The Colburn Orchestra Play Takemitsu - 'From me flows what you call Time'

For the full performance, which includes Takemitsu & Mahler, click here.

Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)
"From me flows what you call Time" (1990)

Gerard Schwarz

Today regarded as perhaps the most-renowned Japanese composer of our time, Torů Takemitsu began his musical career in opposition to the musical heritage of his home country. Conscripted into the military in 1944 during World War II, a young Takemitsu quickly became embittered toward the nationalist government of Japan. When the war ended with the United States occupation of his country, the injured Takemitsu convalesced in an American-run hospital. He dedicated many of his bedridden hours to listening to Western music which had been banned in Japan during the war. With only the music he had heard during this recovery period as a foundation, Takemitsu set about his first serious compositions at the age of 16 and began to delve into the avant-garde musical scene. During a visit to Japan in the 1950s, Igor Stravinsky was serendipitously introduced to Takemitsu's music when the wrong side of a record of Japanese compositions was played for him at a meeting. Having caught Stravinsky's interest, Takemitsu quickly rose to international attention, completing commissions for concert and film music for organizations around the world. As Takemitsu's career advanced, he gradually became interested in the music of the East, and of his homeland in particular,
resulting in compositions that showcase a unique blend of Eastern and Western idioms.

From me flows what you call Time is a prime example of Takemitsu's mastery of composition in both of these idioms, separately and blended. The piece was commissioned by Carnegie Hall in honor of its centenary and was premiered by Nexus percussion ensemble and the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa in 1990. The title of the piece is taken from the poem "Clear Blue Water" by Japanese poet Makoto Ooka and is meant to evoke the 100 years of time that had"flowed" through Carnegie Hall at the time of the work's premiere.

Takemitsu composed the piece as a musical and theatrical representation of the concept of the "Wind Horse," a Tibetan pre-Buddhist symbol that represents a combination of both horse and wind, a being strong enough and fast enough to carry prayers
directly to the heavens. The Wind Horse is commonly used in the visual program of Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags. Such flags are mirrored visually in performance of From me flows what you call Time by the composer's directions to use five differently colored
ribbons that reach from the performers to the ceiling of the hall. Chimes attached to these ribbons are intoned sporadically throughout the piece, representing the transmission of man's prayers to the deities. Takemitsu further imbues the piece with a
sense of theatricality, giving precise directions to the soloists with regards to dress, manner and staging. The very particular and scripted way in which the piece is performed lends to it an air of ritual; this feeling of spirituality is reinforced by the collection of rare percussion instruments, which, used together, create an
otherworldly soundscape.

The composer has divided this one-movement work into nine sections, each one given an evocative title to represent a point in the journey through time. The piece begins with a plaintive statement of the main motive by a solo flute, A Breath of Air. This "breath" acts as a call to the soloists to enter the stage as the next section, Premonition, is presented in the cellos and basses. The progression of the piece carries the audience through the flow of time in the remaining sections -- Plateau, Curved Horizon, The Wind Blows, Mirage, The Promised Land, and Life's Joys and Sorrows-- before ending with a simple Prayer, signifying the end of the ritual.

Written by Colburn Conservatory student Briana Lehman, a bassoonist in the Artist Diploma program.

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