|Born||September 23, 1963|
Kagawa Prefecture, Japan
|Occupation||Video game composer, pianist|
Michiru Yamane (Japanese: 山根ミチル Hepburn: Yamane Michiru, born September 23, 1963) is a Japanese video game composer and pianist. She is best known for her two decades of work at the gaming company Konami, particularly with the Castlevania series. She left the company in 2008 to become a freelance composer.
Yamane grew an interest in music at an early age, practicing on the electric organ and piano. She studied composition in college and began working as a composer for Konami in 1988. As a member of the Konami Kukeiha Club, she collaborated with other musicians on many Konami video games. Her breakthrough work came with the Castlevania games Bloodlines (1994) and Symphony of the Night (1997). Yamane's musical style draws on classical and rock influences, including Johann Sebastian Bach and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Early life and education
Yamane was born in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan on September 23, 1963. She began learning electric organ around the age of four, on her family's Yamaha Electone. She also soon began learning piano. Yamane enjoyed playing popular rock music on the organ, but grew a fascination with classical music with her piano studies. She began composing around eight years old, and realized by her teenage years that she wanted to write songs for movies or commercials, or be a jazz pianist. She attended a music high school that specialized in advanced piano courses, and focused her studies around harmonic rhythm, counterpoint, and music theory. Around this time, she also began playing video games at the arcades. She decided not to compete at performance with virtuoso players, so decided to attend the Aichi Prefectural University of the Arts and focus on the strong composition courses they offered. In college, she learned how to write music for large orchestras, and did her thesis on German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. She also continued gaming on a friend's Famicom at the time.
Yamane started working for Konami in 1988, shortly before her fourth year at college. She held a teaching license at the time, and was teaching part-time, though she felt the job did not suit her. She applied to Konami after finding an open position through her college recruitment office, and was hired. She had never considered specifically becoming a game composer, although she liked games and music.
At Konami, Yamane was a member of the Konami Kukeiha Club, the company's sound team. She was nervous she would be required to do frequency modulation programming, but she was only a composer at first. She would later be introduced to computer music sequencing programs in graduate school. Yamane's first work at the company were the main themes for King's Valley II and Risa no Yōsei Densetsu (1988). She also became involved with the Track and Field games, composing short victory jingles. Following that, she worked on several Game Boy, Famicom, MSX, and arcade games. Many of the first projects she collaborated on were shoot 'em ups, including the Nemesis series and Detana!! TwinBee. She compared the synchronicity of sound in shooters to that of Disney animated films. Yamane felt these games were a good introduction to the "Konami sound" and helped build her foundation. At first, she found it limiting working with only three simultaneous sound channels on the Famicom, given her orchestra composition background, but she grew to enjoy working around the limit over time. She drew motivation from Bach's "Inventions and Sinfonias", which also only used two or three simultaneous notes.
Yamane's first job as a lead composer was with Ganbare Goemon 2 (1989). With this game, she learned how to edit programmable sound generator samples from senior sound programmers. Although she is credited in some Contra games, Yamane does not have any memory of composing music for the series. She believes it is possible she contributed a couple tracks, as the sound team was very busy across multiple projects at the time. She also worked on Rocket Knight Adventures (1993) and its two sequels; writing music for Sparkster and creating sound effects for Sparkster: Rocket Knight Adventures 2. Akira Yamaoka joined Konami around this time, and worked with Yamane on the latter.
Yamane is primarily known for her work on the Castlevania series. After moving to Konami's Tokyo office from Kobe, her boss thought she would be a good fit for the Castlevania game in development, Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994). Since the series was already popular and known for good music, she felt pressure to perform well. She was asked to write music based on pre-existing themes introduced in earlier games. Yamane felt there was a link with the game's vampiric themes and the classical music she had grown up with. She worked to integrate her classical style with the rock themes previously introduced in the series. When working on Mega Drive games, Yamane was required to program the music into the game, on top of composition. GamesRadar+ called Bloodlines her first "breakthrough" game soundtrack.
The next game in the series, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997), was developed for the PlayStation. The art director, Osamu Kasai, requested Yamane to join the team. Because it used CD-ROMs, the system was capable of much higher quality music and sound. Yamane felt more expressive freedom as she was no longer limited to FM chips and could use real sounds. For Symphony of the Night, she drew heavy inspiration from concept artwork by Ayami Kojima. She used an Akai sampler connected to a computer running Logic Pro and Pro Tools to record music. The soundtrack was the first time she attempted placing rock music in a game. It remains one of her most popular soundtracks. In addition to the soundtrack, she also produced all the sound effects due to a shortage of staff.
Yamane continued to remain deeply involved with Koji Igarashi and the Castlevania development team after Symphony of the Night, reviewing artwork and scenario writings for further games. She worked on Lament of Innocence (2003) and Curse of Darkness (2005), which made for challenging compositions. She also composed for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS games, which had note limitations like older home consoles. She broadened her listening habits to gain more inspiration and prevent her music from becoming repetitive. On Portrait of Ruin (2006), she collaborated with Yuzo Koshiro. The last Castlevania score she wrote was for Order of Ecclesia (2008), which she worked on with Yasuhiro Ichihashi. She says that out of the scores she did for the handheld game Aria of Sorrow (2003), Portrait of Ruin, and Order of Ecclesia are her favorite.
While working on the Castlevania series, Yamane also composed for other games. She contributed to Suikoden III (2002) and Suikoden IV (2004), following in the tracks of Miki Higashino's work on the first two games. After Suta Fujimori joined Konami,[when?] Yamane worked with him on Gungage (1999) and Elder Gate (2000), mixing her classic symphonic style with his modern electronic music. She also worked on the Winning Eleven series and The Sword of Etheria (2005).
After writing music for over 40 games at Konami, Yamane left the company in 2008 to become a freelance composer. She came to this decision after getting a pet cat, and growing a desire to slow down her career and move to working from home. She desired to have more freedom to do projects she wanted, and manage her own time. Since becoming a freelance composer, Yamane has continued to compose for video games, as well as films, commercials, television, and anime. She has considered making a solo album. Games that she has composed for include Otomedius Excellent (2011) and Skullgirls (2012). Although no longer working directly for Konami, she has continued working with the company on Castlevania music. She is also composing for Koji Igarashi's Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
Yamane occasionally performs in live concerts. Her first live performance was a song from Symphony of the Night at the Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig in 2006. She wrote music for a Castlevania arrangement box set, and played live at Castlevania: The Concert in Stockholm in 2010. In 2015, she played with other Japanese composers at the Game Sound Maniax concert in China.
Musical style and influences
Game Developer magazine called Yamane's music "old, gothic, Victorian style". Yamane feels she grew an interest in dark classical through her Bach studies in college. She has also drawn inspiration from other composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin. In high school, Yamane listened to Kraftwerk, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), with the latter being considered a major influence on many Japanese game composers. She has also drawn inspiration, and enjoys listening to Dream Theater. She has expressed inspiration from many genres including techno pop, progressive rock, film scores, folk, jazz, rock, bossa nova, and contemporary classical music. She enjoys film scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, and enjoyed American pop in her youth from artists like Barry Manilow, Burt Bacharach, Eric Carmen, The Doobie Brothers, and The Eagles.
Yamane has expressed enjoying music from other game composers, particularly Nobuo Uematsu, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Yoko Kanno, and Motoi Sakuraba. She also explained that Tomb Raider and its sequel influenced the way she thought about sound design.
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