I find it very hard to define or characterize the work of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. I spent a long time reading descriptions of it from all over the web trying to find something that fit the music I know that I could share with you here . Then I realized — d’oh! — I don’t need a description. I’ve got the music.
Here’s a taste:
(That was the opening of Notalghia, performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra directed by Hiroyuki Iwaki, Michael Dauth solo violin)
Over the years, I’ve worked to appreciate some difficult music, particularly academic atonal stuff (some of which is very much worth the time it takes to enjoy). On the other hand, I find Takemitsu’s music — as strange as it sounded at first — easy to love. As different as it is from what I’m used to, I feel like it invites me into a sound world that I don’t need preparation to enter. All I need to do is be open to it.
I hope it works for you in a similar way. (I’d love it if you let me know either by leaving a comment or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Now let me give you a story about the composer. (I do believe life is as important as art. Or nearly so.)
In 1958 Takemitsu was an unknown member of the young Japanese avant garde when Igor Stravinsky visited Japan and asked Japanese Public Broadcasting if he could hear some of the latest Japanese music. According to Wikipedia, they put on Takemitsu’s Requiem for String Orchestra by mistake and Stravinsky made them leave it on so he could hear the whole thing. This led to Takemitsu’s recognition by Western musicians and subsequent success.
It’s a great story. And it’s on Wikipedia so it must be true. (Actually, that Wikipedia article is very rich in technical stuff about Takemitsu’s musical methods and influences — stuff I’m definitely not going to go into here, so I recommend that you read it on Wikipedia if it interests you.)
Here’s a lush solo piano piece, For Away (1973) played by Peter Serkin:
If you think that listening to more may bring you to a place where you begin to like it, explore YouTube for other Takemitsu pieces. If you already like it, buy a CD, or some MP3s. Takemitsu was prolific. There’s a large and rich sound world out there waiting for you.