The Film Music of Toru Takemitsu

COMPOSERS: Toru Takemitsu
LABELS: Nonesuch
PERFORMER: London Sinfonietta/John Adams
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79404-2


‘In film,’ said Toru Takemitsu, ‘I can feel people’s inner lives. As I watch the images on the screen, even without knowing the language, I feel I can understand – it’s a musical way of understanding.’ Takemitsu, who died in 1996, took pleasure in ‘hearing’ the music he was going to compose before any dialogue was applied to the rushes: in his film-scores he deployed reality-based sounds as readily as conventionally-notated music. And we can hear this brilliantly exemplified in the final track of The Film Music of Toru Takemitsu.

The track in question belongs to Teshigahara’s Woman of the Dunes in which civilisation (male and weak) falls prey to instinct (female and terrifyingly strong) in an ingeniously symbolic plot. Sex is the theme, sand the pervasive element, and the sound of sand – cascading, smothering, crunching underfoot – becomes the musical leitmotif.


This remarkable disc reflects the full range of Takemitsu’s work in which he frequently exploited the effects which can be obtained when pitched and unpitched instruments – occidental and oriental – are jammed together. He loved the sound of silence, but purity only interested him when combined with something coarse. It’s significant that three of these scores should be performed by the London Sinfonietta conducted by John Adams: this is a posthumous bandwagon just beginning to roll.