I have been on bit of a hiatus for the past month. I moved to California to begin my MFA in composition at CalArts. Current Obsessions will be an on going segment in which I will talk about some of my recent interests in the art world. Enjoy!
Recently, there have been two artists that I have been obsessing over: the composer Toru Takemitsu and the author Haruki Murakami. I have always had an interest in Japanese culture. Zen philosophy has resonated with me since I first learned about it. From a musical standpoint the harmonies in traditional Japanese music and Taiko drumming have also been an interest of mine (additionally Japanese food is delicious!). Takemitsu has been a favorite composer of mine for many years. I first fell in love with his music when I first heard Rain Tree for three percussionists. It is a beautiful and mesmerizing piece that slowly builds in density and texture over the course of 10 minutes. Takemitsu has also written my favorite concerto (and possibly my favorite piece): From Me Flows What You Call Time. I heard the recording of Nexus Percussion Group and the Pacific Symphony performing the piece when I was in my sophomore year at Hartt. The piece is constantly flowing from one section to the next like the current of a river (which is generally what most of his music sounds like to me). He is a master of color, texture, and, timbre. Every sound, let alone instrument, has its own unique shape that emerges from a vast pool. I hadn’t listened to this piece for a long time but their were a few things that brought it back into my life one of which is simply having access to the score which has given a whole new dimension to the work (especially enlightening me to the fact that much of the solo percussion parts are improvised, not strictly notated). The other factor in my revitalized interest is a new project that involves the author David Mitchell. David Mitchell is a great writer (his most well-known books are Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks). Mitchell was recently selected for a new project that will involve various authors writing books that will be published in 100 years and will not be read until that time (this is a pretty simple explanation for a very cool project, if you want more information I have attached a link to the project at the bottom). Mitchell has not said much about his book only that the title is From Me Flows What You Call Time and that it is intentionally named after Takemitsu’s piece. As soon as I read this I lost my mind! I am so interested in knowing why Mitchell chose that title, what the piece means to him and of course I wish I could read the book (if anyone reading happens to know Mr. Mitchell please let him know I would be happy to talk about Takemitsu with him anytime)! Mitchell’s borrowing of this title helped me re-fall in love with Takemitsu’s music which sparked a spiral into Takemitsu’s world of compositions and Japanese culture in general. This is what made me want to read a novel by Murakami.
I have read one novel by Murakami before, Norwegian Wood, and I fell in love with his writing style. Much like the music of Takemitsu, Murakami’s writing has a very elegant flow throughout. Kafka on The Shore is a wonderful read. Upon finishing it my immediate thought was just how much there was to dig out of the novel and that I’ll need to reread it at least a few times. There are so many dimensions and metaphysical ideas within the novel that take it to an entirely different level. I plan to read many more of his novels and should be starting 1Q84 fairly soon…
There are many similarities between these two artists works. Both have a deep sense of spirituality throughout their work which, comes through without being intrusive. They both have an ability to flow from idea to idea. One thing that is of particular interest to me is the fact that both Takemitsu and Murakami not only have a western influence to their craft but also have a particular interest in popular western music. Takemitsu is known to have always loved jazz piano (including a piece for solo guitar called 12 Songs for Guitar which includes some jazz standards and a couple songs by the Beatles) and before becoming an author Murakami used to own a Jazz club (music is also essential to the world of his novels. His website has a section which lists all the musical references found throughout each of his novels). I do not know if either of these two artists had an interest in one another but I am sure there is some overlap between their culture and their artistic worlds. I know that when I decide to read Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage I will want to listen to From Me Flows What you Call Time since color plays such an important role in both works.
From Me Flows What You Call Time:
Future Library Project (David Mitchell’s book):