Tag Archives: Tōru Takemitsu

Takemitsu: Ma (間) in Music

Tōru Takemitsu was born in Tokyo 1930, being drafted into military service in 1944 as a teenager.

Post war Takemitsu started taking interest in Western classical music, at this point in life he rejected Japanese traditional music as it reminded him of Japanese nationalism and war.

Ma used in painting

At 16 Takemitsu started to compose. In the 1951s he was a founding member of Jikken Kōbō (実験工房) literally experimental workshop, a group of artists, musicians, choreographers and poets who were inspired by European and American avant-garde, during the 1950’s he was composing in a very modern western style.

ピアニストのためのコロナ – Corona for Pianist(s) 

for 1 or more pianos – 1962

In 1958 Igor Stravinsky during his visit to Japan, heard one of his compositions and invited him to lunch, this was a breakthrough and he soon got his first overseas commission, he wrote “Dorian Horizon”. Premièred by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Aaron Copland.

In his own words: “my mild protest against inorganic serialism.”….”no melodic thinking, only harmonic pitches. There is no thinking of rhythm, only pulse. It is a first sketch in my search for a new kind of polyphony.”

地平線のドーリア – Dorian Horizon – for 17 strings – 1966

During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Takemitsu took interest in John Cage’s music and philosophies, Cage’s interest in Zen woke his own interests in the qualities of Japanese traditional music, from this point he started studying traditional music and compose with hints of traditional Japan.

ノヴェンバー・ステップス – November Steps – 1967

for biwa, shakuhachi and orchestra

Ma (間) is a Japanese word, literally meaning (the) space (between ), the kanji is a combination of “door” and “sun” which can be interpreted as the space allowing the sunshine in. The use of Ma is very evident in Tōru Takemitsu compositions as periods of silence to strengthen the music.


And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind  – for flute, viola and harp – 1992

Tōru Takemitsu died in 1996 as one of, if not the most influential Japanese composers of the century.

Leaving behind more than 400 works, amongst them 26 Orchestral works, 58 pieces of Chamber music, 35 works for the stage and 108 film scores, most famous the music for Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran”.

ブライス – Bryce – for flute, 2 harps and 2 percussion players – 1976