Pianist Gayane Aslanyan on reimagining Studio Ghibli world and music in Dubai performance

Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi's work will be recreated through digital art and compositions

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Pianist Gayane Aslanyan is inviting audiences to experience a world of dreams, nostalgia, digital art and music. It is a reimagined world based on the work of two of the most renowned artists from the international animation industry.

On November 18, the Theatre of Digital Art (Toda) in Souk Madinat Jumeirah is hosting a one-night-only performance by Aslanyan, an Armenian classically trained, award-winning pianist, where she will recreate the fantastical stories of Japanese director, animator and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki and the musical scores that accompany his films by composer and music director Joe Hisaishi.

“From my childhood, Studio Ghibli’s films were my companions and I found myself captivated not only by their distinctive art style but also by the enchanting music within their works,” Aslanyan tells The National.

“I believe many share a similar childhood experience, where Hayao Miyazaki's films were not just entertainment but companions shaping our memories. But I'm also happy to learn that many people who haven't yet watched Miyazaki's films directly have found and fallen in love with this music.”

Dreams of Miyazaki will feature 60 minutes of music, taking audiences on a 360-degree journey of digital art and projections of reimagined scenes from Miyazaki’s films.

From Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the 1984 Japanese post-apocalyptic anime fantasy film; to My Neighbor Totoro, the 1988 children’s whimsical fantasy; and Princess Mononoke, the 1997 fantasy adventure story, Toda has reimagined the stories through AI and Ghibli-inspired artwork projected on its vast screens. Audiences will be immersed in a familiar world accompanied by Aslanyan’s performance of Hisaishi’s unique melodies.

“I love Joe Hisaishi's music, but I always love experimenting and infusing my own touch,” she says.

“Given that his music is mostly orchestral, adapting it for solo piano required numerous alterations. Drawing on my background as a classical pianist, I introduced additional pianistic techniques. Sometimes I was just so inspired I came up with my own melodies, which fitted there perfectly.”

Aslanyan began her journey as a classical pianist at the age of five, dedicating herself to the art form and performing classical music over the years. Despite successfully participating and winning numerous international competitions, performing in festivals and solo recitals around the world, and her love for the genre of classical music, Aslanyan needed more.

“I felt a need to explore other genres and this led me to create arrangements of anime and game music, kickstarting a YouTube channel, delving into electronic music production, learning jazz and composing more music,” she says.

“Currently, my focus is on crafting compositions for piano fused with electronic sounds. In my recent recital, I seamlessly integrated piano with electronics.”

Aslanyan’s style has found a space within the unique world of Miyazaki’s films, known for their whimsical scenes, attention to detail, powerful and positive themes and their sophisticated storytelling.

A big part of that storytelling is the music. While classically influenced, Hisaishi's music is an exploration of genres and symphonic arrangements that are not only versatile but have proven to be timeless pieces, finding new life on Instagram and TikTok.

Aslanyan explains that adapting Hisaishi’s recognisable melodies, even to those unfamiliar with the films they come from, felt both natural and challenging.

“I really knew what I was doing, but sometimes I would doubt myself,” she says.

“When immersed in the creative process, it becomes challenging to see the entire picture. At those times you need to take a step back, play around and try to find a chord or a melody that resonates with you in that particular instance. Other times rewatching the movie helps as well.”

Aslanyan hopes her renditions in combination with the digital art Toda has created will be a memorable experience for audiences.

“The art team at Toda is a true force that collaborates with dozens of digital artists worldwide, enriching the local cultural landscape with fresh perspectives and helping emerging artists to establish themselves in the digital art world,” she says.

“Toda curators craft a harmonious blend of art and music, creating a robust spectator experience. With their expertise, I'm confident that each of my performances will be unique and will convey the right message.”

Most of all Aslanyan hopes to transfer her love and passion for the world Miyazaki or at least relive it in a new way.

“I hope people will feel the same way they felt while watching the movies,” she adds.

“This is going to be a dreamy experience, with a sense of nostalgia. So, adults can relive their sweetest childhood moments again.”

Dreams of Miyazaki with Gayane Aslanyan is taking place at the Theatre of Digital Art, Souk Madinat Jumeirah on November 18. For more information: www.toda.ae

Updated: November 18, 2023, 3:02 AM