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The Windrider Project, by Karl Schaal

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Lab

“Windrider is a project that I began in 1989 when music began to form in my mind while reading Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind for the very first time. Back then my musical equipment encompassed a couple of synths, a sound module and a MIDI digital sequencer. I was sometimes surprised when I would simply put my hands onto the keyboard and melodies would erupt from my hand movements. I did not really understand what was happening but it soon became evident that the music suited certain scenes and moods within the Nausicaa manga.”

Karl Schaal, The Windrider Project

Continuing with the theme of music and storytelling, I came across the Windrider project while working on a ten-part series exploring Nausicaӓ of the Valley of the WindHayao Miyazaki’s thousand page environmental epic. Listening to Schaal’s compositions synced up to slideshows of carefully cropped panels, I was struck at how his music captured the emotional core of pivotal scenes, evoking everything from wonder and wistfulness to mystery and melancholy. As I pieced together my thoughts over the summer, these videos regularly served as aural touchstones for revisiting a story I hold dear.

It is thus my great pleasure to be able to share his music videos with you all. Unable to choose and wishing to pay my respects to Schaal’s tremendous work, I will feature here his personal favourite piece. Titled The Mad Empress, the video depicts one of the more self-contained yet affective scenes in the story, revealing the backstory of one of the key characters of the saga:

Karl has been kind enough to grant me permission to embed his videos throughout the entries of The Nausicaӓ Project. I have inserted them in spots where I think they will most enhance the reading experience and provide extra emotional resonance. I hope you find them as moving as I do. If you haven’t checked out why I consider Nausicaӓ The Greatest Ekostory Ever Told, now is a great time to start.

You can read more about the motivations behind each piece and his works in progress HERE.

Questions:

  • Do you think the music complements the scene?
  • Do the videos make the story itself more accessible?

Image of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind © 1984 Studio Ghibli. All rights reserved.

10 Comments

  1. I agree…the music seems to move with the drawing panels. I wonder how approaching any story with other complimentary disciplines enhances the overall effect? With Schaal’s music and Miyazaki’s words and images…you have three disciplines coming together to tell a complex story in a nearly operatic way.

    • I find the music and the focus on individual panels makes it a very different experience than reading the manga by itself. Not better, just different. It’s akin to a movie adaptation of a book, but not as extreme, because the visuals are essentially the same.

      Operatic – what a great word to describe how I feel about the experiment. I’ll mull that over…

  2. The music is beautiful, and definitely adds power to the story and the images. Thanks for sharing this video and your loving discussion of Nausicaa. Karen

  3. How lovely! What’s great is that neither detracted from the other. The music certainly complemented the panels. Very elegaic.

    • Yes, they balance each other well. I like the term elegaic – I think it describes the muted sadness of the scene quite well.

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