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Wednesday October 20th

'Akira' is reimagined with musician Micah Moses' new score for the anime classic

Musician Micah Moses will play a new score for the classic anime film, "Akira," at Local 506. Photo by Micah Moses.
Buy Photos Musician Micah Moses will play a new score for the classic anime film, "Akira," at Local 506. Photo by Micah Moses.

How do you breathe fresh life into a 30-year-old anime classic? To hear Micah Moses tell it, it’s all in the music.

The original soundtrack to “Akira,” the critically acclaimed 1988 sci-fi anime film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, is a sparse landscape of tribal gamelan percussion and twisted, unearthly voices. While minimal, it is an enduring part of the film, providing accompaniment to the plot’s constant downward spiral. 

"AKIRA 1988: Live Synth Score" plays at Local 506 on March 31. 

Moses is ripping that music out and starting all over. On March 31 at Local 506, “Akira” will be shown sans-soundtrack, and he’ll be playing an all-original live score to fill the void. 

Moses is no stranger to this sort of thing — in the past, he has rescored several films, including "Alien," a movie with almost no original soundtrack at all. 

“Micah does a very good job of keeping in mind the intensity of a particular scene and what the motives are, and building off of that,” said Ryan Holbrook, a friend and bandmate of Moses. “I could see him bringing the more casual scenes in the movie with character development going on, bringing in noise to enhance that.”

A densely layered composition of processed synthesizers and percussive elements, Moses said the new score will be more insistent, providing a constant backdrop to the action onscreen. Moses said he took cues from the original soundtrack, but his interpretation is distinct from its style. 

The goal is to offer a new perspective on the film, Moses said. On both a sonic and thematic level, his score will be a considerable departure from those initial haunting, muted tones — instead, he said the music will be busier. 

“I’m not really trying to change the tone of what the movie is trying to portray as much as the emotional tone, like how you’re connecting to the scenes,” Moses said.

In addition to breaking new musical territory, the score will also contain elements not present in the original. For example, Moses said certain moments in the film will be accompanied by foreshadowing in the music. 

Rescoring a beloved film from scratch — and playing it live, too — is an unquestionably ambitious undertaking that might bother purists who believe the artist’s original vision is not to be tampered with. But at the end of the day, Local 506 owner and talent buyer Stephen Mooneyhan said the point is to offer a fresh take on the familiar. One can enjoy the original vision of the artist while appreciating creative twists on the idea, he said.

“Once an artist puts something out there in the public eye, it belongs to the culture,” Holbrook said.

arts@dailytarheel.com

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