CD1, CD2, CD3, CD4.
THE DORIAN HORIZON (1966)
CORAL ISLAND for soprano & orchestra (1962)
A FLOCK DESCENDS INTO THE PENTAGONAL GARDEN (1977)
ARCHIPELAGO S. for 21 players (1994)
CORONA II for string(s) (1962)
Rie Hamada, soprano
Yuzo Toyama, conductor
Recording dates: 31 August - 4 September 1997
Performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuzo Toyama with soprano Rie Hamada. A beautiful digital recording of several rarely performed works by Takemitsu (the soprano part of the marvelous "Coral Island" is very difficult, for example, and the "Archipelago S" is for an unusual ensemble of instruments). Many of the subtleties of Takemitsu's writing are lost in recording (for example, subtle harmonics behind more foreground material), but the engineers made a good effort here. The title of "Archipelgo S." for 21 players describes an imaginary archipelago made up of five real islands widely separate in the natural world, each island's name beginning with an "S": islands in Stockholm, Seattle, and the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. The composer imagined the islands "calling out to each other across the great distance separating them...experienced as a metaphor for the universe." The orchestra is divided into five sections and dispersed throughout the concert hall - three ensembles and two independent clarinets on the left and right sides of the space. Each of the five sections describes the five islands: "I mentally sketched the beautiful scenes of each island until gradually a clear musical theme took shape." Although this is one of the most soloistically melodic of Takemitsu's concert pieces, with single lines often containing several unusual and expressive ways of playing the instrument, many of the timbres suggest icy or at least barren landscapes. But there lurk some signs (and lovely ones at that) of life amongst this quiescent landscape: in brief moments the separate groups sing together in unison, and there are also a few moments of rich string writing when one can imagine sunlight suddenly illuminating the scene, and all of the "islands" join in glorious full orchestral passages. "Corona II" for strings is a fascinating graph work from Takemitsu's early period where he experimented with his concern for separating the distinct parameters of pitch, rhythm, dynamics and timbre (or tone color) modulation. This separation of basic musical parameters was also an interest and compositional practice of the composers of the '50s and '60s, both composers who wrote strict serialist music and composers who created freer forms with elements of spontaneous improvisation, chance, indeterminancy, group and theatre-work composition, and so on. In Takemitsu's piece the performers freely choose a pitch which they constantly play throughout the piece and do not change. The changes are all made in the dynamics, timbre, and manner of playing that pitch. These changes are read from a score consisting of colored plastic sheets which have modulations of coloration (similar to many scores of John Cage, and later of Karlheinz Stockhausen, which used color as a notational symbol, and used overlaid transparent plastic sheets in order to shift notational symbols). "This is a kind of study for grasping single sounds as full and vital entities" (Takemitsu).
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
TORU TAKEMITSU: ORCHESTRAL WORKS IV
(composer's notes to the works)
THE DORIAN HORIZON
This work was my first attempt to create a new mode of polyphony based on the idea of 'harmonic pitch' rather than melodies and pulsation rather than rhythm. I jotted down these concepts in my notebook while the work was taking shape in my mind. I was strongly influenced in this connection by my young friend, the composer Yoshio Hachimura.
As suggested by the title, this work is a discourse on mode. The Dorian subspecies generated from the Dorian mode are used to create a pan-focused soundscape. The unusual positioning of the instruments is a product of the flexible orientation of the sound sources. Accordingly, dynamics in this work do not possess their normal functions. Rather, they provide tonal shading and give rise to variation. This applies similarly to performing techniques such as vibrato and non-vibrato. The soundscape is like the blurred edges of hydrangeas or the overlapping folds of a mountain range enveloped in the mist, that is to say it constitutes an interwoven polyphony of elements without any specific elements being emphasised.
The work was composed to a commission from the Koussevitsky Foundation in 1966 and was first performed the same year by San Francisco Musica Viva under the baton of Aaron Copland. It is dedicated to Sergei and Natalie Koussevitsky.
A FLOCK DESCENDS INTO THE PENTAGONAL GARDEN
This work has its origins in a dream and is closely connected to a photograph of Marcel Duchamp in which he has shaved his head in the shape of a star. It was commissioned by Dr and Mrs Ralph Dorfmann and written for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1977. The work's structure is based on the number five, whose influence is evident especially in the intervallic relationships. The basic sequence of pitches constitutes a penta-tonic scale centring on F sharp. This basic scale in turn generates five pentatonic scales superimposed on the constituent pitches. In the work, the main motif played by the oboe represents a flock of birds descending into a harmonic sound space (the pentagonal garden) realised primarily by the stringed instruments.
ARCHIPELAGO S. FOR 21 PLAYERS
While "S" is an expression of plural form, implicit in the word archipelago, or group of islands, it also happens that "S" is the first letter in the names of the islands in a beautiful archipelago I have seen: Stockholm, Seattle, and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. The name of Aldeburgh's wonderful concert hall, Snape Makings, also begins with the letter "S", a mysterious synchronicity.
I mentally sketched the beautifull scenes of each island until gradually a clear musical theme took shape. In this work the islands, while existing individually apart from each other, attempt to form a whole. I wanted to create a place wherein the islands' calling out to each other across the great distance separating them could be experienced as a metaphor for the universe. Thus, the orchestra is divided into five groups and dispersed about the hall.
This work celebrates the 60th birthday of Julian Bream, and I dedicate it to him. Ever since I first started attending it, I have been very fond of the Aldeburgh Festival, and it is here that my ears were open to the music of Benjamin Britten and that I came to admire even more his remarkable gifts as a composer.
(Origianl English notes written by the composer) Published by Schott Japan SJ 1084
CORONA II FOR STRINGS
1. Three plastic sheets are placed on top of one another on a mount on which several circles are printed. The performance then begins. This is the 'score' used in this piece.
2. The score is read in a clockwise direction beginning from zero degrees and with a single rotation taking about one minute.
3. Pitches are decided by selecting at will a single circular band printed on the mount. The band close to the centre is the low register, and the pitch rises the further away one moves from the centre.
4. The freely selected pitches must not be changed while moving around the circle, but playing techniques are varied in accordance with density and variations of tonal colour.
5. This is a kind of study for grasping single sounds as full and vital entities.
COMMENTARY TO THE WORKS
The items included on this disc are among the less frequently performed of Toru Takemitsu's orchestral works. The Dorian Horizon (1966) is far less often presented at concerts than November Steps (1967), which dates from the following year. Despite being one of Takemitsu's relatively few vocal works, Coral Island (1962) has had very few airings since its first performance, perhaps because of the immense difficulty of the soprano part.
Corona II for Strings (1962) is one of the works which Takemitsu composed during the 1960s employing graphic notation. Although standing as an independent work in its own right, it is also incorporated into the third piece of Coral Island. While notating the sounds with precision, Takemitsu's aim in this work is to bring forth new textures by destroying already created sounds.
Takemitsu's works from the 1980s beginning with Far Calls. Coming, far! (1980) are frequently performed, but the works from the 1970s appear relatively seldom on concert programmes. A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden (1977) is perhaps one of the more frequently performed works from this decade. It was this work which set the direction for Takemitsu's style during the 1980s.
Takemitsu's works from the 1990s are not so much an extension of his achievement during the 1980s as the exploration of new musical vistas. Archipelago S. (1994) gained its inspiration from islands and is structured differently from the works inspired by the sea, water, rain and dreams which play such an important part in Takemitsu's ceuvre.
A clear image for these works have not yet been established in comparison with the more familiar orchestral works, but the Tokyo Municipal Symphony Orchestra under their conductor Yuzo Toyama succeed in realising the finest details of the scores with consummate accuracy. One is made aware once again that accuracy in the performance is the secret to allowing Takemitsu's works fully to reveal their fresh, sparkling textures.
THE DORIAN HORIZON (1966)
'Dorian' here refers to the Dorian mode, but anyone expecting to hear a melody line based on church modes will have their hopes dashed. The vertical textures as they are realised at each moment characterise The Dorian Horizon. The constituent elements of these textures are chromatic chords which might sometimes be thought of as harmonic clusters. But if these moments are lined up horizontally, they turn out to be neither dissonances nor clusters: an elegant spectacle emerges of sounds seeming to gather at will, then breaking up and reforming.
Takemitsu wrote of the work that 'the Dorian subspecies generated from the Dorian mode create a pan-focused soundscape.' The Dorian mode and its chromatically displaced constituent pitches stand in a relationship of equality, congregating between the parts and giving rise to distinctive melodic motion in the individual parts. Creating chords through the superimposition of modal melodic progressions is a feature of several of Takemitsu's early works such as Lento in Due Movimenti (1950) and Distance de Fee (1951). However, in The Dorian Horizon, the chords are diversified through the incorporation of clusters and special playing techniques. Extensive variation in dynamics also plays an important role.
Before composing The Dorian Horizon, Takemitsu had made use of Japanese traditional instruments such as the plucked lute biwa and the end-blown flute shakuhachi in his scores for films such as Harakiri (1962) and Kwaidan (1964). Japanese instruments have a complex tonal quality whereby impure noise elements are deliberately introduced into the sound production process. This quality, known in Japanese as sawari, may well have provided Takemitsu with valuable hints for the manipulation of textures as in Dorian Horizon.
The work begins with eight players positioned at the front of the stage (referred to by Takemitsu as the 'Harmonic Pitches') emitting intermittent sounds employing techniques such as harmonics, pizzicati and col legno (Index 1, bars 1 to 20). This is followed by repeated pitches, glissandi and the use of special percussive techniques (Index 2, from bar 21). The individual parts then begin to move melodically and complex textures are flexed horizontally (Index 3, from bar 88). After the nine players at the back of the stage (referred to by Takemitsu as 'Echoes') introduce a quotation from Takemitsu's music to the film Woman of the Dunes (1964) (Index 4, from bar 108), the music reverts back to the material of the opening section (Index 5, from bar 145).
CORAL ISLAND (1962)
The text employed in Coral Island is one of the same title by Makoto Ooka; such surrealist poetic texts are a feature of Takemitsu's vocal works of the 1960s. The soprano part of Coral Island is based on atonal melodic writing in which wide intervals are prominent. The poetic method employed here is one in which narration is abnegated in favour of the identity of each individual word; this method provides a stimulus to Takemitsu's own musical language, in which each individual sound is given a life of its own. In this work, the soprano part might be described as a flexible melodic line conceived after the other sounds have been allowed to move freely around. Rie Hamada moves with agility over the wide tessitura as if allowing each word to take flight of its own accord. A sense of vocal flexibility without density or thickness is surely one of the demands made by Takemitsu of the soprano part in this work.
The orchestra is divided into six groups, the first consisting of piano and percussion, the second of strings, the third of harp, celesta and percussion, the fourth of three clarinets, the fifth of two trumpets, two horns and two trombones, and the sixth of three flutes. This is the first work in which Takemitsu deliberately divides his orchestra into groups. Such division became a feature of his orchestral compositions throughout the 1960s, the idea being to foster open encounters between sounds by placing the instruments in relationships different from those normal within the conventional orchestra.
In the opening section, entitled 'Accumulation F, each of the groups is gradually added to create a multi-levelled texture between the groups. The texture thus become increasingly dense. In 'Accumulation IF, after an ensemble passage, Corona II for strings is inserted into the musical development. 'Accumulation III' represents a return to the musical material of 'Accumulation I' in contracted form.
The soprano appears in 'Poem 1' and 'Poem 2', in which the orchestral groupings are dissolved. The melodic fragments in the individual parts embellish the soprano part with varied dynamics or combine to create separate musical events. A feature of this work is the way in which densely structured textures exist side by side with contrasting pellucid textures.
A FLOCK DESCENDS INTO THE PENTAGONAL GARDEN (1977)
The concept of mobile forms plays an important role in Takemitsu's works of the 1970s. His style until this decade had essentially involved writing down sounds and textures, but during the 1970s the idea of devising paths along which sounds and textures could move came to be incorporated into his repertory of compositional concepts. Takemitsu stated of Waterways (1978), for instance, that the work represented 'the appearance of a river passing along different waterways.'
A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden is based on an image which Takemitsu says he saw in a dream: a flock of white birds led by a single black bird descending into a star-shaped garden. The black bird leading the flock is represented by the pitch F sharp. On the basis of a pentatonic scale centring on F sharp and consisting of the set C sharp, E flat, F sharp, A flat and B flat, a set of pentatonic scales is created employing the intervallic relationships present in this scale (major second between C sharp and E flat, minor third between E flat and F sharp, major second between F sharp and A flat, major second between A flat and B flat, and minor third between B flat and C sharp) applied to each of the pitches of the basic pentatonic series. In this case, when the C sharp and the E flat below the F sharp are employed as the generating tones, the pentatonic scales are created below, and when the A flat and the B flat above the F sharp are similarly used, the pentatonic scales are created above the F sharp. Further pentatonic scales are created by the same method with each of the tones of the pentatonic scales generated in this manner employed as new generating tones.
The relationships between the original scale and the various scales generated from it are not transpositions in respect to the main key, nor can they be likened to inversions and retrograde forms of a basic note row. They might be likened rather to ripples arising in a pond after a stone has been thrown into it. The relationship between the central F sharp and the other pitches is similar to the relationship of centripetal and centrifugal motion: the greater the increase in the orchestra of the pitches of the generated scales, the greater the effort made by the F sharp to get these pitches to converge. Takemitsu states the 'F sharp sounds out constantly in the manner of a drone' in A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden.
After the bird theme played by the oboe, there is a section centring on the winds which features a figure which may be thought of as depicting the flock of birds (Index 1: opening to B, Index 4: E). This is followed by a section centring on the strings which employs long tones to suggest the garden (Index 2: C, Index 6: G). The work moves forward in the form of an alternation between these sections and sections in which the two sections converge (Index 3: D, Index 5: F, Index 7: from H). Although the flock of birds and the garden are initially isolated from one another, certain instruments from among the winds and the strings occasionally combine with other instruments to create several climaxes in which the distance between the birds and the garden is lost.
ARCHIPELAGO S. (1994)
In this work Takemitsu again resorts to the measure of separating the orchestra into groups allocated on the stage and in the auditorium. Depending on one's angle of vision, the groups may seem to be overlapping to create a single whole or they may give the impression of separate islands. This spatial arrangement hints at new relationships between the instruments of the orchestra.
Group A is situated on the left of the stage and consists of oboe, violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp and percussion. Group B is situated at the centre and consists of two horns, trumpet and two trombones. Group C is situated at the right and consists of flute, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, celesta and percussion. Two clarinets are placed in the auditorium, one to the left and one to the right. The instruments within a particular group sometimes combine to create the same musical figures, while on other occasions individual instruments are treated soloistically. But a feature common to all the parts is the sense of tranquil musical expression with minimal variation of intervals and rhythm; no attempt is made to give distinctive melodic patterns to specific instruments.
Subtle variations in tonal colour are established both within individual parts and between different parts. For instance, the five opening bars (Index 1) of the score employed by the violin in Group A contain the indications 'Harmonics', 'Not much vibrato', 'No vibrato' and 'With vibrato'. In the viola and cello parts during the same five bars, the indications are 'Not much vibrato', 'Tremolo sul ponticello', 'Bowing in normal position' and 'Harmonics', while in the double bass part the indications are 'Apply pressure gently to the bow and move gradually up to the bridge', 'Not much vibrato' and 'With vibrato'. The solo played by the flute in Group C (Index 2, from B, bar 3) contains the markings 'Harmonics', 'Normal performance technique, 'Tremolo' and 'Fluttertonguing'.
As the music moves forward, several relatively long solos gradually appear. The first half includes solos for flute, clarinet and bassoon, while the second half features solos for horn and trumpet. The handling of brass instruments in a solo capacity is a feature of Takemitsu's work during the 1990s. The variations in tone colour employing various unusual playing techniques as featured in this work are qualitatively different from those which appeared in Takemitsu's work from the 1960s, where they are the product of uncompromising avantguardism. Tonal variation is used here to create an expansive and lush texture within which we can relish the dialogues taking place between the individual instruments.
CORONA II FOR STRINGS (1962)
During the 1950s and early 1960s Takemitsu wrote several works employing graphic notation. This development seems unusual in that it was at about the same time that he composed rigorously notated works such as Masque I/II (1959) for two flutes and the three works in the series Le Son-Calligraphie (1958-60) for four violins, two violas and two cellos in which the subtlest differentiations are made in pitch, rhythm and dynamics. But these works clearly formed part of a continuum within Takemitsu's own mind.
In Corona II for strings the players select pitches at will and then, without changing these pitches, they add tonal variation by changing performance techniques in accordance with changes of coloration indicated on coloured plastic sheets. This method is reminiscent of the method employed in Vocalism A.I. (1956), in which the word 'AI' remains constant while being submitted to changes in pitch, rhythm, tone colour and dynamics. It also brings to mind an aural focusing on the complexity of single sounds produced by some Japanese traditional musical instruments. The ensemble which emerges between players concentrating on the interior aspect of individual sounds is one of tension and vitality. The principle underlying all of Takemitsu's works for ensembles and orchestra is thus evident here too.