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The Music of Toru Takemitsu

Joshua Iyer

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Published: February 8, 2015 at 4:50 PM [UTC]

This morning has been dedicated to finishing revising the piece “Into the Forest”, for string orchestra and piano, so we can rehearse it with the orchestra and play it for the March 2015 concert, which I’m very excited for and spent a lot of time fixing and replacing harmony with different chords, completely rewriting a section of music, sketching it out at the piano, that gives it a much more Ravel-esque feel, and trying to make the parts themselves more interesting. The other main thing I’ve been working on is motivic development. I had to force a motif into the piece from when I wrote it (quite literally) a year ago, and I was able to add and repeat it throughout the piece. I spent all weekend on it, and I think I’m just about ready to extract all the parts and send them off to be copied so we can play through it again next week!

During one of my breaks at 10am, I discovered, while trying to find some Finzi scores because he writes great strings music, the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, who, within the 1960s, wrote a piece called “November Steps”. It’s a very intriguing piece. One of his goals was to combine elements of Japanese (traditional) music with Western music that he enjoyed, and in “November Steps”, he added the biwa (a Japanese lute) and a shakuhachi to the orchestra, which create a very Japanese feel to the traditional orchestra. As I listened to the piece, performed by the New Japan Philharmonic, I could picture the picturesque mountains and countryside of the country, as if I were in a calm and tranquil Japanese village, and it created an exotic sonic experience that was very cool and inspiring. It is a very 20th Century-style of composition, and I believe we actually discussed some of his music at my camp last summer. Perhaps since listening to this, I will gain new ideas for my own piece. In any case, I just wanted to briefly share this composer with you. He was also particularly interested in Debussy Impressionistic style as well, which is cool because he is one of my influences personally. I hope you enjoy him!

He once stated, “My music is like a garden, and I am the gardener. Listening to my music can be compared with walking through a garden and experiencing the changes in light, pattern, and texture.”

"November Rain and be sure to look at some of his other stuff, too! :) At about 7:20 in the video, there is a cool, high violin moment along with the Japanese instruments which is kind of cool, complete with glissandi and everything.

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