Requiemfor strings (弦楽のためのレクイエム) was Toru Takemitsu’s (武満徹1930 – 1996) early composition in 1957. It remained unknown to the world until 1958, when Igor Stravinsky visited Japan and heard Takemitsu’s composition. The music had been mistakenly selected by staff of the Japanese national broadcast station NHK as work of the Russian composer, but Stravinsky insisted on hearing it to the end and expressed admiration for the work. In a later press conference, he praised its “sincerity” and “passionate” writing. Stravinsky subsequently invited the Japanese composer to lunch; Takemitsu later described it as an “unforgettable” experience.
Composed as a tribute to his mentor, composer Fumio Hayasaka (早坂文雄 1914 – 1955), Requiem for strings shows the composer’s avant-garde style of composition which absorbs elements of various forms of music (namely Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern’s Second Viennese School); with great resemblance to Western classical music. Requiem also shows a highly ‘non-Japanese’ commotion that audiences may find difficult to relate to anything Japanese.
I. Slowly, sadly and as if to converse with II. Quietly and with a cruel reverberation III. Song of love
Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) was an internationally acclaimed Japanese avant-garde and film composer. He was mostly self-taught and began composing when he was 16. Debussy and Messiaen were paramount influences, although he also experimented with electronic music and indeterminacy. His big break occurred when Stravinsky heard his Requiem (1957) and praised it as a masterpiece. Takemitsu also took an interest in Cage’s music and theories. It was through Cage that Takemitsu developed an appreciation for his own Japanese heritage and began using traditional Japanese music in his own compositions. Takemitsu’s style fluctuated constantly, but he remained a definite avant-gardist whose piano music shows kinship with the mysticism of Obukhov, Rudhyar, and Messiaen.
The American composer John Cage had a seminal influence on the American avant garde and on music throughout the world. His interests in Zen Buddhism, the I Ching and in Hinduism were reflected in his innovative and experimental music in which he extended the musical vocabulary to include elements of noise and chance. "Sonatas and Interludes", written between 1946 and 1948, is a set of pieces for prepared piano, an instrument into which objects have been inserted - screws, bolts, plastic and rubber, to give various percussive effects. The work reflects Cages approach to the use of unusual sounds and his interest in Hinduism, with its distinction between ‘white’ and ‘black’ emotions, set around central tranquility.