Soundtrack Mix #27: Storytelling Rhythm: Tôru Takemitsu

A celebration of the film music of one of the 20th century's most important composers.
Florence Scott-Anderton

In this hour-long mix devoted to musician Tôru Takemitsu’s soundtrack oeuvre, the Japanese master’s varied body of scoring sounds and collaborations is in full effect, offering a spectrum of different emotions and genres.

Takemitsu was a pivotal figure in modern classical music and much of his work continues to influence the contemporary canon today. Early in his career the composer was exposed to Western sounds while working a job for the US Armed Forces, and many of his groundbreaking compositions synthesized Western and Eastern sensibilities. Membership in the avant-garde Jikken Kōbō (an experimental music workshop formed in Japan’s postwar 1950s) led to an interest in and passion for the work of John Cage and concepts such as musique concrète, which can be heard throughout Takemitsu’s singular sound. Additionally, images of Japanese gardens, water, and the poems of Emily Dickinson inspired the tonalities of Takemitsu’s sound, and Debussy was a figure that delighted the composer throughout his career. He also wrote extensively on music and aesthetic theory. 

Takemitsu’s position as one of the 20th century's greatest composers is spread across many recordings, collaborations, writings, and over 90 film scores. In the 1994 TV documentary Music for the Movies: Tôru Takemitsu, the composer can be seen having a conversation with director Masahiro Shinoda on the poetics of sound in film. Shinoda remarks that, “making a movie is like having a dream…and at the same time, experiencing reality more fully,” to which Takemitsu responds, “it’s wonderful how, through the rhythm of sound and images, we are drawn gradually into the world of the story.” Often subtle and abstract, the slightest sound can reflect the emotional motion inside of a film—Takemitsu understood this well. 

In the documentary, Takemitsu talks of an “erotic element to film, films are full of life.” Rather than adding new personalities to the work, Takemitsu would take what was already there within the characters and emotions and build on their worlds. The film world of Takemitsu can be assessed as a further avenue to discover the composer’s work. It firmly stays in the world of cinema but with the emotion, space and temporality found uniquely in the composer’s work.

  1. Extract, Harakiri (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962) 00:00
  2. Extract, Glowing Autumn (Masaki Kobayashi, 1979) 01:30
  3. “Tension in Yahatabara / Assault,” Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985) 04:30
  4. Extract, Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985) (edit) 05:50
  5. “Taiko Drum Opening,” Rising Sun (Philip Kaufman, 1993) 08:20
  6. “Board Meeting,” Rising Sun (Philip Kaufman, 1993) 09:00
  7. Extract, Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964) (edit) 10:00
  8. Extract, Harakiri (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962) 11:45
  9. Extract, Silence (Masahiro Shinoda, 1971) (edit) 13:52
  10. Extract, Harakiri (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962) (edit) 23:00
  11. Extract, Rikyu (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1989) 25:00
  12. Extract, Summer Soldiers (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1972) 37:00
  13. Extract, Harakiri (Masaki Kobayashi, 1962) 40:30
  14. “Eddie Revealed on Disc,” Rising Sun (Philip Kaufman, 1993) 42:00
  15. “Checking Out the Apartment,” Rising Sun (Philip Kaufman, 1993) 43:00
  16. Extract, Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985) 44:30
  17. Extract, Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985) 48:00
  18. Extract, Ballad Of Orin (Masahiro Shinoda, 1977) 50:30
  19. “Kaseki No Mori,” The Petrified Forest (Masahiro Shinoda, 1973) 56:10

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SoundtracksSoundtrack MixesAudioToru TakemitsuMasaki KobayashiAkira KurosawaPhilip KaufmanHiroshi TeshigaharaMasahiro Shinoda
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