The latter track, “The Fate of Tsushima”, to me it feels like the fulfillment of everything “The Way of the Ghost” promised. It’s full of action, melodies that continually hop and leap without pausing for rest. Out of the entire soundtrack, this sounded like the climax of the story, with everything coming together in one glorious moment of musical perfection.

In the late 13th century, the Mongol empire has laid waste to entire nations along their campaign to conquer the East. Tsushima Island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive Mongol invasion fleet led by the ruthless and cunning general, Khotun Khan. As the island burns in the wake of the first wave of the Mongol assault, samurai warrior Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving members of his clan. He is resolved to do whatever it takes, at any cost, to protect his people and reclaim his home. He must set aside the traditions that have shaped him as a warrior to forge a new path, the path of the Ghost, and wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Tsushima.

I know 2020 is far from over, but I’m going to be hard pressed to find a better soundtrack to listen to than what I’ve heard for Ghost of Tsushima.

You can get the soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima (along with the game) on July 17, 2020.

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Soundtrack News: Ghost of Tsushima Original Soundtrack Available July 17

Milan Records has announced that the original video game soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima will be available on July 17th, 2020 and can be pre-ordered now. The album features music written by both Ilan Eshkeri and Shigeru Umebayashi for the latest action-adventure game from Sony Interactive Entertainment.  Included in the album are tracks written by Eshkeri that serve as the sonic companion to the game’s narrative, as well as music written by Umebayashi for the exploratory, open world dimension of the game.

Of the soundtrack, composer Ilan Eshkeri says:

“Ghost of Tsushima is such a beautiful game set in a culture that has always fascinated me, with a powerful and compelling story. Everything about it touched me creatively and I learned so much on the journey. The score brings together Japanese music and instruments, with sounds I’ve performed and a symphony orchestra all led by melody. I hope together it creates an emotional world that touches you and draws you into the heart and spirit of Ghost.”

“When I was composing for Ghost of Tsushima, I was inspired by Japan’s nature, climate, traditional lifestyle and classical Japanese music. When players hear the music, I hope that they feel the hearts of the people of Tsushima – those who love the land, living and plowing with the natural bounties it offers, and those of the warriors who take their katanas and follow the way of the samurai,” adds composer Shigeru Umebayashi.

GHOST OF TSUSHIMA (MUSIC FROM THE VIDEO GAME)

TRACKLISTING –

1.       The Way of the Ghost*

2.       Jin Sakai*

3.       Komoda Beach*

4.       The Way of the Samurai*

5.       Lord Shimura*

6.       No Mercy*

7.       Lady Masako*

8.       A Reckoning in Blood*

9.       The Last of Clan Adachi*

10.    Heart of the Jito*

11.    The Tale of Sensei Ishikawa*

12.    Forgotten Song*

13.    Khotun Khan*

14.    Honour to Ash*

15.    The Fate of Tsushima*

16.    Sacrifice of Tradition*

17.    The Way of the Ghost feat. Clare Uchima*

18.    Tsushima Suite: I. Seion**

19.    Tsushima Suite: II. Shurai**

20.    Tsushima Suite III. Bushido**

21.    Tsushima Suite IV: Kodoku**

22.    Tsushima Suite: V. Seiiki**

In the late 13th century, the Mongol empire has laid waste to entire nations along their campaign to conquer the East. Tsushima Island is all that stands between mainland Japan and a massive Mongol invasion fleet led by the ruthless and cunning general, Khotun Khan. As the island burns in the wake of the first wave of the Mongol assault, samurai warrior Jin Sakai stands as one of the last surviving members of his clan. He is resolved to do whatever it takes, at any cost, to protect his people and reclaim his home. He must set aside the traditions that have shaped him as a warrior to forge a new path, the path of the Ghost, and wage an unconventional war for the freedom of Tsushima.

The soundtrack for Ghost of Tsushima is available for preorder now.

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂