Objective: Introduce breathtakingly-beautiful melodies from any genre to the student body as well as the general public.

PROJECT 1: Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫)


(Tenny’s Tunes - The Piano Dude’s Music Channel)

[The Legend of Ashitaka - from “Princess Mononoke”]

Hey everyone, welcome to Tenny’s Tunes, where we explore some of the finest music from a variety of genres. I am your host Tenny.

On this frequency we do things differently. As a music performer myself, I will offer my interpretation for each week’s selected music by playing it on the piano. In this way, my active participation in both playing and discussing music will hopefully be of enjoyment to you.


Today, we go right into the soul of Japanese original sound tracks. In the field of music, if you are talking Japanese, there’s one composer who’s always on the top of the list. Indeed, seven-times winner of the Japanese Academy Award for Best Music, the 31st Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Music Prize, and the 10th International Film Music Critics Association Award for Television Division Best Original Score Award, Joe Hisaishi.

Most of us met Hisaishi through his compositions for numerous acclaimed Studio Ghibli films. What is memorable about “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Spirited Away,” and “Porco Rosso” is undoubtedly the combination of the sceneries and the melodies in the background that seem almost too beautiful, surreal for humans to compose. Such is the magic of Hisaishi’s music.

The year 1997 marked a milestone for Studio Ghibli when they released their ninth movie, “Princess Mononoke,” or in Japanese, “もののけ姫.” Centering around the encounter between our young male protagonist and a girl raised by mountain wolves, the movie’s overarching themes of love, preserving nature, and complex human relations made their way into the hearts of so many viewers that “Princess Mononoke” made history as the highest-grossing film in Japan up till that year.

I will now play the main theme of “Princess Mononoke,“ or in English “Nobody Knows Your Heart.” As you listen, try to picture the corresponding scenes in the movie. And if you haven’t watched it, well, this is not a movie you want to miss. Again, think about how civilization has coped with mother nature up to this point, the intricate human relationships we share with one another, as well as what other messages Hisaishi might be conveying through these chords.

(Play Recording)

So that was my interpretation of “Nobody Knows Your Heart.” The intro takes on a soft voice that seems to praise the beauty and benevolence of nature. On the sublevel, we see a going-back-and-forth between major and minor chords that suggests the conflicting natures humans possess, having both the tendencies to protect and hurt our environment at the same time. The music ultimately climaxes in the second chorus with a sudden jolt in volume as all the emotions of anger, sadness, and regret are brought together when mother nature finally snaps. There is massive destruction everywhere, and all there is in mind is a wish, a wish to reverse all the damage humanity has incurred upon itself.

To redo everything...is that even possible? Well, I will leave that thought to you. Music composed by Joe Hisaishi, performed on the piano by me. I am Tenny Tsang, and this is NBN Audio. Thank you so much for listening, I will see you next time on Tenny’s Tunes.