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Toru Takemitsu
photo: Kiyotane Hayashi

Toru Takemitsu

Country of origin: Japan
Birthday: October 8, 1930
Date of death: February 20, 1996

About Toru Takemitsu

I can well imagine Toru Takemitsu travelling through Japan, not to capture different aspects of the moon, but let’s say to experience the wind whistling through different trees, and returning to the city with a gift. This gift consists of the transformation of nature into art. (John Cage)

Toru Takemitsu was born in Tokyo on 8 October 1930. He began attending the Keika Junior High School in 1943 and resolved to become a composer at the age of 16. During the post-war years, he came into contact with Western music through radio broadcasts by the American occupying forces – not only jazz, but especially classical music by Debussy and Copland and even by Schoenberg. He made his debut at the age of 20 with a piano piece Lento in Due Movimenti. Although Takemitsu was essentially a self-taught composer, he nevertheless sought contact with outstanding teachers: Toshi Ichiyanagi acquainted the composer with the European avant-garde of Messiaen, Nono und Stockhausen, and Fumio Hayasaka introduced Takemitsu to the world of film music and forged contacts to the film director Akira Kurosawa for whom Takemitsu produced several scores to film plots. Alongside his musical studies, Takemitsu also took a great interest in other art forms including modern painting, theatre, film and literature (especially lyric poetry). His cultural-philosophical knowledge was acquired through a lively exchange of ideas with Yasuji Kiyose paired with his own personal experiences. In 1951, the group “Experimental Workshop” was co-founded by Takemitsu, other composers and representatives from a variety of artistic fields; this was a mixed media group whose avant-garde multimedia activities soon caused a sensation. Takemitsu taught composition at Yale University and received numerous invitations for visiting professorships from universities in the USA, Canada and Australia. He died in Tokyo on 20 February 1996. Peter Mussbach and the Berlin State Opera Unter den Linden commemorated Takemitsu in their staged project "My Way of Life” in 2004.

Takemitsu’s earliest works display influences of Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, whereas the compositions of his second creative phase reflect his preoccupation with French Impressionism, particularly Debussy. The composer gained initial recognition at the end of the 1950s with his Requiem for strings (1957) which incorporates serial techniques. Takemitsu’s interest in a wide variety of artistic expressive forms and his individual sense of freedom developed through his autodidacticism shaped the character of his avant-garde style. As early as 1950, he utilised a tape recorder to create musical collages from “real” sounds ("musique concrète": Water Music, 1960; Kwaidan, 1964). In the early 1960s, two new elements appeared in Takemitsu’s works: on the one hand, traditional Japanese music (November Steps, 1967, for biwa, shakuhachi and orchestra) in the form of the deliberate juxtaposition of Eastern and Western musical culture and, on the other hand, the musical representation of natural phenomena (ARCI for orchestra, 1963-1966). Representations of the art of Japanese gardens through the utilisation of symbolic musical metaphors are frequently encountered in his compositions (A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden for orchestra, 1977).

Although Takemitsu’s artistically most ambitious works are focused on the genres orchestral and chamber music, the composer also displays great interest in popular music including jazz, pop and French chansons. He composed around a hundred film scores (Dodes’ka-Den, 1996). His 12 Songs for Guitar (1977), containing passages with arrangements of world-famous pop classics (including songs by the Beatles), demonstrate Takemitsu’s affinity with the broader musical tastes generated by the hyper-cultural influences of a media-dominated world.

Takemitsu was the recipient of numerous awards and prizes including the Prix Italia, first prize at the Festival of Contemporary Music in Karuisawa (both in 1958), the German Consulate prize at the Tokyo Contemporary Music Festival (1960 and 1961), the major prize at the Japanese Art Festival (1966), the Otaka Prize (1976 and 1981) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Award (for the film “Ran”, 1987), the UNESCO-IMC Music Prize (1991), the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition (1994) and the Glenn Gould Prize (1996). Takemitsu was composer-in-residence at the Canberra Festival of Musica Viva in Australia (1960), at the London Music Digest (1973) and the Evenings for New Music at the State University of New York in Buffalo (1977). In 1979, he was appointed as an honorary member of the Academy of Arts in the German Democratic Republic, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1984, a member of the Ordre des arts et des letters in 1985 and in 1994 as a member of the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Worklist

Chronology

1930
Geboren am 8. Oktober 1930 in Tokio. Zieht einen Monat später zu seinem Vater nach Dalian, China.
1937
Kehrt nach Japan zurück und besucht die Fujimae Elementary School in Hongo, Tokio
1943
Besucht die Keika Junior High School
1948
Kompositionsstudium bei Yasuji Kiyose
1950
Uraufführung von "Lento in due movimento" für Piano in Tokio
1951
Organisiert den experimentellen Workshop Jikken-Kobo
1956
Komponiert die Musik für den Film "Kuratta Kajitsu" (Crazy Fruits)
1957
Uraufführung des "Requiem for Strings" mit dem Tokio Symphony Orchestra unter der Leitung von Hitoshi Ueda
1958
Erster Preis für "Le Son Calligraphié I" beim Festival of Contemporary Music in Kuruisawa
1958
Prix Italia für "Tableau Noir"
1958
"Solitude Sonore" für Orchester wird am Japan Art Festival ausgezeichnet
1960
German Ambassador's Prize für "Requiem for Strings"
1961
German Ambassador's Prize für "Ring"
1962
Präsentiert sein Werk "Corona II" für Streicher im Rahmen der Graphic Score Exhibition in der Tokio Art Gallery
1963
5. Preis für "Coral Island" für Sopran und Orchester beim International Rostrum of Composers in Paris
1964
Veröffentlicht eine private Auswahl seiner Essays Toru Takemitsu 1930 …
1965
Prize for Top Excellence für "Textures" für Klavier und Orchester beim International Rostrum of Composers in Paris
1966
Grand Prize of the Japan Art Festival für die Schallplatten-Kollektion Works of Toru Takemitsu
1967
Uraufführung von "November Steps" mit der New York Philharmonic
1967
Prize of the Music Critics für "Dorian Horizon"
1969
Composer-in-Residence des Canberra Spring Festival of Musica Viva in Australien
1970
Konzipiert verschiedene Konzertserien wie Music Today
1971
Composer-in-Residence der Malboro Music School and Festival
1972
Uraufführung von "Gémeaux" beim Festival International d'Art Contemporain de Royan
1972
Gastkomponist der contemporary music series The Encounters des California Insitute of Technology
1973
Composer-in-Residence des London Music Digest
1973
Veröffentlicht den Roman Kotsugetsu – aruiwa 'a honey moon' (Bone Moon, or 'a honeymoon')
1973
Uraufführung von "In an Autumn Garden" in Tokio
1973
Gastprofessor an der Harvard University
1975
Gastprofessor an der Yale University
1975
Sanford Prize der Yale University
1975
Gastkomponist der New Music Concerts in Toronto
1975
Gastkomponist der Meet the Moderns series der Brooklyn Philharmonia
1975
Grand Prize des Japan Art Festival für "Quatrain"
1976
Otaka Prize für "Quatrain"
1976
Composer-in-Residence der Evenings for New Music der State University of New York in Buffalo
1978
Komponiert 18 Konzerte für die Ausstellung MA – Espace-temps au Japon
1979
Ehrenmitglied der Akademie der Künste der DDR
1980
Composer-in-Residence des Vancouver Festival of Contemporary Music
1980
Prize of the Japan Art Academy
1981
Otaka Prize für "Far Calls. Coming Far!"
1981
Composer-in-Residence des CalArts Contemporary Music Festival
1981
Composer-in-Residence der Berliner Festwochen
1981
Mobil Music Prize
1983
Gastkomponist der New Music Concerts in Toronto
1983
Composer-in-Residence des Contemporary Music Festival Horizon der New York Philharmonic
1984
Composer-in-Residence des Aldeburgh Festival of Music and Arts
1984
Ehrenmitglied der American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
1985
Asahi Prize
1985
Composer-in-Residence der New Music Days des Banff Centre
1985
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres der französischen Regierung
1985
Gastkomponist des Festival Pontino di Musica
1986
Gastkomponist des Melbourne Summer Music Festival
1986
Ehrenmitgliedschaft der Academie des Beaux-Arts
1987
Los Angeles Film Critics Award für die Musik des Films "Ran"
1987
Composer-in-Residence des Scotland's Contemporary Music Festival in Glasgow
1988
Gastkomponist des Ensembles Voices of Change der Southern Methodist University in Dallas
1989
International Inter Design Prize
1989
Hida-Furukawa Music Grand Prize
1990
Composer-in-Residence des Stockholm New Music Festival
1990
Composer-in-Residence des Leeds Festival of Music
1990
Composer-in-Residence des Centre Acanthe und des Festivals D'Avignon
1990
Le Prix International Maurice Ravel
1991
Mainichi Newspaper Art Prize für verschiedene Werk, darunter "Visions"
1991
Tokyo Citizen's Honorary Award for Culture
1991
Suntory Music Prize
1991
UNESCO/IMC Music Prize
1991
Uraufführung von "Fantasma/Cantos" beim Cardiff Festival of Music
1992
Composer-in-Residence des Seattle Spring Festival
1992
Composer-in-Residence der 20th Century Masters in Warschau
1993
Komponiert die Musik des Hollywoodfilms Rising Sun (Die Wiege der Sonne)
1993
Composer-in-Residence des Takefu International Music Festival
1993
Composer-in-Residence des Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts
1993
Composer-in-Residence der Berliner Festwochen
1993
Japan Foundation Award
1993
Composer-in-Residence bei Wien Modern
1993
Ehrenmitgliedschaft International Society for Contemporary Music
1994
Ehrenmitgliedschaft an der Royal Academy of Music
1994
Grammynominierung in der Kategorie "Best Classical Contemporary Composition" für "A Way A Lone"
1994
Broadcast Cultural Award der NHK, Japan
1994
Dokumentarfilm Music for the Movies: Toru Takemitsu
1994
Composer-in-Residence des Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo
1994
Louisville Grawemeyer Award für "Fantasma/Cantos"
1995
Grammynominierung für "Fantasma/Cantos" in der Kategorie "Best Classical Contemporary Composition"
1995
Featured Composer des First CineMusic Festival in Gstaad
1995
Career Achievement Award der Society for the Preservation of Film Music, Los Angeles
1996
Uraufführung von "Air" für Flöte in Oberwil, Schweiz
1996

Glenn Gould Prize

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