Prelude to a Review: Ryo Kunihiko, News Jingles, and Musical Quoting

Remember when I posted about watching TV during my vacation a month or so ago and being surprised about hearing that snippet from Victorian Romance Emma come up? Well, I did get a response awhile ago when I e-mailed the folks at Bloomberg, and here’s what they had to say:

The song during Judy Woodruff is called Ruby Rain.


So basically, they’re saying that the song originated from a work composed by Igor Dvorkin and Duncan Pittock!

Now, there’s no date as to when “Ruby Rain” was composed, so it’s going to be difficult to nail down which came first: Kunihiko’s “The Season” or Dvorkin/Pittock’s “Ruby Rain.” Furthermore, the booklet for the Emma soundtrack doesn’t come with any liner notes that could be translated so you really aren’t able to see into Kunihiko’s mind and determine where he derived inspiration from when he composed the piece.

Obviously, when you compare the two tracks, the only similarity is in that short motive so plagiarism is the furthest thing from my mind. But hearing that does emphasize just how often composers quote other pieces of music.

Prominent artists like Yoko Kanno have been known to engage in musically quoting. If you’ve listened to her works on Macross Frontier, you’ll be able to pick out some prominent themes from the soundtrack such as “The Target,” which uses a part of John Williams’s melody from Star Wars and, of course, “Big Boys,” which derives a large part its music from Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator soundtrack (Pirates of the Caribbean would later use the same theme). And those compositions that borrow the same technique from Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana? Those are far too numerous to count.

Big Boys

[audio:Macross Frontier – Big Boys.mp3]

None of this is a cause for alarm – unless it’s frighteningly close like Satoshi Kadokura’s compositions for Gundam F91 – nor should it result in less appreciation for compositions by Kunihiko, Kanno, et al. Rather, it reminds us just how music from new composers continually builds upon the works of those who came before, whether it’s by quoting or writing a variation upon a theme. Through that, it’s really easy to appreciate how the world of music is intertwined between contemporary artists, artists from different cultures, and artists from different eras. After all, Beethoven operated no differently (the well-known theme from his 9th Symphony can be heard in a Mozart work) and so, one shouldn’t expect anime composers to be bucking that trend. It all comes together into the sticky, but wonderful body of music compositions anyhow, and as long as current musicians continue to add their own flourishes and quirks to their own works and not descend into the perilous path of plagiarism, I’ll stay a happy camper.

This post features Ryo Kunihiko’s name rather than Yoko Kanno or some other composer, and for good reason: Kunihiko’s been on my mind as of late. It shouldn’t be too hard for you all to guess why that is. And no, it’s not Aion’s soundtrack either.


Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

0 thoughts on “Prelude to a Review: Ryo Kunihiko, News Jingles, and Musical Quoting

  • May 27, 2010 at 4:23 am

    They actually replied to you.
    really maybe i have to much wax inside my hears but i dont pay attention to all these, where it originaly comes from or similarities =/

  • May 27, 2010 at 8:16 am

    And related to this and Ryo Kunihiko…

    Basically, there’s some equivalent to “stock photography” that it seems many musicians tap into to speed up the creation of soundtracks. I remember some discussion on a 12 Kingdoms forums highlighting the similar songs between The 12 Kingdoms and Heroes of Might and Magic IV.

  • May 27, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I’ve heard that some people elieve Kanno is actually quite the plagiarist. Just google search “Yoko Kanno Plagiarism” and you’ll find (besides a link to this blog post) a whole slew of results dealing with the matter.

    A result which gives a good idea of the situation:

    The depressing part is the last portion of the first post of the link.

    But perhaps it really is quoting or homage, we don’t know. She still churns out enough original work to prevent me for losing respect.

  • May 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I’m also surprised they responded, but that’s actually pretty cool.
    Anyways, I’m not sure how composers come up with their music, but I’m sure sometimes what they hear from other artists can slip in once in a while.

  • May 28, 2010 at 12:03 am

    It does help to listen to a lot of music. Once you do, you start building up a body of knowledge and with time, it gets easier to pick out similar themes if you listen and pay enough attention.

    Not Hisaishi too! D: As for the Iwasaki piece, I can’t associate that section with anything but Iwasaki. While it wouldn’t be surprised if this was used elsewhere since that motif isn’t exactly difficult, it’s nothing that’s so outrageous that you can label it as him quoting some other composer.

    I think that’s the best explanation I’ve heard yet and if I’d known about that link sooner, it’d have saved me a lot of trouble. When the schedule gets tight, it’s not a surprise to see people dig into the melodic archives to do a quick arrangement on a theme.

    Haha, I have to agree with the sentiments the OP laid out. That is, say “I like Yoko Kanno… but…” It’s kind of lame having to do so and even lamer when the pieces she composes sound irritatingly too close to comfort.

    This is why I think she needs to have liner notes on practically everything she does. While I’m not too annoyed if she takes a melody from someone old like say… Faure, and makes a song out of that, but to go and borrow from contemporary artists… at least give them credit in the notes section =P

    I didn’t think they had time for kooky questions, but they pulled through. Also, it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened either since when you hit crunch time, you might be inspired and take a melody from elsewhere without really meaning to.

  • May 28, 2010 at 3:56 am

    A possibility in this case is that the track from Emma may have been sampling- listening to both, even the performances sound the same.

    On the topic of Yoko Kanno, something I haven’t seen mentioned a lot is Macross Frontier… and Independence Day by David Arnold. There are some very… uncomfortable “similarities” between the two on several tracks.

  • May 28, 2010 at 7:14 am

    It’s not that similiar nor copied verbatim, so relax. 😉 Really, this case isn’t plagiarism.
    As for Kunihiko, I was almost shocked. Not about the fact that he let himself inspire by some else’s work, but by the fact that he copied it almost verbatim. I have his ‘Piano Sketch’ album and recognized myself that the compositions on it aren’t all original, but copying verbatim?
    As for Yoko Kanno, on Youtube you find quite a few vids where ‘her’ compositions and other tracks are compared. These are quite useful to learn about other quite interesting artists. 😉

  • May 29, 2010 at 12:46 am

    My first thoughts when I heard “Big Boys” were “Pirates of the Caribbean”. I see nothing wrong with getting inspiration from other artists.

    Man, I like listening to that theme.

  • May 29, 2010 at 10:37 am

    You mean with the way the violin is layered on top during the quieter parts of “Ruby Rain”? Yeah, now that I listen to it, it’s more apparent.

    I haven’t listened to Independence Day’s score, but somehow, I wouldn’t be too surprised. I did mention that Macross F takes a lot of its influence from Western film scores quite a bit.

    Oh I know, I was just sort of hoping that Hisaishi’s works were all totally his own without really trying to adapt the works of others. Gotta say though, this exercise has done wonders in getting me exposed to the original artists’ works. =p

    Nothing’s wrong with it and like I said, music builds upon itself. Plagiarism is a whole different ball-game though, and that should never be endorsed in any way, shape, or form.


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