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Memoirs of Geisha Soundtrack

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Composer: John Williams
  • Audio CD (Nov. 22 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Soundtrack
  • Label: Sme
  • Run Time: 145 minutes
  • ASIN: B000BJS4TO
  • In-Print Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #43,029 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  •  Would you like to update product info, give feedback on images, or tell us about a lower price?

1. Sayuri's Theme
2. The Journey To The Hanamachi
3. Going To School
4. Brush On Silk
5. Chiyo's Prayer
6. Becoming A Geisha
7. Finding Satsu
8. The Chairman's Waltz
9. The Rooftops Of The Hanamachi
10. The Garden Meeting
11. Dr. Crab's Prize
12. Destiny's Path
13. A New Name... A New Life
14. The Fire Scene And The Coming of War- John Williams
15. As The Water...
16. Confluence
17. A Dream Discarded
18. Sayuri's Theme And End Credits

Product Description

Product Description

This is a Japanese Import for ''Memoirs of a Geisha'' Soundtrack (Sayuri is the name of the movie in Japan). Sony. 2005.


Director Rob Marshall hired three of Asia's most fabulous stars (Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, and Gong Li) for this Japan-set movie, so one wonders why he didn't put in a call to a local composer as well. Was Tan Dun's line busy? Was Joe Hisaishi otherwise engaged? In any case, John Williams won the assignment, and he didn't end up with egg on his face. Mercifully, Williams left the bombast at home and put cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman to good use in this sensitive score. The lovely "Sayuri's Theme" resurfaces at regular intervals, and it's good to hear Williams keep his showier instincts in check through a good chunk of the movie, as he delivers a more subdued sound. One of the most dramatic moments happens during "The Fire Scene and the Coming of War." By then Williams has basically reverted to the familiar, brooding mode he uses for ominous scenes, when suddenly the track integrates an excerpt from "The Folding Fan as a Target," a traditional piece for voice and the Japanese lute known as biwa. Though Williams is right to err on the side of low key, it would have been nice to get more of these stark sounds in his competent but ultimately unmemorable compositions. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

Customer Reviews

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By Gingy on March 27 2011
Format: Audio CD
I have wanted to get this music ever since I saw the movie and read the book. I love the music. The Chairman's Waltz is my favourite! My dog even reacts to certain parts of the cd too which is hilarious. I would highly recommend this cd if you are a lover of the book and movie. Sit back and enjoy!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Agree with other reviews already posted (Hisaishi MIA?). John Williams provides a fairly good interpretation, but later in the tracks was more usual John Williams than geisha memories (could hear Schindler's List in there somewhere. Still, pleasant and intriguing sounds, lovely background music while reading a book. Never wrong to have Yo Yo Ma perform.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Great music!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa01e5abc) out of 5 stars 121 reviews
113 of 116 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2e3051c) out of 5 stars A wonderfully restrained, exquisite score Nov. 23 2005
By Clark Douglas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

I don't know why John Williams has taken so much flack this year. His "War of the Worlds" was a dark, brutal, brilliant sci-fi action score that took us into the darkest, most primal realm of orchestral music. Frightening stuff, excellent writing. "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith", again, was, in my opinion, one of the best scores of the series... epic, dark, beautiful, sad... but because it didn't have many truimphant fanfares or passages of sweeping romance, people complained it wasn't as exciting, thus they considered it to be the least of the series. Now, here's "Memoirs of a Geisha", which is one of the sublest, most intricate, beautiful scores I've heard this year. I can hear the complaints about this one all ready. But enough criticism of Williams critics, let's get on to the score, shall we?

The notable element of the score is the pairing of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Ithzak Perlman, performing together for the first time. There are no musicians better at these particular instruments then Ma and Perlman. With William's excellent material to work with, they are even better. Originally, I suspected that the only reason Williams got them for this score was to get Oscar attention, and that may be true, but they have a genuinely good reason for being here, as well. They represent two of the film's characters in the film. The first, and primary theme, is performed often by Ma, for Sayuri, the film's main character. The theme is slightly darker than one might expect, but nonetheless tender and exquisite. It appears quite frequently throughout the score, with Ma giving subtle variations on each performance, sometimes accompanied by strings or various ethnic instruments, and sometimes on his own. The other, less prominent theme is "The Chairman's Waltz", performed by Perlman on the violin. While Sayuri's theme is indeed wonderful, "The Chairman's Waltz" is downright stunning. The way Williams works with it is fascinating. It's a waltz that seems poised to build, ready to explode into a sweeping statement by one hundred strings at any moment... but it doesn't. It builds, and strains, but the only emotional release is granted to Perlman alone, who performs with so much passion and heart that the listener is swept away on a sea of gentle sound.

There is another, much more playful theme that appears in "Going to School" near the beginning, and indeed, the score feels a tad lighter in it's opening passages, though not comic in any way. As it progresses through the mid-section performances of "The Chairman's Waltz" and head towards the final portion, it grows darker in tone. Rather than taking things to level of being more intense and brutal musically, ala "War of the Worlds", Williams makes things even more spare, making the music feel desolate and cold. "The Fire Scene" features some a very odd-sounding wailing woman who works quite effectively in context, namely because Williams only utilizes her the one time, rather than over-using her every time something sad happens. "A Dream Discarded", performed almost solely by Ma on cello, is a perfect example of musical loneliness, it makes one think of a dead leaf fluttering about in the wind over a barren landscape. In fact, the instrumentation on most of the score is much sparer than most of Williams work, making it one of his quietest scores. Williams has a full orchestra at his disposal, but he doesn't use it too often, and he doesn't really use it fully until the end credits, when he presents a variety of fascinating variations on Sayuri's theme. Most of the time, Williams presents Ma and Perlman with only a little bit of percussion, or chimes, or a few strings. Also contributing the score on a regular basis are the koto and shakuhachi, giving the score an added feel of authenticism. Not that Williams needs it, his work his sounds as authentic as anything Tan Dun has written, this isn't oriental music filtered through "E.T."

Overall, again, the score is very restrained, and very quiet, one has to listen closely to the score to hear the gentle tapping and plucking going on in the background, and a few sections are barely audible. The restrained emotions, I suspect, suggest that the film is powerful enough to suggest any emotions that the score refrains from trying to make obvious. Often a composer will be asked to "fill in the gaps", providing sweeping, grand emotions to give the movie something it otherwise wouldn't have. Williams has enough confidence in this film to accentuate the characters, and the subtleties, rather than the scope or the broader ideas of the film. Obviously, this will make the score a slightly more challenging (though constantly lovely) listen on album. In terms of actual musical enjoyment, "Geisha" may rank lower than something like "E.T.", "A.I.", or even "Seven Years in Tibet". But in terms of writing skill, and of achieving what he attempted, Williams has aced it. Highly Recommended.

Rating as Written for Film: *****

Rating as Heard on Album: ****

Overall Rating: ****1/2
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2e30570) out of 5 stars Beautiful and enjoyable piece. Dec 22 2005
By Bossalover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I have read tons of reviews that said that the movie does not portrait real old Kyoto. Neither the music, some people commented. That may be true but as someone of the who was born and brought up in Kyoto, I agree with Ken Watanabe's comment during the interview in which he said rather than being picky about how realistic it is, enjoy the fantasy of old Kyoto. I do have to admit that the movie may not show the real Kyoto - but what is real Kyoto? You cannot find this in modern Kyoto any more in any case, beside some remains from the past. The following review of this soundtrack is based on my understanding of this movie as a tale in the fantasy world. So I would not comment anything on how the music is close to Japanese music etc.

The music from this movie has one clear metaphor, "life is a river." Once I felt this, all the music started speaking to me.

1) Sayuri's Theme: Very calm yet strong music which portraits Sayuri's hidden passion for Chairman and to become a geisha in order to meet Chairman. This music beautifully shows Sayuri's personality which is not very expressive but deep and thoughtful as in the original book.

2) The Journey to the Hanamachi: This music illustrates Chiyo's and Satsu's anxiety of going to Kyoto, which was mysterious place for them. As the music continues, it shows the some elegance in Kyoto with the smooth sound of cello, against the deep sound which still shows their fear and anxiety.

3) Going to School: This music instantly makes me recall of Chiyo and Pumpkin running to school for the very first time. Compare to the deep sound in "The Journey to Hanamachi," the sound is light and cheerful which reminds me of the river in Kyoto in spring. Also the repetition of a certain melody makes me think of the practice at school.

4) Brush on Silk: This music shows a challenge that Chiyo was facing. Also this sound somewhat reminds me of a Japanese classic dance which requires the most skill and technique.

5) Chiyo's Prayer: It starts with the sound similar to the large bell in a temple or in a shrine, then it continues to the smooth cello and koto sound which represents geisha (at least to me). After the twinkling sound, it goes back to the deep cello sound portraying the very deep determination Chiyo made at that time. Beautiful, strong, and deep.

6) Becoming a Geisha: Very elegant piece with luxurious sound. I was literally taken into the world of transformation Chiyo/Sayuri went through. Suddenly in the middle of this music, it changes into a very rhythmical and speedy sound followed by cello playing the main theme. After this part, you do not see any piece of sad Chiyo at all.

7) Finding Satsu: Very fearful, anxious music.

8) Chairman's Waltz: This "not going anywhere" music is very sad, showing a very discreet passion of chiyo.

10) The Garden Meeting: The replay of melody from Chairman's Waltz portrays the hidden sadness Sayuri had. Then it plays the smooth flowing cello sound - which is like a flow in the river you cannot swim against.

11) Dr. Crab's Prize: This music is played when Sayuri goes through her mizuage. It is so much like "tea ceremony" in a sense, which she had to go through all the steps to come to this stage. As the music continues, the sound becomes stronger slightly showing the power or authority which Sayuri cannot go against.

12) Destinty's Path: This is exactly like a river. It starts from the small vibrating sound that reminds you of a chatter of the brook, then goes to a wider river. The sound becomes loud and small as if all the events in our lives. However the water moves within that river, they cannot go against the flow. This, to me, is like a destiny and the idea we have for the life is well represented.

13) A New Name... A New Life: This is very mysterious and elegant piece. It starts with the tinkling sound and the smooth cello. The music makes me feel wonder what would happen next, what would happen next, without giving me a clear answer to it. But in the middle, it starts revealing the path to the answer with some elegance.

14) The Fire Scene and the Coming of War: This is very different from the rest of the music. It really sounded like a "movie music" until it plays nagauta, the Japanese classic singing, saying "clam down this wave..."(I could not understand the whole lyrics.) Toward the ending, the music becomes dramatic, showing that something is coming. The war. There is no elegance or graceful sound played in other pieces and it tells us that the situation is now completely changed.

15) As the water...: This is very calm, sad, as if the one is killing onself in his/her mind, trying to forget everything.

16) Confluence: This piece is very beautiful, showing a dramatic "confluence" of people's lives.

17) A Dream Discarded: Very calm and sad piece which illustrates Sayuri's feeing like a wave - but very calm. You can picture her, recalling all the dramatic events occurred in her life but standing very calmly.

18) Sayuri's Theme and End Credits: The music comprises all the above elements into one piece. The starting point, transformation to geisha, dramatic emotional events happened in her life, sadness for not being able to go against the flow despite her passion etc.

Overall, the music is clearly interpretable, and the cello was beautiful. Most pieces have the some inspiration from the Japanese music and Asian music, which add the exotic hint in the whole music, in addition to the effect as the general sound track. I loved it and enjoyed it.
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2e309a8) out of 5 stars Every step I have taken has been to bring myself closer to you... Dec 9 2005
By Rebecca of Amazon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Adversity is like a strong wind...it doesn't just hold us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward, we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be. ~Memoirs of a Geisha

John Williams has created a soundscape of haunting proportions with melancholy sweeps turning into magnificent explorations of creativity. Deep drum beats contrast with delicate instruments, all mingling into a romantic soul-stirring ancient dream with moments of intense hope and mystery.

Chiyo's Prayer is delicate in beauty and sharp contrast with Becoming a Geisha introducing more dramatic moments and concluding with an intense flourish. Finding Satsu is a heart-capturing melody interspersed with sharp sweeps and melancholy orchestral pools of sound from which danger seems to lurk.

The Chairman's Waltz featuring magical cellist Yo-Yo Ma is delicate and romantic in its sorrowful moments. Rooftops presents mystery and magical moments of suspense. The Garden Meeting is literally drenched in musical contemplation, moody, hopeful and heart wrenching all at once.

Confluence is ecstatic and spine tingling in beauty. Each musical discovery is encased in a sense of perfection and care. The moods range from comforting and romantic to dramatic and awakening. As memorable as your deepest love, as haunting as all you have left in your past.

~The Rebecca Review
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa2e30d68) out of 5 stars Breathtaking March 19 2006
By Ismail Elshareef - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I don't noramlly dedicate complete reviews to film scores, but the soundtrack to Memoirs of a Geisha is more than a score. It's a saga made of melodious sounds that represent loss, jealousy, pain and resurrection. The various notes are in deep conversation with each other creating a cacophony of musical bliss for our senses to enjoy.

John Williams is a wizard in the magical land of music, and his wizardry has never been more evident. He truly captured the essence of the film with these bleeding yet graceful tracks. The same goes for Yo-Yo-Ma and his ever expressive cello.

The violin has always been an instrument that moved me. It always seems very melancholic and tormented yet unrelenting and undeterred. I like to close my eyes and let it take me through unpredictable emotions and imagery. It's always an ecstatic experience.

I especially like to listen to the violin echo the cello's or the string's sorrow, and at times, joy. There's plenty of those moments on this soundtrack.

This score is an experience worthy of your attention. I can't recommend it enough.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Mr Pointy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is it. The follow-up score to "Schindler's List" that everyone was expecting in 1994, but never got. It's passionate, beautiful, ominous, painful and features remarkable solo performances.

Countless reviews before me have mentioned it, but Williams was going for the feel of a river in this score, and it definitely translates to the listener. The music flows seamlessly from track to track, from gentle gushing and playful bouncing to deep and dark, culminating in the appropriately-titled "Confluence". But enough with the water metaphors! The two recurring themes are "Sayuri's Theme" and "The Chairman's Waltz", with the former the central idea of the score. Some tracks revolve around the theme, but in others it dips in quietly and leaves so it never feels overused. The Waltz sounds almost European - very reminiscent of "Jewish Town" from "Schindler", but it's still hauntingly beautiful. Other highlights include the extremely catchy "Going To School" and, of course, the "Yep, that's Williams" track, "Confluence". The whole score builds up to it, but it's still restrained enough to retain dignity. Though it never reaches those unchained heights from "Schindler's List", it never feels like it should have.

Like Yo-Yo Ma said in an interview, Memoirs is definitely a Williams score; not because it sounds like his other scores or he reused ideas, but because all of these worlds are a part of him, so he is a part of them. A brilliant score in an astounding year from the Maestro.

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