Tōru Takemitsu (武満 徹 Takemitsu Tōru, October 8, 1930 – February 20, 1996) pronounced was a Japanese composer and writer on aesthetics and music theory. Largely self-taught, Takemitsu possessed consummate skill in the subtle manipulation of instrumental and orchestral timbre. He is famed for combining elements of oriental and occidental philosophy to create a sound uniquely his own, and for fusing opposites together such as sound with silence and tradition with innovation.
He composed several hundred independent works of music, scored more than ninety films and published twenty books. He was also a founding member of the Jikken Kobo (experimental workshop) in Japan, a group of avant-garde artists who distanced themselves from academia and whose collaborative work is often regarded among the most influential of the 20th century.
His 1957 Requiem for string orchestra attracted international attention, led to several commissions from across the world and established his reputation as one of the leading 20th-century Japanese composers. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honours and the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award is named after him.
Takemitsu was born in Tokyo on October 8, 1930; a month later his family moved to Dalian in the Chinese province of Liaoning. In 1938 he returned to Japan to attend elementary school, but his education was cut short by military conscription in 1944. Takemitsu described his experience of military service at such a young age, under the Japanese Nationalist government, as "... extremely bitter". Takemitsu first became really conscious of Western classical music during his term of military service, in the form of a popular French Song ("Parlez-moi d'amour") which he listened to with colleagues in secret, played on a gramophone with a makeshift needle fashioned from bamboo.
During the post-war U.S. occupation of Japan, Takemitsu worked for the U.S. Armed Forces, but was ill for a long period. Hospitalised and bed-ridden, he took the opportunity to listen to as much Western music as he could on the U.S. Armed Forces network. While deeply affected by these experiences of Western music, he simultaneously felt a need to distance himself from the traditional music of his native Japan. He explained much later, in a lecture at the New York International Festival of the Arts, that for him Japanese traditional music "always recalled the bitter memories of war".
Despite his almost complete lack of musical training, and taking inspiration from what little Western music he had heard, Takemitsu began to compose in earnest at the age of 16: "... I began music attracted to music itself as one human being. Being in music I found my raison d'être as a man. After the war, music was the only thing. Choosing to be in music clarified my identity." Though he studied briefly with Yasuji Kiyose beginning in 1948, Takemitsu remained largely self-taught throughout his musical career.
In 1948, Takemitsu conceived the idea of electronic music technology, or in his own words, to "bring noise into tempered musical tones inside a busy small tube." During the 1950s, Takemitsu had learned that in 1948 "a French Pierre Schaeffer invented the method(s) of musique concrète based on the same idea as mine. I was pleased with this coincidence."