Film Music by Toru Takemitsu
(7CD Box Set)
Films directed by Masaki Kobayashi
01. Kaidan [Ghost Stories, 1964]
02. Seppuku [Commit Ritual Suicide,1962]
03. Moeru Aki [Glowing Autumn, 1979]
04. Karami-Ai [The Inheritance,1962]
05. Nihon No Seishun [Hymn to a Tired Man, 1968]
06. Kaseki [The Fossil, 1975]
Films directed by Masahiro Shinoda
01. Kaseki No Mori [The Petrified Forest, 1973]
02. Chinmoku [Silence, 1971]
03. Utsukushisa To Kanashimi To [With Beauty and Sorrow, 1965]
04. Ansatsu [The Assassination, 1964]
05. Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke [Samurai Spy, 1965]
06. Hanare Goze Orin [The Ballad of Orin, 1977]
07. Akanegumo [Clouds at Sunset, 1967]
Films directed by Nagisa Oshima
01. Ai No Borei [In the Realm of Passion or The Ghost of Love, 1978]
02. Tokyo Senso Sengo Hiwa [A Secret Post-Tokyo War Story, 1970]
03. Natsu No Imoto [Dear Summer Sister, 1972]
04. Gishiki [The Ceremony, 1971]
Films directed by Susumu Hani
05. Furyo Shonen [Bad Boys, 1961]
06. Mitasareta Seikatsu [A Full Life, 1962]
Films directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
01. Tanin No Kao [Stranger's Face, 1966]
02. Sama Soruja [Summer Soldiers, 1972]
03. Otoshiana [The Pitfall, 1962]
04. Shiroi Asa [The White Dawn, 1964]
05. Suna No Onna [Woman in the Dunes, 1964]
06. Jose Torres [Jose Torres, 1959]
07. Moetsukita Chizu [Ruined Map, 1968]
08. Rikyu [Rikyu, 1989]
Film directed by Akira Kurosawa
01. Dodes’ka-Den [Dodes'ka-Den, 1970]
Film directed by Toichiro Narushima
02. Seigen-Ki [Time within Memory, 1973]
Film directed by Shiro Toyota
03. Yotsuya Kaidan [Illusion of Blood, 1966]
Film directed by Mikio Naruse
04. Midaregumo [Bellowing Clouds or Scattered Clouds, 1967]
Film directed by Shohei Imamura
05. Kuroi Ame [Black Rain, 1989]
Film directed by Kon Ichikawa
01. Kyo [Kyo, 1968]
02. Taiheiyo Hitoribocchi [Alone on the Pacific, 1963]
Film directed by Noboru Nakamura
03. Koto [Twin Sisters of Kyoto, 1963]
04. Niju-issai no Chichi [21-year old Father, 1964]
05. Ki No Kawa [The River Kino, 1966]
Film directed by Hideo Onchi
06. Akogare [Longing or Once a Rainy Day, 1966]
07. Nyotai [Female Body or The Call of Flesh, 1964]
08. Subarashii Akujo [A Marvelous Kid or Wonderful Bad Woman, 1963]
09. Shiawase [Happiness, 1974]
Film directed by Eizo Sugawa
01. Kemono-Michi [Beast Alley, 1965]
Film directed by Hiromichi Horikawa
02. Saigono Shinpan [Last Judgement, 1965]
Film directed by Masahisa Sadanaga
03. Sabita Honoo [Incandescent Flame, 1977]
Film directed by Masahiro Shinoda
04. Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita [Under the Blossoming Cherry Tree, 1975]
Film directed by Kei Kumai
05. Interview “Film Music & Me” 01: “Tenpyo no Iraka ” main theme
06. Interview “Film Music & Me” 02: about “Tenpyo no Iraka ”
Film directed by Ko Nakasima
07. Interview “Film Music & Me” 03: sound experiments of the Takemitsu’s debut “Kurutta Kajitsu [Crazed Fruit, 1956]”
08. Interview “Film Music & Me” 04: “Kurutta Kajitsu [Crazed Fruit, 1956]” main theme
Film directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
09. Interview “Film Music & Me” 05: recording scene of “Tanin No Kao [Stranger's Face, 1966]”
10. Interview “Film Music & Me” 06: People around the Japanese Nouvelle Vague
11. Interview “Film Music & Me” 07: traditional music & one-note structure
Film directed by Masaki Kobayashi
12. Interview “Film Music & Me” 08: from “Seppuku [Commit Ritual Suicide,1962]”
13. Interview “Film Music & Me” 09: Directing of film music
14. Interview “Film Music & Me” 10: importance of Mix & responsibility of Composers
Film directed by Masahiro Shinoda
15. Interview “Film Music & Me” 11: episode about recordings of “Kawaita Hana [Pale Flower, 1964]”
16. Interview “Film Music & Me” 12: “Kawaita Hana [Pale Flower, 1964]” 1st scene
17. Interview “Film Music & Me” 13: relationship between Films & my Music Works
Released to the day of the tenth anniversary of the death of composer Toru Takemitsu, this seven disc box set features re-releases of the early 1990's "Film Music by Toru Takemitsu", which themselves were mostly re-releases of LPs issued in 1980 although with a few contemporary films added in like Black Rain. The set contains suites from the films, rather than full tracks, making this hard to recommend to people unless they are stark fans of the "sample" compilations that used to be more common in the heyday of CD releases.
It was always going to be hard to follow up the mammoth, 55 disc Complete Takemitsu Edition set that Shogakukan published in 2003, which captured just about all of the music Takemitsu has done for film... at the cost of your next mortgage payment. Rather than trying to top it, Victor went the opposite approach of just re-releasing older compilations in a box set. While this provides a cheaper alternative for fans to sample his film work, it's also a rather lazy approach and the original suites, even if they were handpicked by Takemitsu, are none too stellar either, focusing a bit too much on films like Kwaidan (1964) and Pitfall (1962) and not enough on gems like Glowing Autumn (1979) and An Ocean to Cross (1980).
The suites themselves aren't what many might associate with the term either, as it's become more in tune with themes that are creatively edited or even composed together. Instead, this is just a collection of themes placed together with a bit of silence between the cues. The set does offer a bonus disc not found in the original JVC releases, with a few additional suites that were originally on the LPs but didn't make it on the 1990's CDs, and an audio interview with the composer... so it does offer something, but most are probably better off saving their pennies for one day getting the Complete Takemitsu Edition, or tracking down volume 5 from this set in its original 1991 release as it's really the sole truly stellar CD from this set.
The first track from the CD contains almost half an hour of music from the super natural film Kwaidan (1964). Given the chapter-like nature of the original film, it's a shame this music wasn't broken up into smaller chunks for better enjoyment so the listener could place which segment of the movie they are hearing. The music plays in chronological order at least, and roughly translates as follows:
- Main Title (00:27)
- Black Hair (00:35-05:54)
- The Woman of the Snow (05:58-12:45)
- Hoichi, the Earless (12:51-23:40)
- In a Cup of Tea (23:44-27:03)
As much of a fan as I am of the 1964 film, it must be said that the soundtrack doesn't translate well to a stand alone experience. The "Main Title" is okay, as are parts of The Woman in the Snow, but Black Hair is mostly a miss sounding more like a collection of sound effects than a soundtrack. The vocal and biwa work in Hoichi, the Earless is also hit and miss, although personally don't find it that appealing making the track as a whole one that, while it enhanced the movie greatly, isn't pleasant to listen to.
Same basic principals apply to the next track, which is based on the Shochiku film Seppuku from 1962. This track also hosts a lot of biwa work, and can be hit and miss. Sadly, the audio quality on this track is also a little lacking, sounding slightly muffled and without clarity. Most of the series has pretty good audio, but this one stands out for sounding distant and in desperate need of some quality remastering.
Thankfully, the disc hits it into high gear with one of Takemitsu's very best with Glowing Autumn (1979). The movie trades in very traditional Japanese instruments for a sweeping orchestra, complete with a great use of violins that makes the track sound both epic and soothing at the same time. Sadly, the track is only a scant three minutes. Luckily, the next track, a big band style theme from Shochiku's The Inheritance, is also an enjoyable little number with lively trumpet work.
The suite for Hymn to a Tired Man (1968) is decent, not standing out too much at first but does have a nice harmonica supported segment toward the end that makes the whole suite worthwhile. Suite for The Fossil (1975) is a nice mixture of classical music, with the inclusion of a rustic guitar to give it a slightly unusual flavor that fits the themes well.
Overall, the last four suites are great... problem is that's only about a third of the total disc runtime and the first two tracks are poor enough that this disc would be one only to recommend to more dedicated Takemitsu fans. Something that is sad to say as Glowing Autumn (1979) is one of the composer's best, and more or less is buried on this disc.
Now, in terms of this disc versus earlier releases, it has the same exact content as the 1990 CD release (VICG-5124), but is notably different from the 1980 LP. The LP had the same music from Kwaidan (1964) and Seppuku, the latter might explain the lacking quality here if it was a straight transfer, while also having a suite from Samurai Rebellion (1967). Very unfortunately, that suite from Samurai Rebellion (1967) has been lost to time, not being re-released on the 1990 CD or found on any of the discs in this 2006 set either.
Now Shinoda was primarily a Shochiku director in his earlier career, and this CD is made up mostly of films for that studio save a collection of three 1970's films that were released by Toho. The disc starts off with one of these later films in the form of The Petrified Forest (1973). The segment for the 1973 film is about 12 minutes long, and starts off with a nice unearthly quality that highlights the sometimes abnormal scoring styles of the famed composer. After this it dives into a more traditional piano cue before getting really strange toward the end of the track, especially as the bat-like noises start to kick in.
The next track is for the religion infused Silence (1971), starting off drawing parallels to parts of Europe with a nice guitar solo while given a slightly odd twist with off key harp notes ever so often. Sadly, the track is a bit too experimental and never quite clicks with the listener, being a fairly unenjoyable listening experience for the most part.
Following this are three 1960's Shochiku films that include With Beauty and Sorrow, The Assassination and Samurai Spy. The first two aren't particularly great, but the suite for Samurai Spy is quite catchy, with a very slight Ennio Morricone-like flavor to it and is enjoyable throughout its almost nine minute duration.
After this is a more than 19 minute segment dedicated to the score for The Ballad of Orin (1977). This is another great score of Takemitsu's career, and it's easy to see why from the get-go with full orchestration combined with a slight twist in the form of an almost owl-like cry before a human cry is heard not long after. It's a nice embodiment of the later career of Takemitsu, when his extermination was toned down a little and fused with some classical orchestration to wonderful effect, with that classic approach reaching its peak years later in the score for Ran (1985), although that score was very much driven to a different drum by the desires of director Akira Kurosawa to get a classical approach that was more in tune with the style of the famous German composer Gustav Mahler.
The disc ends with a track from Clouds at Sunset, another Shochiku picture. The track starts off weak for the first few seconds, before the violin work kicks in and the track becomes a very enjoyable piece that sounds fairly different from a lot of Takemitsu's earlier work... in fact it sounds more at home with something done in the late 1970's by the composer instead and is very soothing and a great suite through and through.
Overall, the disc is an improvement over the first in the set in many ways. Not great, but has a good balance between the music that works really well and a few selections that don't to give it a middle of the road kind of feel.
The CD begins with more than 22 minutes of music from Nagisa Oshima's Empire of Passion (1978), a wise choice to lead as it's also the strongest entry on the disc. The music has a slightly sinister vibe to it, walking the fine line of being haunting but an enjoyable listening experience using flutes and harps to heighten the mode. Even though the movie is not a horror film, the soundtrack would probably rest up their as an optimal entry in the genre had it been, heightening a feeling of tension while being enjoyable when removed from the context of the film. It also has a slight traditional Japanese vibe in some of the flute work, while still going for an unearthly quality to make it a fairly solid embodiment of what made Takemitsu an interesting composer.
Following this is a selection of three ATG films that are also directed by Nagisa Oshima: A Secret Post-Tokyo War Story, Dear Summer Sister and The Ceremony. I don't believe, at the time of writing this, these three movies have anything to do with Toho... but I'm still trying to track down proof, as Toho did release Dear Summer Sister and The Ceremony on VHS in Japan but see no indication that they had originally released the movies in theaters or maintain any standing rights to the films. At any rate, this selection is so-so. A Secret Post-Tokyo War Story starts off with a really nice melody, before diving into dated contemporary electrical guitar based stuff that just doesn't hold up very well. Dear Summer Sister is also dated, being primarily horn based with some synth organ work. The selection ends on a high point, at least, with the slightly creepy suite for The Ceremony. It feels like a nice precursor to the more refined score for Empire of Passion (1978), this time using violin work to heighten the mode and while it's not as good it's still overall an enjoyable experience outside of some over the top instruments out of tune moments.
Concluding the selection are two suites for films directed by Susumu Hani: Bad Boys, a New Toho film, and A Full Life, a Shochiku film. There is about 13 minutes of music here for Bad Boys versus just 1 minute for A Full Life, and while I would like to say it's obvious why one got the lion's share over the other... it's not, and actually both movies have pleasant scores. Bad Boys has a very classical soundtrack with some slight harmonica work to achieve a slight old timey feel to the proceedings that works well. A Full Life is a very majestic composition, brought along wonderfully with violin work and the only complaint that might be had is that it sounds a bit "too safe" for Takemitsu, as there really isn't a flair of experimentation during the short runtime, but I find the track the second highlight on the disc after the first track.
Overall, the disc is buoyed by a very strong start with the Empire of Passion (1978) score and concludes well with an all too short track from A Full Life. The middle contents of the disc are a little disappointing, but there is enough that registers as a pleasant listen to give the CD a so-so feeling as a whole.
Leading off the disc is its star attraction with the lively score for The Face of Another (1966). It's a whimsical track that also has some interesting, German vocal work at the beginning with an accordion to back it up. This portion of the track is called "Waltz" in other CD releases, and seems fitting for the style of music. The next suite, for Summer Soldier (1972), is okay but fairly forgettable with its music box style that doesn't really engage the listener in anyway.
Pitfall (1962) starts the disc's descent into weaker territory with an overly experimental, jumbled mess of a 10 minute track. Any sense of rhythm goes out the door as much of this track sounds more like a practice session rather than an actual score, and is a solid miss. This is followed by the okay piano track for the short White Morning before it dives head long into another misfire for The Woman in the Dunes (1964) that is another overly experimental 10 minute track that features a lot of silence with slight bangs ever so often. As a stand alone experience, the track is fairly abysmal and hard to listen to.
The disc concludes with three tracks unrelated to Toho, with first up being the more classical sounding music for the short documentary Jose Torres. The track is pretty standard and a little forgettable, feeling like an out of place addition to Takemitsu's more unorthodox approach to music. This followed by another experimental track for Daiei's The Ruined Map, one of the rare times Takemitsu would be attached to a Daiei release and also the other gem of this disc. The suite weaves in and out of a rock song, like it's heightening the mode before classical music weaves in and out of its own. As a stand alone, it's certainly a different experience and easily the best suite in the last half of the disc. The CD then wraps up with Shochiku's Rikyu that has a very low key score, to the point it's next to impossible to be engaged by it.
Overall, the soundtrack to The Face of Another (1966) is solid and the odd score for Daiei's The Ruined Map is sometimes an unlikely treat, but everything else on this CD is a miss making this a low point for the seven disc box set.
As is often with most discs in this series, it starts off with its strongest entry with Kurosawa's Dodes'kaden (1970). The suite is a good selection of music from the film that captures the whimsical tone of the movie, while never being over the top and comedic sounding in its interpretation. There is a heavy use of horns, giving it an almost muted big band like feel that is a unique twist as only Toru Takemitsu could envision it. This transitions into another great suite for the movie Time Within Memory (1973). The score for this 1973 film is very soothing, utilizing a lot of harp and violin work, to make it one of the more enjoyable tracks... while Takemitsu keeps his normal routine with some light biwa work to make it his own and just to add a slight hint of the unusual.
Next up to bat is the score for the ghost film Illusion of Blood (1965) which might be the weakest track on the disc, but is still an interesting piece. It does host a lot of traditional Japanese styling, but is surprisingly quite different from the score the composer conducted for Kwaidan (1964) just the year before. The suite does carry with it the normal beats of a horror score, with a lot of undertone work, and uses the flute to build the tension a little, using a trick that for a faint second sounds similar to the themes for Vampire Doll (1970) before Takemitsu brings it back into a more traditional Japanese approach.
The suite for Two in the Shadow (1967) follows this up and is soothing, although not particularly memorable. It is brought to life with a lot of string work, and does pick up at times to sound a bit more foreboding, feeling different from Takemitsu's similar work. The disc then concludes with Toei's Black Rain, which is immediately obvious that its employing a much, much larger orchestra than any of the other cues on this disc, having a lot more depth to the musical workings (plus it's the only one in stereo, which helps too). The suite is a solid one from Takemitsu, with the only complaint to be had is that it depends on string work a bit too much although this is only a six minute preview of the full score.
Overall, the star attraction of the series. By intent or not, this entry is the most enjoyable as a stand alone experience and the one in the set most listeners will be prompted to listen to again and again from the box set.
The sixth disc in the series, and the last re-issue which in this case is of VICG-5129, features the works of three directors who collaborated with Toru Takemitsu, and include Kon Ichikawa, Noboru Nakamura and Hideo Onchi. While not consistenly enjoyable, the disc has a few so-so suites mixed with a few that are more interesting and enjoyable.
Beginning the CD is, for a change, one of the weaker suites from the disc for Kyo, the first of two films from Kon Ichikawa. The track lacks the rhythm to really engage the listener and seems to meander a bit. This gives way to the star attraction of the disc, though, with Nikkatsu's Alone Across the Pacific. This is a very lively track, starting off with violin and harmonic work, before eventually pulling out a guitar for something that sounds, fittingly, like a South Seas adventure.
The middle portion of the disc has three suites for the films of Noboru Nakamura, starting with the awkward one for Twin Sisters of Kyoto that intros with an almost clock-like tune and sadly never really builds to anything satisfactory. 21 Year Old Father is a decent suite, starting off unremarkable but breaking out the string instruments to make it sound fairly sweeping and interesting. The last track is the worst from the disc, featuring a mixture between experimentation that doesn't really click and uncaptivating string work, making this rather long 18 minute suite drag on a little.
The disc wraps with the work of Hideo Onchi, whose four films here are also all Toho related. This starts out with the decent Once a Rainy Day (1966), which features slow guitar work and is otherwise okay but never really gripping. This leads into the more interesting Woman's Body (1964), which has a slow tango-like theme that, while not riveting, at least stands out along with the nice string instrument segment that follows. Kind of a shame more music from the film wasn't included here. Next is the similarly named, and sounding, suite for Wonderful Bad Woman (1963) which is guitar supported and sounds again like a slow tango... before it kicks into a full song. Now I had a tough time telling the language being used (Italian? Portuguese?) but it's a very lively song that certainly stands out and is a little infectious, making one want to play the track again and again. The disc then concludes with the not bad but instantly forgettable Happiness (1974), which is a decent low key suite but doesn't grab the listener.
Overall, the disc is one of the more enjoyable entries in the series, but all the same seems to do almost as much bad as it does right, and makes for an uneven listening experience even if there is some good music here.
The bonus, or special, disc in this set might be of most interest to collectors... or the least. It doesn't contain a whole lot of music, losing the director focus of the previous six discs, while it mostly focuses on interviews with Toru Takemitsu from 1980, but does contain several suites that were previously unreleased on CD.
In terms of music, the disc starts off with four suites that, while they were released on Volume 10 of the original LP release of Film Music By Toru Takemitsu, are new to CD. The first of these is Beast Alley (1965). The soundtrack to this film is notably dated, but intentionally so as it's going for a 1950's-like vibe from the decade before. The music isn't particularly gripping, but does an okay sinister-like motif toward the end. Next up is the vocal led The Last Judgement (1965), which is a soothing track to start off with until it loses the vocals and goes in a couple of directions, although mostly with a carefree vibe that is enjoyable. Shochiku's Incandescent Flame follows, which is an interesting mix of classical music set to a light Jazz motif. The music selection concludes with a bizarre suite from Under the Blooming Cherry Trees (1975). It starts off with a light moaning sound in the background, slightly ominous, before sounding like a more traditional Japanese track with heavy flute work. The bizarreness then kicks up a step with more moaning and chanting before someone starts panting on mic. The track is a trip and, sadly, not really enjoyable.
After about 22 minutes of music, the disc then focuses on the 48 minute segment called "Interview: Film Music and Me". This segment is largely interviews, in Japanese, done with Toru Takemitsu back in 1980. It does have a few music themes woven within as separate tracks, though, for example it starts off with the incredible "Main Theme" to An Ocean to Cross (1980), which is the highlight of the disc. Being one of Takemitsu's best scores, it's a shame more music isn't found on this box set for it. At any rate, the rest of the tracks are mixed with mostly interviews conducted with the composer about his styles or about recording a particular film, although most of it is kept pretty general. Five different films are covered in total here, each getting their own theme with the exception being The Face of Another (1966). If you are a diehard Takemitsu fan, it can be interesting to hear him describe his work, but it's not the type of content that will be listened to more than once.
Overall, as a bonus disc, it does a fairly nice job. I would have preferred more music, but does offer some nice content not found else where which nets the disc another so-so ranking.