About Touhou Style Original Compositions
Welcome to a world of limitless possibilities
What are Touhou-style Original Compositions?
Touhou-Style Original Compositions, or “Touhou-Style” is a general name given to a unique style of music composition done by either ZUN, the original creator of the Touhou games, or by someone who is alluding to Touhou’s musical themes. Such music resembling Touhou’s music usually sees the use of instruments like the Romantic Tp, ZUN’s favourite instrument, A.K.A. The ZUNpet, or various distinct themes and instruments stylized in the many other Touhou installations.
Similarly, remixes paying respect to ZUN’s original compositions have also been created, expressing unique interpretations of his pieces.
In conclusion, while there is a lack of a precise definition for the term “Touhou-Style”, in my best efforts to define it, it would be defined as the following:
“An original music composition which seeks to embody the spirit of the Touhou franchise, whether or not ZUN’s style is used or referenced.”
“Touhou-Style” is believed to have originated around 2007. One of its oldest examples found is composed by L*aura（高崎ロリエル）, found on the video sharing social media platform, “niconico video”. Titled, “So I’ve apparently made an original track resembling the Touhou series…”, the style is said to have been born from the remixes mimicking or recreating ZUN’s original tracks, with the composer’s own spin on it.
While many composers have been involved in the style’s development, the most notable composers of the early days were people such as 桐生 (Kiryū), FD, samidare, etc. Since then, the style has caught the interests of many, steadily growing in popularity.
Each Touhou-style artist is unique, each incorporating their own spin. In particular, such works originating outside Japan have been the most notable for their individualistic spins. While the style may be minor in the Touhou music scene, it does however have a deep historical connection with the mainline Touhou games.
Why should you listen to “Touhou-Style”?
There are three distinct characteristics that come to mind when I think of Touhou-Style: compositional freedom, accessibility, and endless possibilities feeding continual evolution.
The first of the three: the immense degree of freedom in terms of composition, which by far is one of the largest factors, and what attracts many creators. This freedom stems from the accessibility of the sound modules that the Touhou series use. Modules can range from FM synthesisers (PC98) to the newest addition to the series, Unconnected Marketeers. In addition to these Touhou-related sound modules, what makes Touhou-Style interesting is how other sound modules can be incorporated to create one’s own style.
戦ピー (SenP)’s composition, “Awakening Wolf’s Instinct” is a prime example of how changes in instrumentation can make noticeable differences.
Furthermore, composers can also use some of ZUN’s techniques (namely signs) to recreate ZUN-sounding tracks; others may implement their own styles and techniques into their tracks.
While these options offer freedom, the development of individual styles would further increase the possibility and originality of these tracks.
Cited from Hisui (翡翠)
kind of style they desire to listen to. For example a user could listen to a specific user’s composition which resembles the mainline games, or another composer’s unique style.
Misora (深蒼穹) and Wanwan are some of many users who have both an identifiable and unique style. Listening to, as well as comparing different composers can lead to interesting discoveries.
Next, the ease of access is an important part of Touhou-Style. These pieces are easily accessible through social platforms such as Youtube, NicoNico, or the composer’s own websites. Alternatively they can also be found in Touhou fanworks (such as 東方魔法城 ~ Touhou Book of Star Mythology) as music themes.
Cited from Wanwan
Touhou Style appears a lot in works such as Danmakufu (Touhou fanworks)
Another significant advantage is how these tracks can be freely shared with others. Any user can access these tracks at any time, anywhere, and without the restrictions of related events: a trait that is extremely viewer friendly.
Most of the time, these tracks are not restricted to albums or CDs and can be listened to individually. Though for those who would like to physically collect music, there exists event and online store based copies as well.
Lastly, Touhou-Style holds limitless possibilities in its potential for evolution.
Newer tracks implement new instrumentation and techniques, which further pushes the ceiling for what Touhou-Style can show us. With Touhou arrangements and remixes, one could use different music genres, instruments etc. to make these tracks. However, since they are limited to the original tracks, there is only a limited amount of melodies and patterns one could use before the tracks all sound the same, which can bore the viewer. However with Touhou-Style, the viewer can enjoy new composers, tracks, instrumentation, styles, and original tracks to their heart’s content. Furthermore, if Touhou Style tracks were arranged, users could experience these tracks in various different ways without getting bored.
Survey Responses from Touhou Style Original Composition Artists
Thank you to the following individuals for contributing towards this survey: Yoiyami(よいやみ), FD, Wanwan, Hisui (翡翠), Tokimigusa (時見草).
When did you start creating Touhou-Style Compositions?
How did you come to start composing Touhou-Style compositions?
Yoiyami: Touhou’s music left a lasting impression on me; and I wanted to express Touhou Lotus Land Story (Touhou’s 4th installation) in a musical way.
FD: I originally was interested in Samidare’s transcription videos and once they started composing Touhou-Style, I decided to make some myself.
Wanwan: A big reason why I started to make Touhou-Style tracks was because I wanted to use ZUN’s musical instrumentation and techniques (such as the trumpets, the fast piano segments), to write my own pieces
Hisui: I originally wanted to make Touhou-like tracks, and so I decided to make Touhou-Style pieces.
Tokimigusa: I was impressed by previous Touhou-Style composers, and I also just wanted to make a track myself.
What is so interesting/exciting about Touhou-Style?
Yoiyami: How we can share our representation of “ZUN ” within ourselves.
FD: The overall feeling these tracks give and how they sound like the official tracks, but are different in their own ways.
Wanwan: (In a good way), even though a composer uses Touhou’s sounds and techniques, we could create and listen to tracks that ZUN himself wouldn’t have made.
Hisui: That there’s a form of ‘limitation’ when making these tracks.
Tokimigusa: This is just my point-of-view, but I see Touhou-style in three generations: First gen(~2012), second gen (2012~2017) and third gen (2017~). What’s so interesting between these generations is the way that the tracks are being made.
First gen: A balanced track strongly resembling the mainline tracks.
Second gen: A lot of tracks resemble ZUN’s transparent and floaty kind of tracks. Specifically, the ZUNpet’s melody line is very striking to me.
Third gen: Uses ZUN’s modern chord progression, though some users have branched off towards their chord style.
It’s also interesting as to how replicating an individual’s chord progression and style had spreaded out so much.
After finishing a piece, how do you feel about the work itself?
Yoiyami: A sensation similar to stumbling upon a little-cute shrine while stranded in some deep mountain.
FD: Oh, it’s really good?!
Wanwan: Though I’ve never felt anything particular about a completed piece, thinking about its publication always excites me.
Hisui: I always want to make an even better track than before.
Tokimigusa: “Is this transition kind of off?… Does this embody the Touhou-Style?…” While ideas for better expression of Touhou-Style in my pieces stick in the back of my head, I try my best to praise what I did well in my piece.
What are your opinions on other Touhou-Style pieces?
Yoiyami: I always use them as references for perspectives on how others interpret ZUN’s style.
FD: Why not make them more simple.
Wanwan: I find it really interesting as to how users can replicate ZUN’s style. Though I would really appreciate it if users created more tracks that show their originality, and personal style.
Hisui: That’s a tough question…
Tokimigusa: Everyone’s making some very good tracks.
What are your future plans in improving your pieces?
Yoiyami: I would like to aim for more originality, while keeping it’s touhou-like elements.
FD: I want to buy more sound modules.
Wanwan: From here onwards, I would like to create tracks that represent myself a lot more, and enjoy listening to them. And if someone else gets to enjoy that track, that is greatly appreciated.
Hisui: To do the best I can. Also keeping up with deadlines.
Tokimigusa: I would like to increase the amount of patterns in my chord/melody progression.
During your starting years, were you affected by other Touhou-Style Composers?
Yoiyami: One of many goals to achieve.
FD: I was never really influenced by others. My motivation is self-centered.
Wanwan: At the time, I was influenced by a lot of piano roll creators, so I believe they had a big impact on how I imputed piano keys.
Hisui: In the sense that I was exposed to a new genre, I was influenced.
Tokimigusa: The atmosphere of these tracks.
(If any) please indicate who your favourite Touhou-Style artist is.
Yoiyami: Toufuu (東風)
FD: Tokimigusa (時見草)
Wanwan: (In no particular order) Senpi (戦ピー), Misora (深蒼穹), H2SO4, Svlysprit, Aka Kyuketsuki
Hisui: Misora (深蒼穹)
Tokimigusa: FD, Taroimo (たろいも), Flancium (ランシウム), Haruka (ハルカ), Useless (ゆずれす)
Further reading material
Brief Discussion: What is a ‘touhou-style original track’? (Translated by @williewillus)
Touhou Original Composition List (Nico) (Editor: Oborochi)
Replicating ZUN’s Sound Modules＠wiki
So I’ve apparently made an original track resembling the Touhou series… Composer: L*aura（ローラ)
Awakening Wolf’s Instinct Composer: Senpi (戦ピー)
【Test】 Can you make a Touhou Style track with just cliches? Composer: Torinosu (とりのす)
My own view on videos related to Touhou Style, Touhou Windows Style arrangements, and Touhou tracks in another style (Editor: L_O_Nihilum)