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Merry-Go-Round of Life: Hisaishi's Masterful Piece and its Arrangement

Howl's moving castle

Walking in the sky, living in a moving castle. What kind of movie comes to mind when you hear this? Howl’s Moving Castle, a film by Studio Ghibli, brings this magical image to life. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, it tells the story of a young woman who encounters a wizard and embarks on an adventure in a world filled with magic and wonder. This introduction sets the stage for a captivating journey that explores themes of courage, love, and the extraordinary.


What makes this movie so special is its music. "Merry-Go-Round of Life,” composed by the legendary Joe Hisaishi, perfectly captures the whimsical and magical spirit of the film. This piece is widely recognized and loved by fans of the film and is often considered one of Hisaishi's most memorable and iconic compositions. Its enchanting melody and lush orchestration play a crucial role in bringing the film's fantastical world to life, making it a pivotal element of the movie's storytelling.


The music in "Merry-Go-Round of Life" is deeply rooted in European classical traditions, reflecting the film's setting, which draws heavily on European influences. The architecture, landscapes, and even the character designs reflect European culture. Hisaishi's choice of instruments and compositional techniques also reflect this European influence. Starting with a piano introduction, the piece presents the main melody with the piano, creating a dynamic contrast with the latter part, which is accompanied by an orchestral section. The flute, strings, and piano blend harmoniously in the piece, evoking the essence of European classical music.


One of the standout features of "Merry-Go-Round of Life" is its waltz-like rhythm, which gives the piece a graceful, dance-like quality. This 3/4 time signature is reminiscent of traditional European waltzes and adds a sense of elegance and movement to the music. The piece also shifts to 6/8 time at certain points, adding variety and a more flowing, lilting feel that enhances the magical atmosphere of the story.


Even though you might want to play this piece, it is challenging to do so as a solo pianist due to its rich orchestration. However, what if you had a sheet music arrangement that allows you to play it alone on the piano? If you have been searching for an interesting piano rearrangement, you might enjoy this great rendition by Animenz Piano Sheets. This version retains the original music's richness while showcasing the versatility of the piano.


The unrivaled piano musician, Animenz's Merry Go Round of Life

To convey the richness of the original orchestral music, the rendition maintains the harmonic progression. While using the piano allows you to maintain the harmony, capturing the richness of orchestral voices, which typically feature the exchange of melodic lines between different instruments, is a challenge for a single instrument. Therefore, careful arrangements are necessary when transforming orchestral sounds into a piano piece. Animenz Piano Sheets accomplishes this impressively. To mitigate the limitation of having just one instrument, the arrangement focuses on layering voices by dividing them across different pitch ranges. Sometimes, the main melody is played in the upper register, reflecting high-pitched instruments like flutes. Other times, it is in the middle range, resonating with most of the string instruments. The melody is occasionally given to the lower register, mimicking the sounds of cellos or bassoons. Furthermore, each voice is played in succession, as if the orchestra were performing in harmony.


Moreover, the rendition by Animenz Piano Sheets shows the classical music’s flow by following Chopin-like structures. Composed with a classic A-B-A’ form, the piece features smooth transitions between sections. The main melody is elaborated with piano techniques such as tremolo, which adds variety to the music. As in the original piece, the A section starts with a waltz rhythm. However, the following part transitions to an arpeggio accompaniment, providing a contrasting musical segment. Additionally, chromatic scales are used to embellish the melody. In the bridge section, rapid passages incorporate motifs from the introduction, while the B section, in 6/8 time, uses staccato to create a different mood. The transition back to A’ features quick passages that evoke the elegant style of Romantic period piano music. A’ returns to the main theme with a faster tempo and elaborate ornamentation, leading smoothly to the coda, where we experience the grand finale of the piece.


A tip for playing this piece is to focus on conveying the changing moods. As mentioned, the sections provide different feelings, which can be challenging to adapt to immediately. Fortunately, this rendition offers smooth transitions. Why not dedicate some practice to mastering these transitions? Additionally, as this rendition meticulously divides the different pitch ranges among the voices, you should focus on highlighting the melodies in these different ranges. You can make your performance more professional by emphasizing the exchange of voices.


In conclusion, Merry-Go-Round of Life is not just a piece of music but a pivotal component of Howl’s Moving Castle that encapsulates the magic and emotion of the film. Joe Hisaishi’s masterful composition, with its European classical influences and evocative melodies, transforms the movie into a deeply moving experience. The Animenz Piano Sheets arrangement allows pianists to bring this orchestral richness to a solo performance, highlighting the enduring appeal and versatility of Hisaishi's work. As we reflect on the impact of this music, it becomes clear that it is not just the notes and rhythms that make it special, but the emotions and memories it evokes, making Merry-Go-Round of Life a true masterpiece in the realm of film music.

With every listen, whether in a grand concert hall or through the intimate keys of a piano, Merry-Go-Round of Life continues to captivate and inspire, reminding us of the magic that can be found in the world, both real and imagined.

If you want to look into the sheet music by Animenz, click here to download at your ease!

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