Toru Takemitsu's Rain Spell

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Musical Composition By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Musical Composition
Last updated: 31/03/2012
Tags: composition, rain spell, takemitsu

As soon as Takemitsu discovered that he wanted to express himself through music in his early teens, he became immediately fascinated by other composers who had also allowed themselves to be influenced by the musical and philosophical traditions of Asian culture, including Debussy, Messiaen and even later, John Cage. These were influences that would stay with him throughout his life, and can be heard implicitly and explicitly in tonight's work Rain Spell.

Scored for a small ensemble consisting of Flute, Clarinet, Harp, Piano and Vibraphone, Rain Spell was premiered in 1983 in Yokohama by the Japanese contemporary music ensemble Sound Space Ark. It falls into a long line of works by Takemitsu which are concerned with rain and the natural, random flow of water. Moving seamlessly between metered and unmetered coordination, the work trickles, cascades, dances and flows between sustained lines, trills, arpeggios and brittle percussive chords evoking a rich timeless sense of water, rain and often the tranquillity of a Japanese garden.

These allusions step far beyond a simplistic mimicry of nature, and instead successfully capture the very essence of something fleeting and intangible, but somehow in the process of making it concrete compel it to be fluid. Our ear is also guided by a few literalisms, for example the multiphonics in the flute imitating the shakuchachi, and the quartertones in the harp reminding us of the koto, but the rest is pure subtlety. 

In 1980 Takemitsu explained that when, "thinking of musical form I think of liquid form. I wish for musical changes to be as gradual as the tides". This clarity of thought is profoundly evident in Rain Spell. In other words, like all great artists, Takemitsu is actually a manipulator of nature. His work is not merely a representation of how he perceives her, but also a unique portrait of how he desires her to be.

Samuel Bordoli ARAM Classical Piano Teacher (South East London)

About The Author

I am a highly experienced music teacher, pianist and composer working in London. I enjoy teaching music to people of all ages and finding new approaches for each student. I have a 100% pass rate for all students entered into ABRSM exams.

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