Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu (1930-1996) came of age in the period after World War II. His first exposure to Western music was from listening to radio broadcasts on the US military station. Almost at once he decided to become a composer. Debussy and Messiaen were early influences and, along with many composers in the 1950s, he became interested in electronic music. His gaze was fixed firmly on the West for the first two decades of his compositional career until, in the early-to-mid 1960s, he started to incorporate Japanese influences in his music, notably Japanese instruments such as the biwa (a Japanese lute) and shakuhachi (a Japanese flute). These two instruments are featured in his orchestral work November Steps, which was commissioned in 1967 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1985 he wrote the music for the film Ran, by renowned Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. By this time Takemitsu was in demand as a guest lecturer in prestigious universities throughout the world. In 1985 he was admitted to the American Institute of Arts and Letters and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Takemitsu is without question Japan’s leading 20th-century composer in the Western tradition.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra