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Thread: Akira Ifukube

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Default Akira Ifukube

    Is anyone else out there familiar with the music of Japan's Akira Ifukube?

    Ifukube was born in 1914 on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. During his youth, he was exposed to Japanese folk song and the music of the Ainu, northern Japan's indigenous people.

    He began composing in the early 1930s and his first orchestral work, Japanese Rhapsody won the Tcherepnin Prize in Paris.

    During WWII, he composed several large scale orchestral works with a distinctive nationalist tinge.

    After the war, he moved to Tokyo to become a film composer. He scored many famous Japanese films, but no doubt, his most famous film score was Godzilla from 1954.

    He continued to compose up until his death in February 2006. He was for a long while the president of the Tokyo College of Music. He also wrote a 1,000 page book on orchestration.

    Ifukube wrote in a very colorful and accessible post-Romantic/post-Nationalist style and he is usually mentioned with Takemitsu as the two greatest Japanese composers. Interestingly, the two composers tended to be critical of each other's style.

    Does anyone else know of Ifukube?
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Well, let's try to get this thread going once again!

    Ifukube was known for his famous film scores, and perhaps his most famous is the one from Gojira (Godzilla) in 1954. Unlike many monster/sci fi films of the day, the original Gojira is a very dark and serious film, and Ifukube's music matches the mood of the film very well.

    In the original film, Godzilla is an analogy for the powers and horrors of atomic weapons. Made 9 years after the end of WWII, Ifukube treats the subject matter very seriously, I think.

    Ifukube's music for this movie is dark and brooding. His trademark use of ostinato is very noticable, creating, I think, a primitive, hypnotic effect.

    After doing a YouTube search, I found some extracts from the score and I present them here:

    Godzilla's Attack on Tokyo:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-Xhl...eature=related

    Godzilla on the Ocean Floor:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TDb...F5C40&index=11

    End Music:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPYX7...eature=related

    Godzilla's Roar and foot falls:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H6ek98I4Tk

    Yes, these effects were also created by the composer. The roars were created when the composer took a resin coated lether gloved and ran it across the loosed string of a double base. He then slowed the playback speed of the tape and we have the monster's famous cry. The foot falls were done by striking an amplifier box wood a knotted length of rope.

    Keep in mind this was recorded in Japan in 1954, and even the best surving tapes are lo-fi at best. The sound is muddy and gritty, so bear with it.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    Well, let's try to get this thread going once again!

    Ifukube was known for his famous film scores, and perhaps his most famous is the one from Gojira (Godzilla) in 1954. Unlike many monster/sci fi films of the day, the original Gojira is a very dark and serious film, and Ifukube's music matches the mood of the film very well.

    In the original film, Godzilla is an analogy for the powers and horrors of atomic weapons. Made 9 years after the end of WWII, Ifukube treats the subject matter very seriously, I think.

    Ifukube's music for this movie is dark and brooding. His trademark use of ostinato is very noticable, creating, I think, a primitive, hypnotic effect.

    After doing a YouTube search, I found some extracts from the score and I present them here:

    Godzilla's Attack on Tokyo:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-Xhl...eature=related

    Godzilla on the Ocean Floor:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8TDb...F5C40&index=11

    End Music:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPYX7...eature=related

    Godzilla's Roar and foot falls:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H6ek98I4Tk

    Yes, these effects were also created by the composer. The roars were created when the composer took a resin coated lether gloved and ran it across the loosed string of a double base. He then slowed the playback speed of the tape and we have the monster's famous cry. The foot falls were done by striking an amplifier box wood a knotted length of rope.

    Keep in mind this was recorded in Japan in 1954, and even the best surving tapes are lo-fi at best. The sound is muddy and gritty, so bear with it.

    Ifukube is as obscure as Langgaard is I'm afraid. There just aren't that many good recordings that really push his music out there. Langgaard, on the hand, has been given a nice recent treatment, thanks to Thomas Dausgaard on Dacapo.

    It seems that many people just don't want to explore these obscure composers for some reason. I wish I knew why, but I don't.

    Having that said, I think he's a very good composer who deserves major label treatment like many other composers do.

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    Well, all things in due course I guess, MI!
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    Well, all things in due course I guess, MI!
    I mean do you realize it's been over 50 years since Langgaard's death and all we have is one box set of his music available, which has only become available this year? I mean that's ridiculous I think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mirror Image View Post
    I mean do you realize it's been over 50 years since Langgaard's death and all we have is one box set of his music available, which has only become available this year? I mean that's ridiculous I think.
    Well, I think composers like Langgaard (and in my opinion) Ifukube prove that there are MANY "untapped" composers out there. And although disc of their music may not be many, or readily available until recently, at least we have something.

    Ifukube has been recorded widely in Japan over the years, thankfully, so I'm afraid he has received more attention than Langgaard in the recording dept., but the great bulk of these recordings are hard to get outside of Japan, so it is still not ideal for presenting his sound to a world audience.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Cool! Thanks for sharing. I like the Godzilla music. Man, that trombone player sounds like he needs an inhaler!

    At any rate, I found this - nice and clean recording of Ifukube. Not bad.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_fsr...eature=related

    He is in a different world than Takemitsu - certainly aesthetically that is.

    About obscure music not getting played.

    It simply doesn't sell. Musicans want to do it, but they will loose money if they do. It is my sincere hope to encourage all lovers of classical music to open their minds, and hopefully their hearts to the unfamiliar. That way the programming floodgates can be opened, and people can be exposed to all kinds of interesting and beautiful music.

    The alternative is the same over and over.

    FYI: I met Langgaard's publisher(http://www.samfundet.dk/), and (if memory serves me correctly) much of his revival is due to the fact that his scores have been recently uncovered - they were lost! They are now published with immaculate typesetting (I have quite a few of them, and they appear error free), and available for orchestras to rent at quite reasonable rates. If I am not mistaken, this Danish publishing company had much to do with the recent recording Dacapo series.

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Scott Good: That is another YouTube clip of the 2nd movement of his "Symphony Concertante for Piano and Orchestra." It's one of my favorite piano concerti of any composer, and certainly one of my favorite Ifukube works.

    There's a lot of Ifukube on YouTube, actually...

    Interesting about Langgaard. I'm sure finding these "lost" scores is like finding a buried treasure. Remarkable.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Good View Post
    Cool! Thanks for sharing. I like the Godzilla music. Man, that trombone player sounds like he needs an inhaler!

    At any rate, I found this - nice and clean recording of Ifukube. Not bad.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_fsr...eature=related

    He is in a different world than Takemitsu - certainly aesthetically that is.

    About obscure music not getting played.

    It simply doesn't sell. Musicans want to do it, but they will loose money if they do. It is my sincere hope to encourage all lovers of classical music to open their minds, and hopefully their hearts to the unfamiliar. That way the programming floodgates can be opened, and people can be exposed to all kinds of interesting and beautiful music.

    The alternative is the same over and over.

    FYI: I met Langgaard's publisher(http://www.samfundet.dk/), and (if memory serves me correctly) much of his revival is due to the fact that his scores have been recently uncovered - they were lost! They are now published with immaculate typesetting (I have quite a few of them, and they appear error free), and available for orchestras to rent at quite reasonable rates. If I am not mistaken, this Danish publishing company had much to do with the recent recording Dacapo series.

    I just bought a Hyperion box set of Sir Granville Bantock. Here's yet another composer who has never received his due, but thankfully Vernon Handley has recorded a considerable amount of his music.

    That's very interesting about Langgaard. I think I read about this on some website, but thanks for that link. Very interesting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post

    ...these effects were also created by the composer. The roars were created when the composer took a resin coated lether gloved and ran it across the loosed string of a double base. He then slowed the playback speed of the tape and we have the monster's famous cry. The foot falls were done by striking an amplifier box wood a knotted length of rope.
    These type of sound effects were pioneered by composers like Edgard Varese, especially in the seminal Ameriques, composed in the 1920's. It includes a simulation of a lion's roar by similarly dragging a resin coated leather pouch up a tightly stretched string attached to a drum which the string pierces. He would go on to employ taped sounds later in the '50s's, like Ifukube. I wonder if Ifukube had known this when he was composing Godzilla?

    I have the naxos cd of Ifukube's music, and I especially like Ritmica Ostinata, because it is not only influenced by composers like Carl Orff, but seems to point the way towards minimalism which came later. For me, that's the standout piece on the cd, I'm not that impressed by his Sinfonia Tapkaara, which seems to me a re-hash of modernist pieces like Prokofiev's Scythian Suite (Alla & Lolly). Then again, I might be wrong, might have to give it another listen(?)...

    (Unfortunately I don't have facilities (eg. sound) on this computer to be able to listen to the links posted above.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    These type of sound effects were pioneered by composers like Edgard Varese, especially in the seminal Ameriques, composed in the 1920's. It includes a simulation of a lion's roar by similarly dragging a resin coated leather pouch up a tightly stretched string attached to a drum which the string pierces. He would go on to employ taped sounds later in the '50s's, like Ifukube. I wonder if Ifukube had known this when he was composing Godzilla?

    I have the naxos cd of Ifukube's music, and I especially like Ritmica Ostinata, because it is not only influenced by composers like Carl Orff, but seems to point the way towards minimalism which came later. For me, that's the standout piece on the cd, I'm not that impressed by his Sinfonia Tapkaara, which seems to me a re-hash of modernist pieces like Prokofiev's Scythian Suite (Alla & Lolly). Then again, I might be wrong, might have to give it another listen(?)...

    (Unfortunately I don't have facilities (eg. sound) on this computer to be able to listen to the links posted above.)
    It's possible Ifukube knew of Varese. When he was growing up, he and his musician friends were obsessed with the newest musical trends of the day (this would have been the early 1930s). Ifukube liked French music (Satie, Ravel, etc.) so Varese was probably lumped in there somewhere. At any rate, the technique Varese used sounds very similar to Ifukube's to create Godzilla's roar.

    Ritmica Ostinata certainly does "predict" the minimalist movement. And why not? Ifukube loved ostinato ( atechnique he learned from the Ainu) and it appears in pretty much everything he ever wrote. Unfortunately, Andre, THAT recording of Ritmica you have is, I think, the weakest on record. If you ever hear it on a Japanese import CD, you'll hear how much more energy other recordings have.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    I think Ifukube is one of those composers who seemed to absorb so many different influences but in the outset, found his own voice. One can hear so many modernist influences in his music, and as we discussed, it pointed the way forward to things like minimalism.

    It's always fascinating to surmise who actually influenced whom. Like just as we don't know if Ifukube had actually heard of what Varese had been doing, we're not sure if Varese himself knew of works by Mahler that seemed to presage Ameriques.

    As for the performance on Naxos of Ritmica Ostinata, I agree that it might not be the most outgoing & idiomatic, but I think that the quality of the work is such that it shines through the rather average performance. I actually listened to the whole cd last night, and found that there are great moments in Sinfonia Tapkaara as well. I find the whole cd quite listenable and rewarding. Pity there's not more widely available, at this price, of this composer...

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Andre, I am heartened to know you enjoyed the Ifukube CD. Ifukube is very special to me (as if you haven't figured that out yet!), so it's almost like a personal compliment to read your remarks.

    Ifukube's "sound" is hard to peg. There are elements of old-fashioned Russian music of "The Five," but at the same time, the music does sound modern, and there are even hints of minimalism. At any rate, I think he is one of those composers who truly has his own sound-world, and when you hear him, you know it can be no other composer.

    The Naxos CD is a good intro, but it only scratches the surface. But you said the whole CD is listenable and rewarding...and I think that is a true compliment. His style is so out-going and inviting. I'm glad you agree.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    I'm still waiting on my Ifukube CD orders (I have them delivered to the UK but only go back there once a month, or less) but I plan to let you know what I think when I hear it properly!

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    All things in good time, Jezbo. I for one will look forward to your insights once you've heard the disc.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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