Music Independent of Words and Writing
I strongly feel that excellent music is aptly expressed in the Buddhist principle, "independent of words and writings". It signifies that no matter how much one employs words, there are concepts and feelings that cannot be conveyed solely by words. It is a realm where words or languages play no part in communication. On the other hand, though, music is a wellspring of words and messages. That is how powerful music is.
I first met Leo Shibata one night at a party in a villa by Lake Sagami which was shimmering under the moonlight. As he played, I felt as though the music began to flow into the lake. The pieces were ones that I had heard for the first time and others were of the more recent. Nonetheless, the music touched my heart and mesmerized the audience.
Leo spent his childhood and his youth surrounded by the rich nature in the Shinshu region of Nagano Prefecture. Growing up in this environment has indeed influenced his composing. He was also blessed with a musical environment and had wonderful opportunities of playing and learning numerous instruments including the piano, drums, trumpet, acoustic bass, etc at a young age.
An ardent admirer of the renowned conductor, Hideo Saito, Leo learned conducting through self study, which later served as a basis of his expansive music career. The rich experience he accumulated is reflected in his composing, arranging and recording techniques implementing cutting-edge recording technology.
He has also played as a performer in several bands with his elder brother, Kei Shibata. Later on, Leo went to Berklee College of Music, where he studied composing and arranging. At the recommendation of Berklee's Professor Herb Pomeroy, he formed his own rehearsal Big Band. While at school, introduced to G.R.P. (Dave Grusin-Larry Rosen Productions) by Sadao Watanabe, Leo's music activities gain momentum. Recognized for his work in the United States by Japan's renowned musician Norio Maeda, he begins to embark on his career in a variety of genre of music. He has made CDs and albums for promotion purposes as well as music for TV and TV commercials for major companies as ASCII Inc., Apple Inc., Sony Inc., Matsushita Electric Industry Inc., and others. He composed the theme song for the Communication Exhibition '92, which was sponsored by the Hokkaido Development Agency and co-sponsored by Hokkaido Shimbun. He also undertook the music for laser discs used in showrooms and shop-front demonstrations of Sony's high definition television "Alaska". He was also in charge of creating the music for Sony's homepage on the Internet, which demonstrates his keenness to new media. In addition, he also composed the music for the "A Passion for Art " CD-ROM for the "Barnes Collection" a world-renowned art collection as well as the music for the CD-ROM "Shirakami Mountains", a world heritage.
More recently, his multifarious activities include his producing of the CD for "Kokyo-Hiyokukai", a Japanese drum (Taiko) group in his private studio "Air Music Studios". He also did the orchestra arranging for "Metal Gear Solid 2" and "Metal Gear Solid 3" for Konami Music Entertainment Inc.
As a composer and arranger, Leo Shibata is not only highly skilled in writing full scores for Orchestras and Big Bands but is mainly, at present, involved in creating music using the computer. The advance we see in technology today truly befits what Leo has always wanted to do with music. There is no doubt he will continue to give full play to his talents as an artistic musician.
(a one]time Fellow, Center for Global Communications, International University of Japan.)