Toru Takemitsu

October 08, 1930 – February 20, 1996

Modern Period

Born in Japan

Toru Takemitsu knew he wanted to be a composer by the age of 16. During the post-war 1940’s, he discovered Western music through radio broadcasts by the American occupying forces—not only jazz, but also classical music by Debussy, Copland, Schoenberg and more. “The radio was my teacher,” he liked to say, and in later years, he returned the favor by becoming an inspiring teacher to many others. He composed several hundred independent works of music, scored more than ninety films, and published twenty books. He was also a founding member of the Jikken Kobo (experimental workshop) in Japan, a group of avant-garde artists who together had a huge impact on 20th century music. You’ve heard of fusion cuisine? Takemitsu composed like a master chef, honoring the different flavors of Japanese and Western ingredients while combining them in surprising ways. A writer for The Guardian described Takemitsu’s music as having “paradoxical qualities: it seemed to be in a permanent state of ethereal evanescence, shimmering and suggesting rather than stating directly, and yet its impact was absolute, definite and unforgettable… It sounds like music that should be at the heart of orchestral programs and listeners’ imaginations everywhere.”