The Music of To ¯ru Takemitsu To ¯ru Takemitsu (1930–96) was the best known Japanese composer of his generation, bringing aspects of Eastern and Western traditions together, yet he remained something of an elusive figure. The composer’s own commentaries about his music, poetic and philosophical in tone, have tended to deepen the mystery and much writing on Takemitsu to date has adopted a similar attitude, leaving many questions about his compositional methods unanswered. This book is the first complete study of the composer’s work to appear in English. It is also the first book in this language to offer an in-depth analysis of his music. Takemitsu’s works are increasingly popular with Western audiences and Peter Burt attempts for the first time to shed light on the hitherto rather secretive world of his working methods, as well as place him in context as heir to the rich tradition of Japanese composition in the twentieth century. peter burt is Vice-Chairman of the Takemitsu Society in the United Kingdom and editor of the Takemitsu Society Newsletter. He is currently editing a special commemorative issue of Contemporary Music Review devoted to To ¯ru Takemitsu.

TAKEMITSU, Toru - The Music of Toru Takemitsu

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  • The Music of Toru Takemitsu

    Toru Takemitsu (193096) was the best known Japanese composer of hisgeneration, bringing aspects of Eastern and Western traditions together, yet heremained something of an elusive figure. The composers own commentariesabout his music, poetic and philosophical in tone, have tended to deepen themystery and much writing on Takemitsu to date has adopted a similar attitude,leaving many questions about his compositional methods unanswered. This bookis the first complete study of the composers work to appear in English. It is alsothe first book in this language to offer an in-depth analysis of his music.Takemitsus works are increasingly popular with Western audiences and PeterBurt attempts for the first time to shed light on the hitherto rather secretive worldof his working methods, as well as place him in context as heir to the rich traditionof Japanese composition in the twentieth century.

    peter burt is Vice-Chairman of the Takemitsu Society in the United Kingdomand editor of the Takemitsu Society Newsletter. He is currently editing a specialcommemorative issue of Contemporary Music Review devoted to Toru Takemitsu.

  • Music in the Twentieth Century

    general editor Arnold Whittall

    This series offers a wide perspective on music and musical life in thetwentieth century. Books included range from historical and biographicalstudies concentrating particularly on the context and circumstances inwhich composers were writing, to analytical and critical studies concernedwith the nature of musical language and questions of compositionalprocess. The importance given to context will also be reflected in studiesdealing with, for example, the patronage, publishing, and promotion ofnew music, and in accounts of the musical life of particular countries.

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  • The Music of

    Toru Takemitsu

    Peter Burt


    Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, So Paulo

    Cambridge University Press

    The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK

    Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York


    Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521782203

    Peter Burt 2001

    This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception

    and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,

    no reproduction of any part may take place without

    the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

    First published 2001

    Reprinted 2003

    This digitally printed first paperback version 2006

    A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

    Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

    Burt, Peter, 1955

    The music of T ru Takemitsu / Peter Burt.

    p. cm. (Music in the twentieth century)

    Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.

    ISBN 0 521 78220 1

    1. Takemitsu, T ru Criticism and interpretation. I. Title. II. Series.

    ML410.T134 B87 2001

    780.92dc21 00-045505

    ISBN-13 978-0-521-78220-3 hardback

    ISBN-10 0-521-78220-1 hardback

    ISBN-13 978-0-521-02695-6 paperback

    ISBN-10 0-521-02695-4 paperback

  • for Sumine

  • Contents

    Acknowledgements page ix

    Note on conventions xi

    Introduction 1

    1 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan 4

    2 Music and pre-music: Takemitsus early years 21

    3 Experimental workshop: the years of Jikken Kobo 39

    4 The Requiem and its reception 50

    5 Projections on to a Western mirror 73

    6 Cage shock and after 92

    7 Projections on to an Eastern mirror 110

    8 Modernist apogee: the early 1970s 132

    9 Descent into the pentagonal garden 160

    10 Towards the sea of tonality: the works of the 1980s 175

    11 Beyond the far calls: the final years 216

    12 Swimming in the ocean that has no West or East 234

    Notes 254

    List of Takemitsus Works 269

    Select bibliography 281

    Index 288

  • Acknowledgements

    So many have helped me in some way or another over the course of theseven years that I have been working on Takemitsus music that there arebound to be some omissions in the list of names that follow. In particularin Japan, where fabulous largesse seems to be a cultural norm, I havereceived such generous assistance from so many people that I am certain tohave forgotten to mention one or two here, and I apologise in advance toanyone who feels they have been left out.

    Although wholly rewritten, this book has its origins in my doctoralthesis, and in the first place thanks are therefore due to my supervisor,Peter Manning, and other members of the music department staff atDurham University who assisted me in various ways in particular mybenefactor Michael Spitzer, who offered magnanimous hospitality when-ever I needed to seek shelter in Durham during my two years of exile inLondon. Thanks are also due to Professor Manning for his assistance inprocuring me two valuable scholarships from the Japan FoundationEndowment Committee, and the Gen Foundation and of course to thestaff of those institutions themselves for enabling me to make the two tripsto Japan without which my knowledge of Takemitsu would have remainedvague and incomplete indeed.

    In Japan, my sincere appreciation is due to the former Principal ofKunitachi College of Music, Dr Bin Ebisawa, as well as staff membersCornelia Colyer and Hitoshi Matsushita, the librarian, for providing mewith such a royal welcome during the disorientating early days of my firstvisit. I would also particularly like to thank the fellow researchers in mychosen field who have been so generous in sharing with me the fruits oftheir knowledge: Yoko Narazaki, Noriko Ohtake and above all MitsukoOno, a sort of walking encyclopaedia on Takemitsu who has been ofinvaluable help in correcting my many factual errors. Further gratitude isdue especially to the flautist Hideyo Takakawa for introducing me to histeacher Mr Hiroshi Koizumi, and to him in turn for first introducing me tothe composers widow Mrs Asaka Takemitsu and daughter Maki. I wouldalso like to thank the composer Mr Joji Yuasa for granting me the time tointerview him about his early years with Takemitsu in the Jikken Kobo, andFr. Joaquim Benitez of Elisabeth University, Hiroshima, who kindly agreedto meet me in London and look over my thesis three years ago. Takebumiix

  • Itagaki, Kiyonori Sokabe, Masato Hojo and Yuji Numano have also allbeen of invaluable assistance, and above all, perhaps, I must express mydeepest gratitude to Ms Sumine Hayashibara and her mother Kiku on theone hand, and Ms Emiko Kitazawa and her mother Etsuko on the other,without whose offers of hospitality on, respectively, my first and secondvisits to Japan I would have been unable to come here at all.

    I must also mention here my friend Junko Kobayashi, Chairman of theTakemitsu Society in London, who has been so helpful in checking overJapanese proper nouns with me; as well as Sally Groves of Schotts and herTokyo counterpart, Nanako Ikefuji, for lending me scores of Takemitsusmusic. And finally, I must thank the music books Editor of CambridgeUniversity Press, Penny Souster, for having sufficient faith in the potentialof my thesis to undertake a book on Takemitsu. I hope what follows will insome small measure repay the trust she has invested in me.

    Tokyo, July 2000

    The author gratefully acknowledges the permission of the following pub-lishers to quote copyright materials in the music examples:

    Examples 31, 34 from Sacrifice and 436 from The Dorian Horizon 1967by Ongaku no Tomo Sha Corp.; used by permission

    Examples 535 from Asterism (Edition Peters No. 6630064, 1969 by C FPeters Corporation, New York), 56, 57 from November Steps (Edition PetersNo. 66299, 1967 by C F Peters Corporation, New York) and 5762, 64 fromGreen (Edition Peters No. 66300, 1969 by C F Peters Corporation, NewYork) reproduced by kind permission of Peters Edition Limited, London

    Examples 47 (Webern), 83(v), 105(i) and 118(ii) copyright UniversalEdition AG (Wien); reproduced by permission of Alfred A. Kalmus Ltd

    Examples 911, 13, 18, 19, 217, 379, 47 (Takemitsu), 48, 502, 657, 69,70, 724, 7680, 81(i), 83(iv), 84(i), 85(i), 86(i), 89, 90, 91(iiii), 120(i),129, 134 reproduced by permission of Editions Salabert, Paris/UnitedMusic Publishers Ltd

    Examples 82(iii), 83(ii) reproduced by permission of Editions AlphonseLeduc, Paris/United Music Publishers Ltd

    Examples 82(iii), 83(i, iii), 84(ii), 85(ii), 86(iiiii) reproduced by permis-sion of Editions Durand S.A. Paris/United Music Publishers Ltd

    Examples 13, 5, 6, 16, 17, 402, 81(iiiii), 87, 91(ivxii), 929, 101,105(ii), 10612, 11415, 117, 118(i), 119, 120(iiv), 1223, 1256, 128,1303 reproduced by permission of Schott & Co., Ltd

    x Acknowledgements

  • Note on conventions

    Throughout this book, Japanese personal names are rendered accordingto the Western rather than Japanese convention, in which the familyname follows the given name (Toru Takemitsu, not Takemitsu Toru).Transliteration of Japanese words follows the Hepburn system, and in theinterests of consistency albeit at the risk of appearing pretentious thishas been applied even to words generally given in English without diacriti-cal marks (Tokyo, Osaka, etc.).


  • Introduction

    The title of this book is The Music of Toru Takemitsu, and despite themany other fascinating issues, biographical and artistic, that it is temptingto explore in an examination of this many-faceted genius composer, fes-tival organiser, writer on aesthetics, author of detective novels, celebritychef on Japanese TV it is with Takemitsus legacy as a composer that thefollowing chapters are predominantly concerned. In fact, the books scopeis even narrower still, for although Takemitsu, as the worklist at the end ofthis volume will show, produced a vast amount of music for film, theatre,television and radio as well as a number of other pieces of more populistcharacter, such works lie beyond the remit of the present study, which forthe most part deals only with the composers classical scores for theconcert platform. Right from the start, however, it should be emphasisedthat such an approach focuses on only a small area of Takemitsus versatilecreativity, and it should always be borne in mind that these other areas ofactivity were an ever-present backdrop to his mainstream work, interact-ing fruitfully with the latter in ways which it has been possible to hint at inthe following pages, but regretfully not examine in more detail.

    The bulk of this work, then chapters 2 to 11 is concerned withdescriptions of Takemitsus music for the concert room, examining theprincipal scores in roughly chronological sequence, and including a certainamount of biographical information to set them in context. Though thissection is continuous, the reader will probably soon realise that thearrangement of these chapters reflects an implicit, provisional division ofthe composers career into three periods, dealt with respectively in chap-ters 24, 58 and 911 of the book. Although rather schematic and cer-tainly no watertight compartmentalisation, this periodisation isnevertheless one which, in its broad outlines at least, would appear to findsupport amongst other writers on the subject. Certainly the suggested tran-sition from second to third period represented, as we shall see, a changeof style so dramatic that it has been hard for commentators to miss it: YokoNarazaki, for instance, who divides the composers music into two periods,speaks of a change from an avant-gardeto a conservativestyle1 aroundthe end of the 1970s; Jun-ichi Konuma, more robustly, of a substitution oferoticism for stoicism in the composers Quatrain of 1975.2

    On this basis, it is true, it might be argued that a bipartite scheme,1

  • hinging on the incontrovertible fact of this obvious stylistic conversion,constitutes an adequate working description of the composers develop-ment, and that further sub-division would be hair-splitting andsuperfluous. Nevertheless, I feel that there is a second, if less spectacular,distinction to be made between the juvenilia from the first decade ofTakemitsus composing career (from 1950 onwards), and the works whichsucceeded them from around the turn of the 1960s. The journeymanworks from the period prior to this point are of interest insomuch as theyreflect, in their purest form, the stylistic imprints of those American andEuropean composers by whom Takemitsu was initially most profoundlyinfluenced in his rather isolated situation in post-war Japan. By contrast,the works from around 1960 onwards reveal a very rapid assimilation of allthe preoccupations Takemitsu became aware of as his knowledge of thedomestic and international music scene enlarged dramatically not onlythose of the modernist avant-garde, but also, and most importantly, ofJohn Cage and, through his influence, of traditional Japanese music. Thechange wrought upon the musical language of the first period by thesepowerful outside influences has not escaped the attention of other writerson the subject: Yukiko Sawabe, for instance, certainly agrees on theappearance of at least two new elements in Takemitsus music around1960, traditional Japanese instruments and the discovery of nature inmusic, a discovery in which the composer was encouraged by his encoun-ter with John Cage.3 Broadly speaking, too, the rather simplistic-soundingpicture of the composers career as a beginningmiddleend triptych thatemerges from the addition of this second transitional point is not withoutsupport from other commentators. Although he locates the two turningpoints in 1957 and 1973/4, for instance, Kenjiro Miyamotos tripartitescheme is in other respects more or less identical with my own;4 while bothTakashi Funayama5 and Miyuki Shiraishi,6 speak, less specifically, of early,middle and late periods in the composers work.

    The approach adopted towards Takemitsus music in the course of thesecentral chapters is, the reader will soon realise, primarily an analytical one.This to a certain extent reflects the perceptual biases and academic trainingof the author, and in particular the origins of this book in my own doctoralthesis, rather than any intrinsic advantages such a method might havewhen applied to Takemitsus music. In fact, the latter is emphatically notcarefully put together for the benefit of future academics to take apartagain, and analytic approaches towards it therefore have a tendency to takethe researcher up what eventually proves to be a blind alley. Takemitsusown writing about music, significantly, rarely gives away any technicalinformation about his musical construction or contains music-type exam-

    2 Introduction

  • ples, concerning itself instead with abstract philosophical problemsexpressed in a flowery and poetic language, and many commentators particularly in Japan have followed his example in dealing with the musicon this level, rather than venturing into the murkier waters of his actualcompositional method. One has the feeling, therefore, that one is goingagainst the grain of the composers own preferred concept of appropriatedescriptive language by attempting to submit his music to dissection withthe precision tools of Western analysis, and is perhaps justly rewarded witha certain ultimate impenetrability.

    Nevertheless, as I have explained elsewhere,7 I do not believe that oneshould for this reason be deterred from making the effort to understandTakemitsus music on a more technical level. Such an enterprise, I wouldsuggest, is well worth undertaking, for two reasons in particular. First,despite its shortcomings, it is able to uncover a good deal of the still rathersecretive goings-on behind the surface of Takemitsus music, as the follow-ing pages will reveal. And secondly, by its very impotence to explain thewhole of Takemitsus creative thinking, it illustrates the extent to which theconstruction of his music is governed by decisions of a more irrationalnature, which even the most inventive of scholars is powerless to accountfor. Mapping out the area which is tractable to analysis, in other words, atthe same time gives the measure of that vaster territory which is not.

    Why this should be so, why Takemitsus music should ultimately resistanalytical explanation, is a question to which I attempt to give someanswers in my twelfth and final chapter, which steps outside the bounds ofthe remit I claimed for this book at the beginning of this introduction toexamine some of the more abstract and philosophical issues surroundinghis work: offering an assessment of his status as a composer, an examina-tion of some of his aesthetic views (to the extent that I understand them),and an evaluation of some of the more frequent criticisms to which he hasbeen subject. The other place where my subject matter transgressesbeyond the bounds of my own self-imposed limitations is at the verybeginning of the book. To understand fully the nature of Takemitsusachievement, it is necessary to see him not only in relation to the interna-tional Western music scene, but also in relation to the aesthetic preoccupa-tions of the composers who preceded him in the decades since Westernmusic was first introduced to Japan. As, however, this is a history for themost part almost entirely unfamiliar to Westerners, it has been consideredimperative to give a brief overview of the subject in the opening chapter. Itis with this pre-history, then the story of the arrival of Western music inJapan and the development of Japanese composition that succeeded it that The Music of Toru Takemitsu begins.

    3 Introduction

  • 1 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

    Popular culture has ensured that at least one or two key elements in thestory of Japans unique and often turbulent relationship with the Westernworld have become familiar to a wider audience. Stephen Sondheims 1975musical Pacific Overtures, for instance, charts the course of events subse-quent to that momentous day in the nineteenth century when Japan wasfinally rudely awakened from its quarter-millennium of feudal stability bya dramatic intervention of modernity. The day in question was 8 July 1853,when Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the United States Navysailed into Uraga harbour with his powerfully armed ironclad steamboats,the kurofune (black ships); and to understand the boldness and historicalsignificance of Perrys adventure, one has to travel back in time a quarter ofa millennium further still, to 1603. For it was in that year that IeyasuTokugawa finally acceded to an office familiar to Westerners, once again,from populist sources, in this case James Clavells 1975 novel and its subse-quent film and television versions: the title of military dictator of all Japan,or Shogun.

    Having attained this sovereign position at great cost by finally subjugat-ing the powerful regional warlords (daimyo), the Tokugawa family wasunderstandably anxious to preserve the fragile centralised power it hadestablished. In particular, wary of the colonial ambitions of the foreignnationals then resident in Japan and of any alliance between these andtheir daimyo subordinates they embarked on a campaign of draconianmeasures to protect their country from the perceived alien menace.Japanese Christians were martyred, foreign nationals repatriated, and theJapanese themselves forbidden to travel abroad, until by 1641 no contactwith the outside world remained except for a small community of Dutchtraders confined to their island ghetto of Deshima in Nagasaki harbour.Japan, allowing its subjects no egress and outsiders no ingress, had suc-ceeded within a few decades in turning itself into a self-contained hermitkingdom, and henceforth would enforce the most stringent measures toensure that right up to the arrival of Perrys ships over two hundred yearslater this exclusion policy would remain virtually inviolate.

    Virtually inviolate, but not entirely so; despite the dire penalties riskedby those who sought to transgress against the exclusion order, from the4

  • eighteenth century onwards various seafarers Russian, American,British, French and Dutch all made efforts to persuade the Japanese toreopen their country to foreign commerce. Furthermore, while theJapanese could not travel to the outside world, or make contact with itsinhabitants, the educated classes, at least, could read about what was hap-pening there at first secretly, as various items of information were smug-gled in through approved Dutch and Chinese traders, and then moreopenly, after the Shogun Yoshimune (171645) rescinded the ban on theimportation of foreign books (provided they contained no reference toChristian teaching) in 1720. As a result of this new development, thereeventually came into existence the group known as the rangakusha orDutch Scholars, whose painstaking efforts to translate works written inthat language, starting from scratch, finally bore fruit when the firstEuropean work to be published in Japan, an anatomy textbook, appearedin 1774. Significantly, besides medicine, the other area of Western exper-tise about which the Japanese were especially curious was military science and with good reason. In the following century Takashima Shuhan(17981866), who had learned about Western ordnance from textbooks,was to warn the governor of Nagasaki after the British success in theAnglo-Chinese war that Japan was no more capable of resistance thanChina, and that the latters defensive measures had been like childs play.1

    In the eyes of modernisers such as Shuhan, Japans need to acquire masteryof this particular branch of Western learning was no longer simply amatter of scholarly curiosity, but of his countrys very survival as an inde-pendent nation in the face of the predatory desires of an industrialisedWest.

    This gradual dissemination of Western ideas was one of a number offactors by means of which the formerly impregnable edifice of the exclu-sionist administration was brought increasingly under attack over thecourse of the years. Other weapons in the armoury of the reformingZeitgeist included the revitalisation of traditional shinto beliefs and thebeginnings of research into national history both of which developmentstended to call into question the legitimacy of the Shoguns primacy overthe Emperor, who had been reduced to the role of a mere puppet since theTokugawa ascendancy. But the force which was to act as perhaps the mosteloquent advocate for the abandonment of isolationism was operating ona rather more mundane level than any of the above: that of everyday eco-nomic transactions. The period of the Tokugawa Shogunate saw the emer-gence of a mercantile class in the cities, and of coin rather than rice as thefavoured medium of exchange through which they conducted their busi-ness. The ruling military lite (samurai) of Japans traditional feudal hier-

    5 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • archy contracted huge debts to this newly emergent bourgeoisie, whichthey then attempted to displace on to their already overstretched peasantsubjects. As a result, the agricultural economy started to crumble, to bereplaced by a mercantile economy which Japan was unable to supportwithout calling on the outside world.2 Even without the additional per-suasive capacities of Commodore Perrys superior firepower, therefore,capitulation to the American demand for trading opportunities, when atlast it came, was by then a matter of stark economic necessity.

    After the gunboats, the diplomacy: as follow-up to his first audaciousviolation of the exclusion order in 1853, Perry returned with an aug-mented force in February of the following year, and on this occasion madethe long-awaited breakthrough. An agreement concluded on 31 Marchallowed him the use of the twin ports of Shimoda and Hakodate forlimited trade, and provided for consular representation for his country.This success of Perrys soon prompted others to follow his example:similar treaties were signed with the British in October of the same year,and with the Russians and Dutch in February and November of the follow-ing year respectively. Thereafter events moved inexorably to bring aboutthe eventual downfall of the ancien rgime, although the force that wasfinally responsible for toppling the ruling military dictatorship, or bakufu,perhaps came from a somewhat unexpected quarter. For ultimately it wasforces loyal to the Emperor which brought about the resignation of the lastShogun in 1867 and, after a brief civil war, the formation of a provisionalgovernment and restoration of the Emperor to what was considered hisrightful place at the head of the political structure (the so-called MeijiRestoration). There thus arose the somewhat paradoxical situation thatthe foundations of what eventually proved to be the first Western-stylegovernment in Japan were prepared by precisely those forces in societywhich had initially viewed the bakufus accommodation with foreigners asa betrayal, and whose battle-cry had once been Sonno joi! Revere theEmperor and expel the barbarians!

    The conflicting ideologies which rendered this situation so paradoxical the modernisingspirit of the new administration, in opposition to a some-times aggressive nostalgia for traditional Japanese certainties on the part ofthose who had helped bring it to power afford one of the first glimpses of aclash of values that has had a central role in determining Japans subsequentcultural development right up to the present day. The historian ArnoldToynbee (18891975), who took an especial interest in this aspect of Japanscultural history, once coined a handy pair of expressions to describe thesekinds of opposing responses that may be evoked in a society which has beenthrown on the defensive by the impact of an alien force in superior

    6 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • strength.3 The attitude of the progressives and modernisers, on the onehand, he characterised as the Herodian4 position; that of the man whoacts on the principle that the most effective way to guard against the dangerof the unknown is to master its secret, and, when he finds himself in the pre-dicament of being confronted by a more highly skilled and better armedopponent . . . responds by discarding his traditional art of war and learningto fight his enemy with the enemys own tactics and own weapons.5 On theother hand, in opposition to this receptive, mimetic attitude, Toynbeeposited the idea of Zealotism: the stance taken by the man who takesrefuge from the unknown in the familiar, and when he joins battle with astranger who practises superior tactics and enjoys formidable new-fangledweapons . . . responds by practising his own traditional art of war withabnormally scrupulous exactitude.6

    For Toynbee, the course of action ultimately chosen by the nineteenth-century Japanese in response to their dramatic exposure to Western tech-nological prowess constituted the Herodian reaction par excellence : forhim, the Japanese were of all the non-Western peoples that the modernWest has challenged . . . perhaps the least unsuccessful exponents ofHerodianism in the world so far.7 Though at first sight this mightappear to be a sweepingly imperious, etic pronouncement on the situa-tion, it is nevertheless one that would appear to be given a certain emicvalidation when one considers certain reactions on the part of the Japanesethemselves such as the remarks of Takashima Shuhan quoted a few para-graphs previously, or the craze for wholesale Europeanisation that fol-lowed in the wake of the Meiji restoration, when the desire of the Japaneseruling classes to remodel themselves on the lines of their newly foundtrading partners went far beyond the minimum necessary to acquire anadequate military competence. But side by side with such sycophantic imi-tation by a small lite there co-existed amongst the population at largeother, drastically less welcoming responses to the Western intrusion ofsuch a nature to suggest that, as one leading authority on Japanese cultureexpressed it, Western culture was accepted as a necessity but its donorswere disliked.8 And at this point one becomes aware that the image con-jured by Toynbee, of a wholehearted subjugation to the Herodian ideal,might require a certain qualification, to say the least. In fact, the truth ofthe matter would appear to be rather that the atavistic reaction describedby Toynbee as Zealotism on no account perished with Perry, and hasindeed never really gone away since. To an extent it can be highlyprofitable, indeed, to regard much of the subsequent cultural history ofJapan as ideologically motivated by the dialectical opposition between thetwin forces of progressive cosmopolitanism and regressive nationalism: an

    7 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • oscillation, as the Takemitsu scholar Alain Poirier expresses it, betweenexpressions of a nationalism, betraying itself sometimes in the form ofviolent protectionism, and of a willingness to be open towards theOccident.9

    This oscillation described by Poirier, however, constitutes only onemode of expression what might be called the diachronic of the under-lying opposition, betraying itself above all in the form of horizontal, his-torical fluctuations of power between two polar positions, of which themost dramatic in recent times have probably been the disastrous resur-gence of political nationalism before and during the Second World War,and the extreme receptivity towards Americanisation in the Occupationyears that succeeded it. But at the same time this fundamental tension alsoexpresses itself vertically, as it were synchronically, as a kind of basic andongoing schism in the Japanese psyche, what has been described as a kindof double structure or perhaps parallelism of lifestyle and intellectual atti-tude of the modern Japanese.10 In this compromise between modernimperatives and traditional instincts, experience tends to be compart-mentalised, with Western behavioural codes operating in certain areas for example, in most areas of public, corporate life but with other, pre-dominantly private domains reserved as sites wherein citizens tend con-sciously or unconsciously to maintain the traditions passed on fromgeneration to generation.11 In both of the above manifestations, this inter-play of forces not necessarily a destructive one has played a crucial rolein shaping both the historical development and everyday orientation ofJapanese culture during the modern period. And as we shall very shortlydiscover this has been as much the case with the composition of Western-style music in Japan, as with any other form of cultural activity.Horizontally, throughout the historical period that has elapsed since thisEuropean art form was first transplanted to Japanese soil, we shall observefluctuations between imitation of the West and declarations of nationalis-tic independence; vertically, taking a slice of time through any particularmoment in that history, we shall observe time and again in the work ofindividual composers the same preoccupation with establishing their ownequilibrium between these recurrent, inimical forces the centrifugalforce of adopting a Western idiom, the centripetal one of defining, by con-trast, a uniquely Japanese identity. Indeed as Miyamoto has correctlyobserved this opposition between an imported foreign culture and theirown, and the manner of dealing with both, was long conceived as thecentral problem facing Western-style Japanese composers.12

    The channels of transmission through which this Western music firstcame to be re-established in Japan are essentially three in number. First,

    8 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • there was the reintroduction of Christian devotional music silent sincethe early years of the seventeenth century, but gradually being heard onceagain following the reopening of the ports in the 1850s, and especially afterthe ban on Christianity was abrogated in 1873. Secondly, there was theincorporation of musical study into the school curricula, of which moremust be said shortly. But the most assiduous cultivation of Western musicof all initially occurred as a by-product of reform in that sphere in whichthe spur towards modernisation was most keenly felt: the creation of amodern fighting force. Military drill on the Western model naturallyrequired Western-style martial music, and there thus came into being firstof all the simple fife-and-drum bands known as kotekikai, and then afterSeptember 1869, when the Satsuma clan were loaned instruments andgiven instruction by the Irish-born bandmaster John William Fenton(1828 ?) full-blown military bands on the Western model. Fentonsband acquired its own instruments from England in 1870 and later becamethe official band of the Japanese navy, its directorship passing in 1879 tothe Prussian musician Franz Eckert (18521916); while the army was toestablish its own band in 1872, at first under the leadership of Kenzo Nishi,and then subsequently and in interesting contrast to the naval band under the direction of two French bandmasters: Gustave Charles Dagron,who presided until 1884, and his successor Charles Edouard GabrielLeroux (18501926).

    The importance of these developments for the wider dissemination ofWestern music resides in the fact that, besides their proper function withinthe armed forces, these bands also performed roles which demanded thatthey appear in a more public situation. One such function was the provi-sion of ceremonial music for diplomatic occasions, out of which expe-diency grew the creation of what still remains Japans national anthem tothis day, Kimi ga yo possibly one of the earliest examples of Western-style composition to involve at least a partial Japanese input. But in addi-tion, and more importantly still, the military bands played a vital role inthe reception of Western music in Japan by giving public recitals of it, tosuch an extent that until about 1879 . . . musical activity was organisedaround the military band, and it was the band that pioneered the way inwhat today we would call the public concert.13

    It was during the 1880s that, alongside these military band concerts,public recitals also began to be given by Japans first generation of musicschool students. As already suggested, the institution of a public educationsystem on Western lines was the third and, ultimately, probably the mostdecisive factor in the promulgation of Western music in Japan. For, in theirearnest efforts to imitate wholesale the pedagogic practices of the West, the

    9 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • Ministry of Education had stipulated in its regulations of 1872 that singingpractice should form part of the school curriculum at elementary level,and instrumental tuition at middle-school level. This was in spite of thefact that at the time the facilities for putting such Utopian ideals into prac-tice were totally lacking an act symptomatic of the progressiveness of theauthorities, who had received the baptism of the new spirit of theReformation.14

    Much of the responsibility for turning such ambitious schemes intoreality was entrusted to an aristocratic Ministry official called Shuji Izawa(18511917), who on the orders of the Ministry was sent to the UnitedStates in 1875 to examine American pedagogic methods, and to studymusic under the Director of the Boston Music School, Luther WhitingMason (182896). In October 1879, shortly after Izawas return to Japan, aMusic Study Committee (Ongaku Torishirabe Gakari effectively a smallmusic college) was set up at Izawas recommendation, and in the samemonth he set forth his ideals for musical education in his Plan for theStudy of Music. If the reception history of Western-style music in Meiji-era Japan has up till now read rather like one of uncritical, if not necessar-ily sympathetic, assimilation, then this document of Izawas supplies uswith one of our first glimpses of a counter-tendency. But at the same time,Izawa was clearly too much of a realist to lapse into mere reaffirmation oftraditionalist certainties. Instead and fascinatingly by describing threegeneral theories, he sets out his argument for the future direction ofJapanese musical studies in almost classical dialectic fashion. First comesthe thesis, to the effect that since Western music has been brought toalmost the highest peak of perfection as a result of several thousand yearsof study since the time of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, it would bebetter to cultivate such music exclusively and abandon the inadequateEastern music entirely. Next comes an antithetical proposition: sinceevery country has its own proper culture, it would be absurd to try toimport a foreign music, and therefore the best policy would be to bestowthe utmost care on the cultivation of ones own musical heritage. So far, itis easy to discern in these two opposing arguments fairly conventionalstatements of classic Herodian and Zealotist positions respectively. Butit is at this point that Izawa adds something new, something that we haveso far not directly encountered at any point in our discussion of this topic.As a third possible option and it is clearly the one which Izawa himselffavours he suggests a synthesis of the above antithetic alternatives: thepossibility of taking a middle course between the two views, and by blend-ing Eastern and Western music establish[ing] a new kind of music which issuitable for the Japan of today.15 And it is here that one catches sight, for

    10 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • the first time, of a yearning that was to prove something of an ide fixe forso many Japanese musicians throughout the hundred-plus years that havesubsequently elapsed: the desire for a resolution, on a musical level at least,of that double structure in the Japanese psyche already referred to, thequest for some sort of synthesis of Japanese and European musics in ahigher unity.

    In Izawas own case, however, the means he considered adequate for therealisation of this ambitious project seem, with hindsight, almost embar-rassingly nave. Shogaku Shoka-Shu, the collection of primary-schoolsongs which embodied Izawas theories, and of which the first set eventu-ally appeared in November 1881, was compiled from three sources ofmaterial, each of which reflects one of the three general principlesreferred to in the text of the Plan for the Study of Music mentioned above.Thus the conservative, Zealotist approach is reflected in the incorpora-tion of Works employing materials from gagaku and popular song;16 aprogressive, forward-looking attitude finds expression in the inclusion ofNewly composed works; while the third, synthetic option is representedby what are described as Famous Western tunes supplied with Japaneselyrics. It is with the last of these in particular, however, that the inade-quacy of Izawas rather amateurish approach becomes especially apparent.Essentially this attempt at reconciling the two cultures reflected his beliefthat it was only in their advanced forms that Eastern and Western musicsdiverged, their basic elements such as those found in childrens songs apparently being strikingly similar. But the one enduring achievement ofthe manner in which this philosophy was put into practice seems to havebeen to sow in Japanese minds such confusing ideas prevalent to this day as, for example, that Auld Lang Syne is actually a traditional Japanesefolksong called Hotaru no Hikari. Moreover, while it had been Izawas orig-inal intention that traditional Japanese and Western music should bestudied alongside one another, as the years passed the former option wasgradually abandoned, to be revived again only after the Second World War.Thus his idealistic vision of an accommodation between Eastern andWestern traditions began to fade, and Japanese musical education began todevote its energies, for the most part, towards an unequivocal pursuit ofexcellence in the European tradition.

    Most of these energies were, of course, directed towards the acquisitionof performance skills, but it was nevertheless a comparatively short timebefore the first efforts at Western-style composition by academicallytrained Japanese musicians began to manifest themselves. Unusually given the course of subsequent history the credit for producing the firstinstrumental work of this kind goes to a woman composer, Nobu[ko]

    11 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • Koda (18701946), whose Violin Sonata appeared in 1897;17 while in thesphere of serious vocal music, the title of pioneer is conventionallyaccorded to Rentaro Taki (18791903), many of whose songs, such as Kojono Tsuki or Hana, are still well known to most Japanese today, and, despitethe obvious diatonicism of their material, often mistakenly thought of astraditional in origin. Additionally, in his final years before his prematuredeath from tuberculosis, Taki contributed some of the earliest specimensof solo piano music to the Japanese repertory a Menuetto in B minor in1900, and the interesting Urami (Regret) of 1903.

    Takis brief career also included a period of foreign study at the LeipzigConservatoire: a form of finishing which was obviously considered highlydesirable for any musician wishing to be taken seriously at this period,when all but one of the teachers at the Tokyo Music School (which theMusic Study Committee had become in 1887) were of German extrac-tion, and Japanese musicians tended to think of the German traditions asthe only ones.18 Thus we find Takis example emulated a few years later bythe colourful figure whom Japan still reveres as the first great patriarch inits canon of domestic composers, Kosaku Yamada (18861965). Aftergraduating as a singer from the Tokyo Music School in 1908, Yamadamoved to Berlin to study for four years at the Hochschule with Max Bruchand Karl Leopold Wolf, where in 1912 he produced Japans first ever home-grown symphony, Kachidoki to Heiwa (Victory and Peace), followed in1913 by a late Romantic-style tone poem, Mandara no Hana (Flower ofthe Mandala). It was in order to perform such ambitious works as thesethat in 1915, after his return to Japan, he organised the first Japanese sym-phony orchestra; a second orchestra which he founded in 1924 after thefinancial collapse of the former was eventually to develop into thepresent-day orchestra of the NHK.19 Yamada was also closely involved withthe struggle to establish opera in Japan, forming his own troupe, the NihonGakugeki Kyokai (Japanese Music Drama Association), in 1920; and inaddition to such activities, he somehow found time to produce an esti-mated 1,500 or so instrumental, vocal and operatic scores, throughoutwhich the influence of his Germanic training is evident perhaps, indeed,is reflected in the very fact of his choosing to bequeath the world such amonumental legacy. Yet even here, in the case of this most thoroughlyOccidentally trained of early Japanese composers, one catches sight inlater years of a counteracting assertion of national difference. It surfaces,for instance, in the composers search for a manner in which a style of vocalmusic conceived to suit the contours of German speech might be adaptedto reflect adequately the very different intonational patterns of Japanese a quest which oddly parallels the efforts of European composers such as

    12 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • Bartk, for instance, to rid their vocal music of the inappropriate accentsof the Austro-German hegemony. And it also emerges clearly, of course, inthe picturesque titles bestowed on the instrumental pieces, or the texts andsubject matter chosen for his songs and operas for example, in his mostsuccessful work, Kurofune (Black Ships, 1940), which is loosely based onthe famous relationship between the Japanese girl Okichi-san and theAmerican Consul, and which Eta Harich-Schneider has neatly described asa Puccini opera from the Eastern standpoint.20

    The example of Taki and Yamada established the foundations of a recog-nisable school of German-style composition in Japan, and in the foot-steps of these two pioneers there followed a whole generation ofGermanic composers, with a particular interest in vocal music: RyutaroHirota (18921952), Shinpei Nakahama (18871952), Nagayo Motoori(18851945) and Kiyoshi Nobutoki (18871965). One notes in themanner in which this particular style was propagated a very Japanese formof cultivation: an initial mimesis of another culture is then faithfullyreproduced as composers working in the same style form themselves intogroups, or as their method is transmitted by the conservative, Confucianmethod from revered teacher to reverent pupil. A similar pattern emerged,for example, a generation later, after Saburo Moroi (190377) returnedfrom his period of study in Berlin (193436) with Leo Schrattenholz tofound what he described as his analysis school of composers rigorouslytrained on the Germanic model: Yoshiro Irino (192180), Minao Shibata(191696), and his own son Makoto Moroi (1930).

    However, the one exception to the German monopoly on instruction atthe Tokyo Music School the French conductor Nol Pri points to theearly establishment of a tentative alternative to the Germanic model: onethat subsequently would exert considerable appeal for Japanese compos-ers, precisely because so many fin-de-sicle French artists had themselvesbeen turning their sights towards the East in the hope of discovering analternative to the oppressive weight of their own cultural history. Onethinks here, for example, of Van Goghs reinterpretations of Hiroshigewoodcuts, or (most pertinently for our present purposes) of Debussysepiphanic exposure to Asiatic music at the 1889 Paris Exposition and hischoice of a Hokusai engraving to embellish the score of La Mer. It was notlong, therefore, before some Japanese composers turned to this alternativetradition to further their studies the pioneer being Tomojiro Ikenouchi(190691), the first Japanese to enter the Paris Conservatoire, where hestudied composition under Paul Henri Bsser (18731972) from 1927 to1936. Ikenouchis pupils were to include several distinguished figures inJapanese music, such as Saburo Takata (1913), Akio Yashiro (192976),

    13 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • Toshiro Mayuzumi (192997) and Akira Miyoshi (1933); while theshadow of French influence was also to fall heavily upon such composersas Meiro Sugawara (18971988) and Kunihiko Hashimoto (190448).

    Of course, the fascination exerted on these composers by impressionis-tic music in particular was in no small measure due to the fact that, pre-cisely for the reasons outlined at the beginning of the previous paragraph,it reflected back at them, from a European perspective, many of the preoc-cupations of their own indigenous musical culture. The modally based,non-functional harmonic idiom was eminently adaptable for use withthe scales of traditional Japanese music, and both traditions shared a fond-ness for timbral finesse and, on a broader level, for extra-musical referenceto picturesque, naturalistic subject matter. All this was hardly to be won-dered at, considering that the Japanese were working with a Europeanreflection of deep structures to be found within their own culture aprocess of that type which Takemitsu, himself a devotee of Debussysmusic, was many years later to describe as reciprocal action musicalart which was reimported to Japan.21 Yet perhaps at this insecure stage ofJapanese musical history, it was necessary that the Oriental in art beexported and reimported in this way, in order that it might return homestamped with the endorsement that would ensure its acceptance in thepost-Meiji intellectual climate the seal of Western legitimation.

    Soon, however, a school of composition was to emerge in Japan whichwould abolish such cultural customs officers entirely and work directlywith the indigenous materials of its own heritage. In the years leading upto the Second World War a new voice began to make itself heard, onewhich eschewed the imitation of European models favoured by more aca-demic composers and substituted for it the expression of a distinctlynational identity. One cannot be sure to what extent individual compos-ers associated with this movement harboured nationalistic sentiments inthe broader, political sense of the term, but it is certainly true that theascendancy of the pre-war nationalist school in Japanese compositioncoincided with the period in modern Japanese history when attitudestowards the West had swung to the opposite extreme from the receptivitywhich characterised the early Meiji era. Furthermore, this isolationiststance was not without its impact on the composers of the nationalistschool in at least one respect, inasmuch as few of them underwent thecourse of foreign study in Europe deemed so essential by many of theirpredecessors, and indeed one or two notably Ifukube and Hayasaka were largely self-taught. Japanese composers closely associated with thismovement include Akira Ifukube (1914), Kishio Hirao (190753), ShiroFukai (190759), Fumio Hayasaka (191455) (on whose film scores

    14 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • Takemitsu would later work as an assistant), Shukichi Mitsukuri(18951971), Yoritsune Matsudaira (1907), and the composer usuallycited as Takemitsus only formal teacher, Yasuji Kiyose (18991981) thelast three of whom formed the Shinko Sakkyokuka Renmei (ProgressiveComposers League, later to become the Japanese branch of the ISCM) in1930.

    Strictly speaking, the descriptive term for this tendency here translatedas nationalism minzokushugi also carries with it connotations pertain-ing to the word for folk or race (minzoku), and this provides a clue as tothe manner in which these composers tended to operate, working (as oneJapanese commentator puts it) with folk-music and folklore in the samemanner as the Hungarian composer Bla Bartk.22 Thus Ifukube, forexample, produced complicated polymetres and instrumental combina-tions learned from years of listening to Ainu melodies in Hokkaido;23

    while Mitsukuri though educated under Georg Schumann in Berlin, andin many respects closer to the German Romantic tradition than the othercomposers named above made a scientific study of the elements of tradi-tional music, deriving from them a unique method of harmonisationbased on the intervals of a fifth, which he described as his oriental har-monic system (toyowaonteikei) and to which he gave theoretical expres-sion in his publication Ongaku no Toki (The Moment of Music) in 1948.

    But while there are obvious similarities between such procedures andthe methods of composers like Bartk in the West, there are also importantdifferences. For example, in the case of Bartk the folkloristic input tendsto be counterbalanced by features drawn from the broader tradition ofEuropean art music, such as the rigour of the constructional method or theavant-gardism of the chromatic harmony. This is not generally the case inthe music of Japanese nationalists, in which folk-derived materials tendto be stated baldly, often in rather crude harmonisations, and developed asoften as not by simple repetitive devices. Furthermore, whereas Bartk andKodly did not limit their researches to their own country, but recognisedinstead a deeper structural unity between various folk musics transcend-ing national boundaries, the Japanese composers preoccupied themselvesexclusively with traditional Japanese music, conveniently ignoring what-ever features it shared with other musics of the Far East. In addition, theJapanese regarded both popular songs and highly sophisticated genres likegagaku indiscriminately as expressions of the national; they did not seethe fundamental binary opposition as consisting of a social one betweenfolk and art music, and neither was the regional for example the Ainumelodies with which Ifukube worked viewed as differing from thenational, despite the distinct racial and cultural identity possessed by

    15 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • such minorities. Instead the fundamental duality perceived by this genera-tion of composers was that between Japanese and Western; between thenationalistic and the academic, pedagogical and derivative. In all of theabove respects, then, the music of these Japanese minzokushugi composersbears less resemblance to the work of Bartk and Kodly than to that oftheir nineteenth-century European forebears to artists from the periodwhen for the first time folk art came to be regarded as a national, ratherthan a regional or social, phenomenon.24 Indeed, as we have already seen,such an identification is implicit in the very semantics of the term conven-tionally used to describe them.

    Music by minzokushugi composers nevertheless appears to have enjoyeda considerable vogue in pre-war Japan, and even today Japanese orchestrasvisiting the West have a habit of surprising their audiences with bombasticencore pieces in the minzokushugi vein, usually delivered with an appro-priately passionate, kamikaze-like conviction. In general, however, outsideJapan music of this sort is today little heard of, and the judgement ofmusical history has not been especially generous towards those composerswho have been unable to see greater possibilities in their native idiomsthan merely the harmonisation of Japanese tunes.25 Such judgementsreflect rather more than changing tastes in musical fashion: they point tointrinsic weaknesses in the method of procedure, as becomes readilyapparent to anyone who has heard the works of certain of these compos-ers. Although it is unfair to single out one particular work as emblematicof a whole artistic tendency and although the time is long past whenmusic written for the cinema was somehow considered intrinsically infe-rior it might nevertheless serve to conjure for the modern reader someaural image of this type of music by referring to the creation of AkiraIfukube that has undoubtedly received the widest public exposure: hismusic for Inoshiro Hondas (in)famous 1954 monster movie Gojira(Godzilla). Most modern listeners would, I think, agree that the kinds ofexcesses typified by such works do not constitute a very imaginativeattempt at EastWest integration. The folk-like materials tend to be pre-sented in crude harmonisations and orchestrated with thick instrumentaldoublings, underpinned by a massive and hyperactive percussion section devices which seem to have the effect of battering out of them whatevervitality they might originally have possessed. Ultimately, one comes to thesame regretful conclusion as Robin Heifetz, when he notes that generally,the results of these folklorists were not successful;26 but a discussion ofthe precise reasons for this failure must be postponed for the moment,until the time comes to consider the very different approach adopted bycomposers such as Takemitsu in the concluding chapter of this book.

    16 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • As already suggested, the years which saw the ascendancy of this musicalnationalism were also those which witnessed the rise in Japan of its polit-ical namesake which finally erupted to such spectacularly destructiveeffect in World War II. The immediate post-war years were harsh anddeprived in the extreme, affording little opportunity for formal musicalstudy, but eventually and in particular, from the 1950s onwards Japanese compositional activity began to rise out of the ashes.Furthermore, much of the work undertaken in those years can still becategorised in the same terms used to describe the old pre-war schools ofcompositional thought. Thus once again there emerged composers ofacademic bent who took their cue from developments in Europe andoften travelled there to study, and once again these may be divided intocomposers of French or German inclination. To the former category, forinstance, belong composers such as the Ikenouchi pupils Akio Yashiro andAkira Miyoshi, both of whom studied in Paris (under Nadia Boulangerand Raymond Gallois-Montbrun, respectively); while under the latterheading one might subsume the three pupils of Saburo Moroi alreadyreferred to: Yoshiro Irino, Makoto Moroi and Minao Shibata. However,there was by now of course a great difference in the European musicalscene from those days when Yamada went to assimilate the methods ofGerman late Romanticism, or Ikenouchi those of the French impression-ists, and these developments find their echo in the more up-to-date preoc-cupations of post-war composers. Irino, for instance, was the firstJapanese to compose a twelve-note work, his Concerto da Camera for seveninstruments of 1951, while Shibatas activity in the 1950s ran the wholegamut of post-war techniques and styles, experimenting with twelve-notemethod, integral serialism, musique concrte, electronic music and electricinstruments. In later years all of the composers listed above were addition-ally to experiment with works employing traditional Japanese instru-ments, often in combination with Western resources: for example, IrinosWandlungen for grand orchestra with two shakuhachis of 1973, andShibatas intriguingly described Leap Days Vigil for kokyu, san-gen andelectro-acoustic devices of 1972.

    While it is hardly surprising that composers with an academic outlookshould be turning their attention to the new developments in post-warWestern music, what is less to be expected is that many composers whocontinued to follow in the nationalist tradition what Judith Ann Herdrefers to as the neonationalist movement should also exploit the wealthof new sound resources now available to them, rather than simply theJapanese tunes and pentatonic harmonies that had satisfied their pre-warcounterparts. Amongst the many groupings of Japanese composers that

    17 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • sprang up in the 1950s, two in particular came to be associated with thistendency. The first was the Yagi no Kai (Goat Group), initially formed in1953 by Hikaru Hayashi (1931 ), Yuzo Toyama (1931 ) and MichioMamiya (1929 ), to be joined five years later by Toshiya Sukegawa (1930 ).The second was the Sannin no Kai or Group of Three, founded (also in1953) by Yasushi Akutagawa (192589), Ikuma Dan (1924 ) and the mostfamous of Ikenouchis pupils, Toshiro Mayuzumi. Admittedly these com-posers varied in the degree to which modernist devices were assimilatedinto the essentially nationalist aesthetic. Members of the Yagi no Kai, forinstance, admired Bartks example, and Mamiya used folksong materialmore or less directly in his own work, whereas Hayashi tended to experi-ment with more unusual forms of vocal technique, or used motifs fromtraditional music as the starting point for more chromaticised, quasi-serialprocedures (a similar method is to be found in the post-war serial gagakucompositions of the older nationalist composer Yoritsune Matsudaira).And at the opposite extreme from Mamiya, perhaps the most technicallyradical of all these composers was Mayuzumi, who was for a spell duringthe 1960s quite well-known in the West as well as in Japan, partly as theresult of his score for the John Huston film The Bible (1965). Mayuzumistudied under Tony Aubin at the Paris Conservatoire from 1951 to 1952,where he not only assimilated the techniques of Varse, Messiaen andBoulez but also visited Pierre Schaeffers studio, completing soon after hisreturn to Japan both the first ever specimen of musique concrte to be com-posed in that country (Oeuvre pour Musique Concrte x, y, z, 1953), and thefirst Japanese example of elektronische Musik (Shusaku I, 1955). Within afew years of his return to Japan, too, he was placing the wealth of new-found techniques he had mastered at the service of his own pan-Asianvision. In particular, his researches into timbre led him to study the over-tone structures of Buddhist temple bells, thereby applying the mostadvanced techniques of his day to a sound-material powerfully symbolic ofAsiatic identity. It was as a result of these researches that he producedprobably the most remarkable achievement of his early career: inventing akind of spectral music decades before its emergence in the work ofEuropeans such as Murail or Grisey, he used the partials of a Buddhist bellas pitch-material for what is perhaps one of the unsung eccentric master-pieces of post-war music, his Nehan Kokyokyoku (Nirvana Symphony) of1958. Perhaps it is therefore a little dispiriting to learn that the composer ofthis impressive score was one for whom musical nationalism did, foronce, most certainly go hand in glove with its political equivalent. Even inthese early works, Mayuzumi seems a little too concerned with his identityas a Japanese, and, as the years progressed, this concern was to express itself

    18 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • ever more in the form of active involvement with the political right cul-minating in his work as Chairman of an organisation which styled itselfthe Council for the National Defence of Japan (Nippon o MamoruKokuminkaigi) between 1981 and 1991. In this respect, Mayuzumi revealsa close spiritual kinship with another outspoken critic of Japanese societywhom he had first met in Paris in 1952: the famous novelist Yukio Mishima(192570). It was upon one of the latters best-known short stories that hewas to base one of the most substantial works of his later years: the operaKinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion), commissioned by theDeutsche Oper of Berlin, and first performed there in 1976.

    Yet alongside the academically trained composers working in theirown interpretation of a translocated European tradition, and the neona-tionalists asserting by contrast what they believed to be their ownuniquely Japanese identity, there was possibly a third force in operationin post-war Japanese music. Amongst the various groupings that sprangup in the 1950s alongside such affiliations as Yagi no Kai or Sannin no Kai,there was at least one whose constitution was radically different. Its mem-bership comprised not only composers but artists working in other media;furthermore, the composers working within this group were autodidactswho had received almost no formal education in music, and were thussomewhat marginal to the official Japanese composing community. Thegroup in question was called Jikken Kobo, the Experimental Workshop,and its presence on the map of post-war Japanese music marks one of thebeginnings of the emergence of a true avant-garde, of an alternative toacademic tradition or nationalist rhetoric. Composers associated withthis tendency wished rather to distance themselves from the discreditedpre-war traditions, as they diligently tried to rid themselves of thewartime stigma of existing nationalistic models27 a task in which theywere assisted in the early post-war years by the policy of the Occupationforces, who strictly limited outward displays of nationalism, whileaffording ample opportunities to gain access to the new styles currentlyenjoying vogue in Europe and the United States. Rather like their counter-parts in a devastated Germany, composers of this persuasion wanted moreor less to return to a Nullstunde and start from scratch, and thus foundthemselves in peculiar sympathy with the post-Webernian generationsdesire for a new international music, as well as later on with the aes-thetics of Cage and the American experimentalists. One of the foundermembers of the particular association mentioned above Jikken Kobo was a young man who had just celebrated his twenty-first birthday, ToruTakemitsu.

    Throughout this chapter, the reader will observe, the focus of attention

    19 Pre-history: how Western music came to Japan

  • has been gradually narrowing: from the broad perspective across Japanesehistory with which it began, via a concentration specifically on the devel-opment of Japanese music, to the history of Western-style compositionoutlined in the preceding pages. Now, in order to continue the story, it willbe necessary to narrow the focus even further to revert from the general-ised to the particular, and examine how the ongoing dynamics of the rela-tionship between Japan and Western music came to express themselves inthe career and work of one individual. The detailed investigation of boththe life and music of this individual, Takemitsu, will form the matter fordiscussion in the chapters which follow.

    20 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • 2 Music and pre-music: Takemitsus early years

    Encrypted at one point in the music of Takemitsus late work Family Tree Musical Verses for Young People (1992) is a kind of coded biographical allu-sion. When the girl narrator, introducing us in turn to each member of herfamily, comes to her father, the music launches suddenly into somethinglike pastiche big-band jazz of the swing era. For the listener familiar withthe biographical details of Takemitsus earliest years, his private reasons forconsidering jazz an apt metaphor for the paternal at this point are easilyfathomed. Although born on 8 October 1930 in the Hongo district ofTokyo, within a month of his birth Toru Takemitsu had joined his fatherTakeo at his place of employment, the town of Dalian (Luda) in the regionof China then known to the Japanese as Manchuria, and administered bythem as a colony. There, enjoying a privileged lifestyle as a member of theexpatriate community, Takeo Takemitsu had been able to indulge one ofhis favourite passions more frequently than might otherwise have beenpossible: the performance of jazz records from his vast personal collection.He had one or two other musical enthusiasms too, which it is just possiblemight have had some influence on the developing musical sensibilities ofhis son: the Takemitsu biographer Kuniharu Akiyama notes that he was fora while fanatical about playing the shakuhachi,1 and won first prize at acompetition for making imitation bird sounds.2 But it was his parentsconstant rehearsal of his favourite Dixieland, New Orleans Style discsthat clearly left the most indelible impression on the fledgling composer, tothe extent that nearly half a century later, in conversation with Seiji Ozawa,Takemitsu could still recall such names as Kid Ory and his Creole Bandfrom those days, adding that a little of this jazz music still remains insideme.3

    This assessment is indeed borne out by the composers mature music inseveral ways and not simply in those instances where jazz music isdirectly parodied, such as the passage in Family Tree, or the skilful jazz pas-tiches in the soundtracks for such films as Karami-ai,4 Tokyo Senso SengoHiwa5 and Natsu no Imoto.6 In Takemitsus mature concert works as well,the traces of jazz influence are palpable in such features as the suave har-monic language (in part arrived at through the influence of GeorgeRussells Lydian Chromatic theories) and even, towards the end of thecomposers career, a certain big band style of orchestration. But in more21

  • general terms, the point to be noted at this stage is that the strongestmusical impressions of Takemitsus earliest years stemmed from a sourcethat was Western in origin, and that his reactions to this stimulus, as vin-dicated by later developments, were unambiguously positive in nature.

    The situation was to prove otherwise with regard to traditional Japanesemusic. At the age of seven, Takemitsu was sent back to Tokyo to commencehis primary schooling, his father following him a year later on account ofill-health, and dying at Kagoshima in 1938 (his mother Raiko was tosurvive until 1983). Takemitsu stayed in the Akebonocho district with hisuncle, whose wife taught the koto,7 and it was perhaps the association ofthis constant musical presence with a period of such unhappiness in thecomposers personal life which caused him to react as negatively as he didto this early encounter with traditional Japanese music. When I was achild I lived in Tokyo with my aunt, a koto teacher, the composer was laterto recall. I heard traditional Japanese music around me all the time. Forsome reason, it never really appealed to me, never moved me. Later,hearing traditional Japanese music always recalled the bitter memories ofthe war.8

    As this quotation suggests, the aversion to traditional Japanese musicwas intensified by the experiences of the war years, when for reasonshinted at in the previous chapter Japanese music became associatedwith the dominant culture of militarism, while, as in Nazi Germany, othergenres were vilified as so much entartete Musik (or, as the equivalentJapanese expression had it, tekiseiongaku music of hostile character).And it was precisely at this point that an experience occurred which wasnot only to reaffirm the positive connotations with which Western musichad become imbued for Takemitsu, but which, in the musically deprivedcontext of the war years, was to strike him with such force as to change thesubsequent course of his life.

    Appropriately enough, it was once again a form of American popularmusic or, at least, an American popular musician that was responsiblefor Takemitsus epiphanic conversion. With mobilisation in 1944,Takemitsus formal education was abruptly curtailed, and he was sent towork at a military provisions base in Saitama prefecture, lodged in anunderground dugout deep in the mountains; the experience, the com-poser later confessed, was an extremely bitter one.9 On one occasion,however, a newly graduated officer cadet secretly took a number of theinternees into a back room for a clandestine recital of proscribed music,using a wind-up gramophone with a carefully sharpened piece of bambooas a needle. One of the first items he played, apparently, was LucienneBoyer singing Parlez-moi damour ; and for Takemitsu at least, accustomed

    22 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • by this time to a musical diet consisting solely of patriotic war songs, theexperience of this music had a revelatory impact which he was to remem-ber for the rest of his life. For me, hearing that music came as an enormousshock; I was stunned, and for the first time I suddenly realised the splendidquality of Western music.10

    As well as reawakening Takemitsus dormant musical sensibilities, then,this revelatory moment also confirmed the Occidental bias of his musicalpreferences. And with the cessation of hostilities this bias was to extend tofar more than matters of musical taste alone. Like many Japanese of thepost-war years, Takemitsu eagerly embraced a decidedly Herodian atti-tude of reaction against the discredited nationalism of the immediate past a kind of gut-level response that whatever was Japanese should berejected11 coupled with an enthusiasm for all things Western. The ideo-logical climate of the post-war American occupation was to afford theyoung Takemitsu ample opportunity to cultivate this predilection forWestern culture, and in particular for modern Western music. The occu-pying US government established what the composer has described as avery big library in Tokyo to which he went every day to look at scores allfrom America, none from Europe, with the inevitable result that he knewAmerican music first, before I knew Schoenberg or Webern.12 They alsoset up a radio station called WVTR, and Takemitsu, at this period fre-quently bed-ridden on account of ill-health, was able to spend all my timelistening to the US Armed Forces network,13 who played various kinds ofmusic (George Gershwin, Debussy and Mahler).14 (And Messiaen too, atleast according to Kuniharu Akiyama, who recalled hearing Stokowskiconduct LAscension around 1948, and applied to the station for a copy ofthe recording to perform at a concert of works on disc.)15 But accordingto Takemitsus later testimony, at least it is to none of these modernmasters that thanks are due for the young Takemitsus decision to become acomposer, but rather to the unlikely stimulus of Csar Franck. Hearing aradio broadcast of the latters Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for piano, thecomposer was struck as profoundly by the quality of Western instrumentalmusic as he had been by the vocal artistry of Boyer. I had discovered asecond kind of music, namely the instrumental, the absolute kind. InJapan, word and sound cannot be separated. But here I was hearing aninstrument being played alone and awakening astonishing feelings in me.It seemed to me like a song of peace, a prayer or an aspiration, after I hadlived through so much suffering . . . At that moment, I decided to become acomposer.16

    Takemitsus later self-assessment as almost an autodidact, a self-taughtcomposer17 is certainly lent credibility by the manner in which he set out

    23 Music and pre-music: Takemitsus early years

  • initially to realise this ambition without professional guidance or encour-agement of any sort; but at the same time one should not fall into the errorof thinking that these earliest musical efforts were undertaken in utter iso-lation and solitude. For instance, Takemitsu became a member of anamateur chorus, and it was at the house of the choirs conductor, TokuakiHamada, that he met another young composer, Hiroyoshi Suzuki (1931),who was to become something of a comrade-in-arms during these earlyyears of struggle.18 Together the pair pored over Rimsky-KorsakovsOrchestration and the scores that lined the shelves of Hamadas home already with a significant preference for the works of French composerssuch as Roussel, Faur and (once again) Franck. Shortly after this justbefore Christmas 1946 there occurred yet another signal event inTakemitsus life linked in some way with American popular music. Theyoung composer obtained a years employment at a PX (post exchange,or recreational facility) attached to the US Army camp at Yokohama,where it was agreed that, in return for playing jazz records to the GIs bynight, he might make use of the piano in the unoccupied hall during theday. The luxury this opportunity represented for the young Takemitsu inthose years of desperate post-war privation cannot be overemphasised:until then, the lack of a piano on which to try out his compositionalexperiments had reduced him to such extreme ruses as knocking on thehouses of complete strangers to obtain access to one, or even fabricating apaper keyboard which could produce sounds only in his own auralimagination.

    In spite of Takemitsus professed aversion for anything Japanese at thisperiod, both he and Suzuki nevertheless appear to have been interested intheir own traditional music as well, and even to have made efforts toassimilate elements from it into the language of modern Western composi-tion. Such, at least, was the opinion of Akiyama, who claimed that theyoung composers were at this period experimenting with the possibilitiesafforded by the ryo, ritsu and in scales of traditional music a preoccupa-tion which apparently bore fruit in a series of pentatonic-derived pieceswhich the seventeen-year-old Takemitsu produced at this time, such as therather oddly named Kakehi (Conduit).19 The story which Takemitsuhimself was to tell regarding the genesis of this work, however, is ratherdifferent: he claimed that he was so shocked to discover that these penta-tonic elements, with their negative nationalistic connotations, had creptinto his work subconsciously that he later destroyed the piece.20

    Whichever version of events is correct, however, it is clear that bothTakemitsu and Suzuki were at this period more sympathetically disposedtowards the previous generation of Japanese composers, and in particular

    24 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • the nationalist school, than might be expected from the militantly pro-Western stance Takemitsu claims to have espoused. In fact one of the pas-times of both composers at this time was combing the shelves of the Kogasecond-hand bookshop in Kanda for pre-war sheet music, and it was herethat they came across the Flute Sonatina by the Japanese nationalist com-poser Kishio Hirao, to whom they turned in their first attempt to put theirmusical studies on a more official footing. Unfortunately, they elected toaccomplish this by means of the rather nave stratagem of simply turningup unannounced at the composers house, and perhaps unsurprisingly the unsolicited and, by all accounts, somewhat shabby visitors were turnedaway at the gate. Six years later, however, when both Hirao and Takemitsuwere in hospital together, the elder composer repented of his former brus-querie and promised the young man a significant propitiatory gift: a copyof his forthcoming translation of Messiaens Technique de mon langagemusical.21 Unfortunately, his death soon afterwards prevented him fromhonouring this pledge.

    Rather better fortune was to attend Takemitsus next effort to apprenticehimself to an established senior composer. While buying a ticket for theNichi-Bei Contemporary Music Festival of 1948, he revealed his ambi-tions to the business manager of the Toho Music Association, who offeredto provide him with an introduction to another composer of nationalistbent, Yasuji Kiyose. When in due course Kiyose agreed to meet the youngercomposer, the latter rushed to his house immediately, only to find himabsent; but Takemitsu refused to be deterred a second time after his experi-ence with Hirao, and remained outside the composers home like a Zenacolyte until he returned in the evening. According to Takemitsus versionof the story, Kiyose then played some of his music at the piano and paidhim a compliment that seems particularly apt in the light of his subse-quent reputation for timbral finesse: He told me that the sound was beau-tiful, that I was welcome to come again with more scores; and I wasoverjoyed to hear such things, spoken by a figure for whom I had suchrespect.22

    Kiyose accepted both Takemitsu and Suzuki as pupils, and, later thatmonth when the Nichi-Bei event took place, introduced them to twoother senior figures in the Japanese nationalist compositional world:Yoritsune Matsudaira and Fumio Hayasaka. This pair plus Kiyosehimself, Kunio Otsuki, Akihiro Tsukatani (b. 1919) and others hadformed a composers association, the Shinsakkyokuha (New CompositionGroup), to present their works, to which the young newcomers weregranted admission two years later. Thus it transpired that an organisationfounded to further the interests of a group of conservative and nationalist

    25 Music and pre-music: Takemitsus early years

  • composers provided the platform for Takemitsus first exposure to the lis-tening public. The seventh Shinsakkyokuha recital, in December 1950,included the premire of Takemitsus solo piano work Lento in DueMovimenti; but the reception afforded the newcomer by the Japanese criti-cal fraternity appears to have been a cool one, to say the least. In conversa-tion with Seiji Ozawa many years later, Takemitsu was to recall still withobvious bitterness how he had bought a newspaper in Shinjuku after theperformance, and had read the harsh review with its crushing final remark:Its pre-music.23 Everything went totally dark in front of my eyes . . .there was a cinema right in front of me, I bought a ticket, went inside, andin a corner of the pitch blackness . . . I just wanted to cry, and so I cried,thinking it would be best not to write music any more.24

    Yamanes remark about pre-music in fact turned out to be remarkablyapt, for Takemitsu was to withdraw both this work and its companionpiece from the Shinsakkyokuha years, Distance de Fe (for violin and piano,premired at the eighth recital of the group in 1951). Both pieces areomitted from the work list which appears in the composers manuscriptscore of Tableau Noir (1958), which acknowledges instead the firstUninterrupted Rest of 1954 as his Op. 1, and, additionally, the score of theLento was as the composer later expressed it in his preface to the score ofLitany subsequently lost. Nevertheless, as matters turned out, somemusical documentation of this period was to survive in one form oranother, and it is on the basis of this that the following speculations on thecompositional preoccupations of Takemitsus pre-musical years areoffered.

    Dbut of the Lento composer

    Takemitsu may have destroyed the score of Kakehi, but he did not succeedin eradicating all evidence of his juvenile pentatonic-nationalist sympa-thies. In the possession of the Documentation Centre for ModernJapanese Music in Tokyo is the manuscript score of a short piano composi-tion dated 26 June 1949 and bearing the title Romance.25 The score is pref-aced by a respectful dedication to Kiyose sensei,26 and most of the musicin the three pages which follow would have been very much in accord withthe aesthetic ideals of the nineteen-year-old composers folkloristic-minded teacher. The most immediately striking of such preoccupations isthe modal and, specifically, the Japanese-sounding character of themusical material. Throughout the work, only eight pitch-classes aresounded G, Gs, A, Bb, C, Cs, D and Eb but, of these, Cs is not heardagain after bar 19, and both this pitch and Gs clearly function only as

    26 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • adjuncts to the basic six-note minor mode. Furthermore, such passagesas the melody which eventually emerges in bar 21 (Ex. 1) suggest that thissix-note scale is in reality the conflation of two pentatonic scales ofJapanese origin: the descending form of the in scale (hereDBbAGEb), which is employed as far as the Bb in bar 24, and the samescales ascending version (DEbGAC), which is used from the follow-ing Cn onwards.

    Another marker which locates the work firmly within the Japanese-nationalist tradition is the non-functional harmony derived from verti-calisations of pitches abstracted from the basic modal collection, withparticular emphasis on interval classes other than the major and minorthirds of traditional Western practice. For example, in bars 467, thefalling fourth incipit of Example 1 is accompanied by a bass collectionwhich, together with the An of the melody, projects all five pitches of thedescending in scale simultaneously. Such collections tend to be highly dis-sonant, of course, and it is as intensifiers of this dissonance that the extra-neous Cs and Gs make their appearance, always occurring in closeproximity, respectively, to the Cn and Gn of the basic modal collection, likeout-of-tune versions of the correct pitches. This perhaps reflects an

    27 Music and pre-music: Takemitsus early years

    Ex. 1 Romance, bars 217

  • anecdotal intention, and one which again relates the work to the aestheticsof the nationalist school: the attempt by such means to simulate themicrotonal inflections of traditional Japanese instruments.

    On the other hand, although there is clearly much that is derivative ofthat tradition within this early work, there are also many prophetic point-ers towards Takemitsus later development. One such feature is that mostprominently nationalistic aspect of the work itself, its use of modality atechnical feature which was to provide the foundations for a harmonic andmelodic style that lasted Takemitsu throughout his creative life. The com-poser once confessed that he was seriously interested in the idea ofmode,27 and as Akiyama was to note, this is something which has notchanged from his very early period up to the present day.28 What didchange, however, was the type of modal material in which Takemitsu wasinterested: the Japanese pentatonic scales, with their negative nationalisticassociations, were soon to be jettisoned, yet the basic methods of manipu-lating them which Takemitsu had learned were to serve him well whenapplied to other scale collections. Thus Timothy Koozin is surely rightwhen he asserts that the idea of a scale-based compositional idiom asfound in these early works sets an important precedent for Takemitsuslater use of octatonic and whole-tone collections in the piano works29

    (although the types of materials employed, as we shall see, derived from afar wider-ranging thesaurus of scales than simply the two types Koozinmentions here). In particular, the verticalisation of modally derived pitch-materials as a source of harmony was to prove a life-long resource of thecomposers technical vocabulary; as was the intensification of such collec-tions by the addition of chromatic pitches external to the mode in ques-tion: mode, the composer once explicitly acknowledged, interests mebecause it does not reject sounds from outside the scale.30 And if the aboveassumption concerning the function of such extraneous pitches inRomance is correct, it is perhaps ironic that this powerful harmonicresource might have had its origins in an early, anecdotal desire to imitatethe sounds of traditional Japanese music.

    Another prophetic hint of what was to become something of aTakemitsu trademark is the literal repetition of whole passages and espe-cially, as here, the repetition of the opening material as a sign of imminentclosure. But perhaps the most characteristic traits of all are those impliedby the performance indications at the head of the score: Adagio sostenuto nobile funeral [sic]. Takemitsu once remarked in a film interview thatJapanese people have no sense of Allegro,31 and while this is not necessarilytrue of all Japanese music (which includes, for example, some quite livelyfolksongs), it certainly reflects the composers own general predilection for

    28 The music of Toru Takemitsu

  • slower tempo categories. Examples abound in his scores of tempo valuesthat lie at the lower end, or even outside the range, of those to be found on aconventional metronome: for example, the first movement ofUninterrupted Rest has the indication = 48 and the second is prefaced bythe instruction to perform whole bars at the tempo MM20 = 3 sec.; whilein Autumn the sub-metronomic tempo of Extremely slow, = 30 isrequired at one point. According to the conductor Hiroyuki Iwaki, thisabsence of Allegra reflects Takemitsus own technical awkwardness as hecomposed at the keyboard in those early years in the same way that thecomposers fondness for soft dynamics originally stemmed from a desirenot to be a nuisance to his benefactors when practising at the houses ofstrangers.32 But it is at the same time surely a reflection of a personal tem-peramental propensity, one revealed by the second part of the Romanceperforming directions. The obvious influence of composers such asDebussy and Messiaen on Takemitsus musical language has tended toresult in an emphasis among commentators upon the im-pressionisticqualities of his music; but, at the same time, it should not be overlookedthat his music from the very beginning permitted itself the ex-pression ofat least one emotional state as well: that of a profound, dignified melan-choly. This may indeed be a personal feeling, Takemitsu was to confess atone point, but the joy of music, ultimately, seems connected with sadness.The sadness is that of existence. The more you are filled with the pure hap-piness of music-making, the deeper the sadness is.33

    These typical qualities of mood and tempo are of course implicit in thevery title of the Takemitsu composition which marked the official dbutof the artist Funayama was later to describe as the Lento composer.34 Asnoted above, the score of this work Lento in Due Movimenti has beenlost, and while urban myths of its survival in some form abound amongstthe Tokyo musical community, no documentation of this work has beenavailable for the present authors researches. Two textual sources do never-theless exist to provide the commentator with materials for a certainamount of albeit very tentative speculation. The first is a reconstruc-tion of the composers sketches for the pianist Fujiwara, which exists as aCD recording played by Kazuoki Fuji;35 the second is Litany In Memory ofMichael Vyner (1990), a work Takemitsu described as a recompositionfrom memory of the original, and whose title perhaps suggests somecryptic word-play the Japanese for litany, rento, being a near-homo-phone of the title of the original work. There are considerable differencesbetween these two versions, and of course in the case of the recordedversion no score exists to support definitively any close analytical readings;but with these qualifications in mind, it is still possible to make some

    29 Music and pre-music: Takemitsus early years

  • general observations about certa