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Abstract: This thesis serves as an analysis of Toru Takemitsus Equinox. This piece is one of a group of compositions for solo classical guitar that was written by a composer who was well established outside the world of classical guitar during the Twentieth Century, an idea that has led to an expansion of the instruments repertoire. Equinox in particular manages to sound cohesive even with untraditional uses of harmony and form. The purpose of this project is to determine why this is using analysis of pitch-content, contour, and form.
Key Words: Takemtisu, Equinox, guitar
THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE OF MUSIC
A LOOK AT FORM AND PITCH CONTENT IN TORU TAKEMITSUS EQUINOX
A Thesis submitted to theDepartment of Music
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Honors in the Major
The members of the Committee approve the thesis of David Settle defended on April 1, 2008.
______________________________Evan JonesThesis Director
______________________________Bruce HolzmanOutside Committee Member
______________________________Clifton CallenderCommittee Member
Table of Contents
II. Themes and Form.....................9-19
III. Pitch Content...........................20-25
IV. Technical Aspects....................26-27
Twentieth-century music supplies an ample amount of challenges for analysis, such as
defining form and tracing motives throughout pieces. It is also very diverse with many different
styles and influences appearing and, in some cases, melding together. One important example of
this is the influence of Eastern musical styles on Western music and vice versa. Toru Takemitsu
is an extremely significant figure in this regard. His use of solo traditional Japanese instruments,
the shakuhachi and the biwa, with a Western orchestra in November Steps (1967) garnered him
much acclaim.1 Takemitsu manages to strike a balance between these instruments sounding like
novelties and having them play in a Western style to blend in with the orchestra. He manages to
create a juxtaposition between the Western and Eastern elements he utilizes.
Takemitsu understood the compositional differences, especially with regards to temporal
issues, between the two cultures, as exemplified in his article My perception of time in
traditional Japanese Music:
Looking at European buildings I am always struck by a physicality that asserts itself on a
dimension that overcomes the flow of time. This is not only because they are large in comparison
with Japanese buildings nor because they are usually constructed from stone, a material of great
strength that is not easily worn away. It results rather from a difference between everyday life as
a whole and its concepts, and is something that reveals itself most directly in architecture. In
contrast to Western architecture, which occupies space in resistance to nature, Japanese
architecture possesses a tendency to share space in common with nature.
1 For more information on Takemitsus use of traditional Japanese instruments with Western musical ideas, see: Yoko Narazaki with Masakata Kanazawa, Takemitsu, Toru, in Grove Music Online, edited by Laura Macy. http://www.grovemusic.com (accessed September 18, 2007). Toru Takemitsu, One Sound, Contemporary Music Review 8/2 (1994): 3-4. Yayoi Uno Everett, Reflecting on two cultural mirrors: mode and signification of musical synthesis in Toru Takemitsus November Steps and Autumn, in A Way A Lone: Writings on Toru Takemitsu, ed. Hugh de Ferranti and Yoko Narazaki (Tokyo: Academia Music Ltd., 2002): 125-154.
The stone walls of Europe do not possess the lightness of wooden structures, and time
seems to settle heavily on them. When one compares this with Japanese architecture, which
changes its form (or space) in accordance with the shifts in the seasons, one is struck by the solid
way in which the stone houses of Europe assert their existence. It is just as if time accumulates in
a linear fashion from the points of these seemingly unbreakable buildings towards the depths of
This analogy of European and Japanese architecture, and especially their reactions to the shifts in
the seasons, can be observed in Equinox, written for classical guitar in 1993. Much like the
Japanese architecture he references, different melodic ideas seem to change their form slightly as
the piece develops. This creates the effect of hearing one motive subtly changing (like a
Japanese structure) rather than a single motive repeated with no change (like the stone walls of
Europe over time).
As stated, Takemitsu was an important figure for twentieth-century music due to his
blending of Eastern and Western musical styles. Ironically, he began his career eschewing
traditional Japanese ideas in his music. He was exposed to Western art music while working at
an American military base in Japan after World War II and decided shortly after that he wanted to
compose. He started to gain popularity with Requiem (1957), which Igor Stravinsky called a
masterpiece upon hearing. During this early period, he tried to avoid Japanese qualities in his
music. It was not until he met John Cage in 1964 that he started to appreciate traditional
Japanese musical styles.3
2 Toru Takemitsu, My Perception of Time in Traditional Japanese Music, Contemporary Music Review 1/2 (January 1984): 10-11.
3 Yoko Narazaki with Masakata Kanazawa, Takemitsu, Toru, in Grove Music Online, edited by Laura Macy. http://www.grovemusic.com (accessed September 18, 2007).
Takemitsus musical style went through many shifts throughout his career. His earlier
pieces are written using techniques that were popular at the time among contemporary
composers, such as twelve-tone and aleatoric compositions. The pieces that were composed in
the next period of his career started to show more of his own voice with the use of traditional
Japanese instruments and aesthetics. The later period of his career consisted of pieces that
tended to have more tonal characteristics than the previous periods. Throughout his career,
Takemitsu has a few characteristics that help define his style. This includes precise control of
timbre, interesting instrumental effects, and themes that run through his repertoire such as water,
gardens, and space.4
Unlike most well-known Twentieth-century composers, Takemitsu wrote many pieces
involving classical guitar and, in fact, played the instrument at an amateur level. According to
Julian Bream, With all his supreme mastery of orchestration, it came as a delightful surprise
when one day he said to me that of all the instruments that he writes for, the guitar was the one
he loved the most.5 This is evident in the number of pieces involving the instrument, including
solo, concerto, and small chamber pieces, as well as orchestral pieces with guitar (See Example
1.1 for a list of these pieces).
Among these compositions, four major solo pieces stand out. Folios (1974) was
commissioned by the Japanese guitarist Kiyoshi Shomura. It is in three movements that can be
performed separately. After composing this as well as two important chamber pieces for guitar,
Toward the Sea (1981) and Vers, larc-en-ciel, Palma (1984), he
4 For a much more in-depth look at Takemitsus different periods, see: Peter Burt, The Music of Toru Takemitsu (New York: Cambridge University, 2001).
5 Julian Bream, Toru Takemitsu: An Appreciation, Guitar Review 105 (Spring 1996): 2-3.
Pieces (In English) Date InstrumentationThe Story of Panapes Unexpected Victory 1958 Tenor, baritone, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, guitar, percussionRing 1961 Flute, terz guitar, luteBad Boy 1961 Two guitarsValeria 1965 Two piccolos, violin, cello, guitar, electric organStanza I 1969 Female voice, guitar, piano and celesta, harp, vibraphoneCrossing 1971 Piano, celesta, vibraphone, guitar, harp, female chorus, two orchestrasFolios 1974 Solo guitar12 Songs for Guitar 1977 Solo guitarToward the Sea 1981 Alto flute, guitarTo the Edge of Dream 1983 Guitar, orchestraVers, larc-en-ciel, Palma 1984 Guitar, oboe damore, orchestraAll in Twilight 1987 Solo guitarA Piece for Guitar 1991 Solo guitarEquinox 1994 Solo guitarIn the Woods 1995 Solo guitarSpectral Canticle 1995 Violin, guitar, orchestraAlone on the Pacific 1996 Soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, harp, piano, electric organ, guitar, harmonium, ukulele, orchestraDodeska Den 1996 Harp, celesta, recorder, guitar, harmonium, orchestraEx. 1.1) List of works written by Takemitsu involving the guitar6
composed All In Twilight for the guitarist John Williams, a short piece written in four
movements. Then, in 1994, Takemitsu composed Equinox, written for the 25th anniversary of
Kiyoshi Shomuras debut. This was followed by his last piece for solo guitar, and one of his last
pieces in general. In the Woods, a collection of three short pieces, was composed in 1995 and
dedicated to John Williams (the first piece, Wainscot Pond), Kiyoshi Shomura (the second