Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

The Acceptance of Bulgarian Voices in Japanese Music: Kenji Kawai’s Music for Science Fiction Films

Fri31  Mar01:00pm(15 mins)
Main Building Room 132


Kieko Kamitake1
1 Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan


Bulgarian voices (Bulgarian women’s choir) are known for their diaphonic singing, which is a traditional folk song mainly from southwestern Bulgaria. What makes them so remarkable is that they have a lot of dissonance (cacophony) and an extreme intensity of the sound textures, that is clearly different from western classical music. The voice wave has digital tone, and it is similar to a sign wave because of an exquisite sound generated by overlapping repeatedly- softly rather than hitting the sound. What is more, the unique singing method of Bulgarian voices, such as, a straight vibrato-free voice, creates inhuman and psychedelic voice quality like Mongolian Home.

In Japanese music, especially in soundtracks of a cyberpunk genre, there can be seen critical influence of these Bulgarian voices. The representative case is Kenji Kawai’s soundtrack for ‘Ghost in the Shell’ directed by Mamoru Oshii, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest animated and science fiction films ever made, as well as a landmark in Japanese animation. There are some chants sung in combination of a traditional Bulgarian mode with Japanese lyrics and singing style.

This paper sheds light on the acceptance of Bulgarian voices in Japanese music, and will explore how Bulgarian voices influenced the soundtrack of ‘Ghost in the Shell’. Firstly the critical aspects of Bulgarian voices will be explained, and then the reflection of them in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ will be examined, taking into account the meaning of Bulgarian voices given by Manabu Oshii and Kenji Kawai.