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Takemitsu and shakuhachi - click opera
February 2010
 
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Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 12:59 pm
Takemitsu and shakuhachi

I don't know much about Toru Takemitsu, but when I was about 20 I bought a vinyl LP of his music in a secondhand shop in Edinburgh. I found some of his orchestration disappointingly Western (Debussy is the main influence, though some Webern creeps through, especially in the guitar arrangements), but loved the pieces where he updates the spooky ancient Japanese traditional sound of gagaku.

It turns out that David Sylvian stumbled across Takemitsu in much the same way, buying a secondhand record by the diminutive composer in the late 70s. He took things much further than me, though, actually befriending Takemitsu and incorporating the man's style (via a sample on "Backwaters" and some influence on the guitar style and string arrangements) in his own records. Sylvian has a lot to say in the excellent BBC Radio 3 documentary about Takemitsu that went out last Sunday, and due to the BBC's policy of only archiving for seven days, will disappear from their site later today. So I've decided to host it a bit longer here:

Enter the Garden: Toru Takemitsu (Stereo mp3 file, 45 mins, 40.6MB). (There's a little 30 second silence half way through; think of it as an intermission.)

There's quite a lot of Takemitsu-related stuff on YouTube. Here's a French documentary showing Takemitsu at work on the soundtrack of Oshima's 1978 film "The Empire of Passion":



And here's a short Japanese TV appearance where he's standing in the middle of a field, talking about hearing French chanson:



Takemitsu liked Western pop music, making his own sensual, subtle arrangements of songs like "Yesterday". "He liked David Sylvian, of course!" adds his daughter. Here's Judicael Perroy playing a Takemitsu guitar piece called "Equinox". You can almost imagine it as a piece on "Blemish":



From Takemitsu to shakuhachi (which is both the Japanese flute and a Japanese slang term for fellatio). If you're in Berlin this evening, come check out a daring performance of a piece called "56 Minutes" by David Woodard. It's at 8pm at COMA, Leipziger Strasse 36 in Mitte. The score is here. Basically, David has cast four friends as Beethoven, Spengler, Nietzsche and Hitler. Playing violin, piano, cello and electronic tones, these actors are fellated to climax by a fifth, a woman in stilettos, while they improvise in ways "dissettlingly pensive, frenzied, ruminative" and then "resolvingly pensive".

I was originally asked to be one of these actors (I'm not sure which of the German anti-heroes David had in mind for me), but Hisae didn't feel too comfortable with the idea of someone playing my shakuhachi. I believe David has since modified the project: this is the "Angelic version" of the piece, which I think means that the fellatio happens in a black and white film projected above the performers' heads. Anyway, this evening's performance will probably confirm that Debussy-esque string arrangements aren't the only way to bring sensuality into your music.

33CommentReplyShare


(Anonymous)
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
Gardens with Music

Apparently Sylvian contributed to a Takemitsu exhibition at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery last year. No idea what the contribution was, but the gentleman does take polaroids!

Miles


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 12:51 pm (UTC)

"He liked David Sylvian, of course!" adds his daughter."

Hee! Dear Sylvia, so magnetic.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 01:27 pm (UTC)

Yes, and this time it isn't the police stopping us, but our girlfriends. How do you rebel against the establishment when the establishment is your significant other? It turns us-and-them into you-and-me.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC)

It's certainly a formal principle in its own right, with a series of movements and a distinct narrative shape. A template, if you will. (Funny, Cynthia Plaster Caster refers to her blowjob girls as "platers".)

On top of this template Woodard imposes his own more adverbial mood instructions: pensive, frenzied, ruminative and, for the fourth movement, pensive again.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)

By the way, I would like to express my satisfaction at this little juxtaposition in today's layout; the combination of red LEDs and Noguchi lamps. I'm sure some artist has already made an installation featuring some combination of these things, but if not, please consider this comment as one.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC)

In fact, I'd like to propose this as an installation called "Shakuhachi Jokes". There'd be Noguchi lamps all around the room, and beside them tickertape LED messageboards programmed to display jokes. Very absurd dirty jokes completely at odds with the tranquility of the environment. (Perhaps there could be shakuhachi music playing too, with a hint of soft moaning hinting at the double meaning of the word.)


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flying_squid
flying_squid
flying_squid
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)

Takemitsu has been getting a lot of Western attention lately. Two months ago, The New Yorker had the article Toward Silence: The intense repose of Toru Takemitsu.

Jim O'Rourke, whose films have been played the Whitney Binneal, played with Sonic Youth from 1999 to 2005, and who has always been attracted to Japan, just released his Tokyo Realization of Takemitsu's Corona (out now on Columbia Japan). No doubt O'Rourke, like you and Sylvian, was introduced to Takemitsu by finding his records in a secondhand shop in the 1970s.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)

Aha, he also made the music for "Woman in the Dunes"!


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)

what a shame that it didn't work out. I can imagine you get tired sometimes blowing your own trumpet, so a spot of other-blown shakuhachi would perhaps be a nice change.

der.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)

blowing your own trumpet

Well, I'm not as supple as I used to be...


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)

Takemitsu almot always does something more interesting than you expect him to do though you can kind of spoil the experience by making that quick judgement based what you expected.

He does seem to have picked up almost exactly where Debussy's career was cut short due to cancer, a different form of which did him in too. I'd add that Messaien was far more of influence than Webern.

Some of his music was clearly about building bridges between the Western European clasical tradition and facets of traditional Japanese music as well as the avant garde and pre-war classical music. While he may not meet your criteria as a purist, his music was widely heard in many musical worlds and continues to be.

His background was he spent some formative years near a U.S. milatary base which led him to speak solid if whistfully slow English and access to American pop and jazz. He was apparently mostly self taught. He got a major career boost when Igor Stravisnky singled him out when discusing contemporary composers of the 1960s though Seji Ozawa's conducting and friendship enabled his larger works to be performed in a mainstream classical music context.

He mentioned when I heard him lecture that whenever he traveled the world he always would always visit a cinema in a new place to better understand the culture. Clearly a somewhat risky approach if he caught a bad film, but that's apparently what he did.

There is no question in my mind that he was the most artistically succesful classical composer doing film scores. He worked on films for just about all the major Japanese film directors from the mid 60s to the early 90s. Aside from the infamous and brilliant lengthy passages of Kurosawa's "RAN" which reworked Mahler at the insistance of the director, his film scores are frequently more radical and risky than his concert music.

Interesting trivia: Miharu Koshi arranged half of what was to be the last album he worked on, an album survey of his commercial pop songs for the artist Seri.

my souvenir photo
http://technopop.info/tt.jpg

-ndkent


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)

Miharu Koshi arranged half of what was to be the last album he worked on

That's interesting, you know, I thought of Miharu Koshi when I heard Takemitsu talking about the impact of the song "Parlez-Moi D'Amour" on him. Because she covers that on her album Autoportrait.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
Takemitsu & Film

To those interested in Takemitsu's film work (and reading German) - I can send you for free a booklet we edited at the Munich Filmmuseum on the occasion of a quite comprehensive Takemitsu film retrospective organized by the Filmmuseum with the Japan Foundation in 1996/97. Includes a complete filmography (more than 100 titles!), an annotated filmography of the titles shown in the program (more than 30), original essays, interviews, texts by Takemitsu, many stills, etc. Just send your postal address to klaus.volkmer@filmmuseum.info

Klaus Volkmer
Filmmuseum Munich


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 30th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)

My first encounter with his works was not CD but art works... at his exhibition 眼と耳のために (For Eyes and Ears) at Bumpodo Gallery in 1993. It was quite interesting. I still have the catalogue. T.Keiko http://www.bumpodo.co.jp/gallery/gallery_index.html


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obliterati
obliterati
Night of the Living Dave
Mon, Apr. 30th, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC)

I got into a great deal of trouble recently for a piece not so different than Woodard's, which incidentally is a great name for someone working in that particular media.

I almost don't believe it, Woodard's thing sounds so similar. I'm concerned for the girl in stilettos, didn't Nietzsche have syphilis?

A showgirl who turned down Hitler's advances before he came to power was asked by an interviewer if she would have pre-emptively dated him, knowing what we now know about the 20th century and Hitler's role therein, and she slapped the shit out of him! There's your answer!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Apr. 30th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC)

I'm curious about the trouble you got into! Was it with significant others, or the authorities? (Not that SOs aren't the authorities, of course!)

Last night turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. There were no historical costumes, no indications that the four musicians were anyone other than themselves, and no hint of fellatio, either live or onscreen.


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