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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.

29CommentReply


(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


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread

(no subject) - (Anonymous)
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.


ReplyThread Parent

(no subject) - (Anonymous)
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.


ReplyThread Parent
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.


ReplyThread
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.)


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)

There would have to be a distinct smell in the room too. Perhaps bamboo, eucalyptus, egg white and ammonia.


ReplyThread Parent
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.


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

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


ReplyThread Parent
flying_squid
flying_squid
flying_squid
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)

Yes! Fantastic, isn't it?

I just did a search on that book you have as an image. It costs over $100!? So much for being available - looks like I'm heading down to the used record shops!


ReplyThread Parent
flying_squid
flying_squid
flying_squid
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 03:40 pm (UTC)

I also need to correct myself - O'Rourke's just not attracted to Japan, he's living there right now. He dismantled his studio in Chicago (The Steam Room), sold most of the equipment, and moved there last year to focus on cinema.

He hasn't given up on music completely (obviously, performing Takemitsu), but he hasn't produced anything that's solely his own. Reminds me of Duchamp giving up art for chess, and your friend Anne Laplantine, giving up music for go.


ReplyThread Parent
chokogin
chokogin
chokogin
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 11:56 pm (UTC)

yeh he was part of an avante-garde team [composer/director/writer] who made 4 films together; woman of the dunes was the second of the four. the only one i have seen is "the face of another", which is really good. in fact i will try to remember to bring it for you next time i visit sunshine, if you like


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Apr. 30th, 2007 12:08 am (UTC)

Oh, you're Matt! I never know who anyone is from their LJ names! Hi!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, May. 2nd, 2007 08:56 am (UTC)

That's director Hiroshi Teshigahara who had a 3 part artistic career as master of ikebana and sculptor and novelist Kobo Abe. It was just loosely a team in the 60s because the works afaik were first novels. Takemitsu scored almost all of Teshigahara's films not just the Abe ones.

There's a great restored, mostly subtitled and region free boxed set of Teshigahara's films out in Japan a couple years ago, but it's priced expensive like typical Japanese releases and only sold as a set. Be aware that under quirky U.S. copyright standards real crap public domain prints of "Woman in the Dunes" were all over the place, especially in the VHS and 16mm "lets rent a foreign art film" era, Seeing and hearing it like half lit mud is difficult to put up with.

Some other random comments- I think there's really only subtle or coincidental influences of Japanese music in Debussy. Maybe a sense of rubato, often little emphasis on a strong steady meter. The asian music more obviously influencing Debussy was the gamelan playing at the 1900 Exposition. On the other hand, Japanese art did play a direct role in inspiring a number of Debussy's compositions.

"Autoportrait" is a Miharu Koshi best of collection with some new tracks. I never picked it up since I have her albums so I'm just guessing. I would guess the Takemitsu material is probably unused or repurposed session material that MK arranged for the Seri album rather than a cover per se.

-ndkent


ReplyThread Parent

(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...


ReplyThread Parent

(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


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Apr. 29th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)

Visiting imomus a little late today, It's great to see you doing a post on Takemitsu but I am a little disappointed by the response thread - it's unfortunate that a posting which could potentiate more confab on what a prick Dubya is seems to elicit more response and debate than some of the excellent postings you do on art, design and music.
Like yourself I became aware of the composer through the purchase of an old late seventies Ozawa/Boston S.O. LP of Quatrain and A Flock Descends Into The Pentagonal Garden which I still own.
As regards the Debussy comparison, Debussy was extensively influenced by Oriental music and perhaps arguably there may be more fruit of an East/West cross pollination than just direct influence in Takemitsu's music.
I have been listening to - and hugely enjoying - a lot of his piano music lately, often back to back with 'Blemish' and 'The Good Son Versus The Only Daughter' incidentally, of course it's very different music but both have a similar stark, minimalised restraint and do compliment each other.
There is some obvious Western influence in his solo piano music but it's coming more from Webern and Messiaen than Debussy.
In any case Takemitsu was very much his own man and certainly his later compositions for example November Sleeps are particularly Eastern to my ear.
His film music is a mixed bag in my opinion but well worth investigating, the compilation on Nonesuch records would give the curious listener a rewarding overview.
Good post again.
Regards - Thomas Scott.


ReplyThread Parent

(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


ReplyThread

(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


ReplyThread
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!


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread Parent
obliterati
obliterati
Night of the Living Dave
Mon, Apr. 30th, 2007 03:56 pm (UTC)
long story

It was a livejournal stunt based roughly on Baudrillard's idea of spectacle and the death of reality. In a particular livejournal community I posted a factually accurate statement about the recent firing of a security guard at Reed College, and a factual statement about undesirable piano playing in a public space (at Reed College), and a factual statement about a local arsonist who recently tried to burn down Reed College, and the result was a mindbending flame war, everybody disagreeing with these ideas as if they were opinions and not facts.

The context for this was a similar flame war in December, in which we discovered that this group would blow any concept out of proportion and argue tooth and nail for days, but only if they were arguing against something obviously, undeniably, and incontrovertibly true.

So I picked three statements which honestly addressed these very important public issues, with the goal being that I would receive oral sex from a charming confederate if my three factual statements resulted in at least fifty angry comments by the myopic teenagers online at the school. That was the Baudrillard, the spectacle and non-reality, I wanted their angry delusional slander to get me laid.

Despite informing them of this bounty around comment #26, they continued on, angrily telling me that setting fire to the students was actually a creative act, that the devastating crime spree on campus was not the result of the illiterate security guard who'd just been fired for incompetence, and that when people blow actual rape whistles at the woman who won't stop playing the community piano, it actually means that she's a great piano player and that I am mean for not noticing.

It was perfect, the angrier they got at me, the more they got me laid. The comments got up to 96, nearly double what I needed, and when the school was unexpectedly told that I'd been coercing blowjobs to help cope with being robbed, set on fire, and sonically raped, they were pretty upset.

Many American institutions have this blowjob rule, which states that you need to get in more trouble for oral sex than you would for acts of wanton murder. I got into a great deal of trouble, believe me. And Baudrillard actually died the next day.

Moreso I'm concerned that those readers will think I am not single and available, which I am. Any significant others I might have once had would probably be pleased to know that I'd been insulted online all day long.

Believe it or not, this is the short version of the story.

For fellatio with historical costumes I can only think of a three-second clip from the Australian film Bliss, which shows a sister fellating her brother for drugs while he wears an SS costume. It is quite sinister, and thankfully very brief. Great movie though.


ReplyThread Parent
obliterati
obliterati
Night of the Living Dave
Mon, Apr. 30th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: long story

And I forgot the four individuals and the fifth in stilettos! Woodard's cast roughly describes a physical proof of Shintoism that I've been working on. Three individuals representing height, depth, and width, traveling through the fourth medium of time (give that one to the Hegelian maybe?), heading toward the inconceivable and unavoidable event horizon of the fifth dimension, the beautiful woman who is our reward at the end of history. My own unconscious would like to be rewarded with shoes, for very unusual reasons, and my very pretty friend has been showing up in red heels lately as I mulled these ideas, which is why the event at COMA rang a bell.

By blurring the distinctions between thermodynamic properties and narrative devices, I have found how to turn the absence of kindness, which should be a narrative event, into measurably large amounts of electricity, proving that all matter is alive, and thus Shinto correct.

To this end I really liked the Socratic dialog you posted earlier.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, May. 16th, 2007 06:22 am (UTC)
Re: We are all responsible for our own reality

Dude?

WHAT THE FUCK
Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK

Can't you ref Heidegger's "you all ways pull the pigTALE of the girl you are sweetest on at recess" theorim or are you prone to being distracted by the fact he was the Nazi forbearer of Andrea Dworkin?

GAcked from AIM?
ref.: me: whats that fat Nazi feminist who just croaked? Andrea Dworkin?
k fat was mean but GERMANe
the personal is political yo

YOU ROCK, DaVE

CAN'T YOU SHUT UP LONG ENOUGH TO hEAR us say that?


ReplyThread Parent

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
mr_lurker
mr_lurker
Wed, May. 16th, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC)
kinda transPARENT isnt it flattering yourself? ref.: Mommy is that yEW?

let me guess?

you threw out your back patting yourself there like that?

d1rtyf1lthy: if i really wanted to?
the machine i had set my shit out in for lurking is not where you are now
mimique: wow! all knowing yet vague? so HOT yo!

d1rtyf1lthy: haha, mimique = MIMIC You?


ReplyThread Parent

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand