Sunday, November 27, 2005

Tree Line

Tree Line is one of many landscape-inspired compositions by Tōru Takemitsu (1930-1996). It was written in 1988 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the London Sinfonietta, as explained at Fraser Trainer’s Tree Line Guide site. The music was inspired by the line of acacia trees growing near Takemitsu’s workshop. There are teaching resources on Tree Line here which are quite helpful in understanding his modes and chords. The site also has a biography and brief extracts from Takemitsu’s An Autumn Garden and Rain Coming here. There is also a list of some other titles used by Takemitsu for his compositions, from which the following gives an idea of his concern for landscape:

Spirit Garden
Rain Tree
Wind Horse
Towards the Sea
In the Woods
How Slow the Wind
A flock descends into the Pentagonal Garden
Rain Spell
Water Ways
Orion and Pleiades

Postscript April 2014

Looking back on this, one of my early short posts, I see that web links can be as transient as autumn leaves, and without them this looks rather bare of content.  In 2005 it was not possible to embed video links, something I do a lot now, although these often disappear after a while too.  I cannot find a clip of Tree Line so I've included here instead a performance of Rain Tree, one of the Takemitsu titles in my list above.  And, on the subject of titles, here's what Takemitsu said about them in his essay 'November Steps': 'a title should be precise but not limiting, strongly evocative, but still leaving some room for imagination.'  This essay discusses November Steps, Takemitsu's first composition to combine Japanese instruments with a Western orchestra.  'For me the sound of biwa and shakuhachi was to spread through the orchestra gradually enlarging, like waves of water.'  He therefore decided to call the piece Water Rings, but was told by his friend Jasper Johns that in the USA this would evoke unfortunate images of dirty bath water.  So he changed the title, but felt no disappointment on learning that what sounded like a beautiful metaphysical idea in Japanese would, in another context, refer to something from ordinary day-to-day life.

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