|冨田 勲 Tomita Isao|
22 April 1932 |
|Genres||Ambient, avant-garde, classical, electronic, proto‑synthpop, proto‑trance|
Isao Tomita (冨田 勲 Tomita Isao?, born April 22, 1932), often known simply as Tomita, is a Japanese music composer, regarded as one of the pioneers of electronic music and space music, and as one of the most famous producers of analog synthesizer arrangements. In addition to creating note-by-note realizations, Tomita made extensive use of the sound design capabilities of his instrument, using synthesizers to create new sounds to accompany and enhance his electronic realizations of acoustic instruments. He also made effective use of analog music sequencers and featured futuristic science fiction themes, while laying the foundations for synth-pop music and trance-like rhythms. He also received four Grammy Award nominations for his album Snowflakes are Dancing in 1974.
Tomita was born in Tokyo and spent his early childhood with his father in China. After returning to Japan, he took private lessons in orchestration and composition while an art history student at Keio University, Tokyo. He graduated in 1955 and became a full-time composer for television, film and theatre. He composed the theme music for the Japanese Olympic gymnastics team for the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1965, he composed the theme song and incidental music for Osamu Tezuka's television animated series Jangaru Taitei (Jungle Emperor), released in the United States as Kimba the White Lion (with a different theme by Bernie Baum, Bill Giant and Florence Kaye). In 1966 he wrote a tone poem based on this music with an original video animation synchronized to the tone poem released in 1991. Isao Tomita and Kunio Miyauchi also created the music for the tokusatsu science fiction/espionage/action television series Mighty Jack, which aired in 1968. The same year, he co-founded Group TAC.
By the late 1960s, Isao turned to electronic music with the impetus of Wendy Carlos and Robert Moog's work with synthesizers. Isao acquired a Moog III synthesizer and began building his home studio. He eventually realized that synthesizers could be used to create entirely new sounds in addition to mimicking other instruments. His first electronic album was Electric Samurai: Switched on Rock, released in Japan in 1972 and in the United States in 1974. The album featured electronic renditions of contemporary rock and pop songs, while utilizing speech synthesis in place of a human voice. He then started arranging Claude Debussy's impressionist pieces for synthesizer and, in 1974, the album Snowflakes are Dancing was released; it became a worldwide success and was responsible for popularizing several aspects of synthesizer programming. The album's contents included ambience, realistic string simulations; an early attempt to synthesize the sound of a symphony orchestra; whistles, and abstract bell-like sounds, as well as a number of processing effects including: reverberation, phase-shifting, flanging, and ring modulation. Quadrophonic versions of the album provided a spatial audio effect using four speakers. A particularly significant achievement was its polyphonic sound, created prior to the era of polyphonic synthesizers. Tomita created the album's polyphonic as Carlos had done before him, with the use of multitrack recording, recording each voice of a piece one at a time, on a separate tape track, and then mixing the result to stereo or quad. It took 14 months to produce the album. In his early albums, he also made effective use of analog music sequencers, which he used for repeated pitch, filter or effects changes. Tomita's modular human whistle sounds would also be copied in the presets of later electronic instruments. His version of "Arabesque No. 1" was later used as the theme to the astronomy television series Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer (originally titled Star Hustler) seen on most PBS stations; in Japan, parts of his version of "Rêverie" were used for the opening and closing of Fuji TV's transmissions.
Following the success of Snowflakes Are Dancing, Tomita released a number of "classically" themed albums, including arrangements of: Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird, Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and Gustav Holst's The Planets. Holst: The Planets introduced a science fiction "space theme" This album sparked controversy on its release, as Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst, refused permission for her father's work to be interpreted in this way. The album was withdrawn, and is, consequently, rare in its original vinyl form.
While working on his classical synthesizer albums, Tomita also composed numerous scores for Japanese television and films, including the Zatoichi television series, two Zatoichi feature films, the Oshi Samurai (Mute Samurai) television series and the Toho science fiction disaster film, Catastrophe 1999, The Prophesies of Nostradamus (U.S. title: Last Days of Planet Earth) in 1974. The latter blends synthesizer performances with pop-rock and orchestral instruments. It and a few other partial and complete scores of the period have been released on LP and later CD over the years in Japan. While not bootlegs, at least some of these releases were issued by film and television production companies without Tomita's artistic approval.
In 1984, Tomita released Canon of the Three Stars, which featured classical pieces renamed for astronomical objects. For example, the title piece is his version of Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. He credits himself with "The Plasma Symphony Orchestra", which was a computer synthesizer process using the wave forms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonic textures of this album.
Tomita has performed a number of outdoor "Sound Cloud" concerts, with speakers surrounding the audience in a "cloud of sound". He gave a big concert in 1984 at the annual contemporary music Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria called "Mind of the Universe", mixing tracks live in a glass pyramid suspended over an audience of 80,000 people. He performed another concert in New York two years later to celebrate the Statue of Liberty centennial ("Back to the Earth") as well as one in Sydney in 1988 for Australia's bicentennial. The Australian performance was part of a A$7 million gift from Japan to New South Wales, which included the largest fireworks display up to that time, six fixed sound and lighting systems — one of those on a moored barge in the centre of a bay, the other flown in by Chinook helicopter — for the relevant parts of the show. A fleet of barges with Japanese cultural performances, including kabuki fire drumming, passed by at various times. His most recent Sound Cloud event was in Nagoya, Japan in 1997 featuring guest performances by The Manhattan Transfer, Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, and Rick Wakeman.
In the late 1990s, he composed a symphonic fantasy for orchestra amd synthesizer titled The Tale of Genji, inspired by the eponymous old Japanese story. It was performed by symphony orchestras in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and London. A live concert CD version was released in 1999 followed by a studio version in 2000.
The advent of the DVD-Audio format has allowed Tomita to further pursue his interests in multichannel audio with reworked releases of The Tale of Genji Symphonic Fantasy and The Tomita Planets 2003.
In 2008, his Snowflakes are Dancing played in the background at the Disney World Resort, Epcot, World Showcase, Japan, Bijutzu-kan Gallery.
- "Jungle Taitei Symphonic Poem" (1966)
- "Switched-On Rock" (as Electric Samurai, 1972)
- "Catastrophe 1999: Prophecies of Nostradamus" (1974)
- "Snowflakes Are Dancing" (1974)
- "Pictures at an Exhibition" (1975)
- "Firebird Suite" (1975)
- "The Planets" (1976)
- "Sound Creature" (1977)
- "Bermuda Triangle" (1978)
- "Kosmos" (1978)
- "The Sea Named 'Solaris'" is a piece based on "Three-Part Invention No. 2 in C Minor", BWV 788 and "Ich Ruf'zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ", BWV 639 by J.S. Bach
- "Greatest Hits" (compilation, 1979)
- "Daphnis et Chloé (Bolero)" (1979)
- "Greatest Hits Volume 2" (compilation, 1981)
- "Grand Canyon Suite" (1982)
- "Dawn Chorus (Canon of the Three Stars)" (1984)
- "Best of Tomita" (compilation) (1984)
- "Space Walk - Impressions Of An Astronaut" (compilation, 1984)
- "Mind of the Universe - Live at Linz" (1985)
- "Back to the Earth - Live in New York" (1988)
- "Misty Kid of Wind" (1989)
- "Storm from the East" (1992)
- "Hansel und Gretel" (live VHS, LD, 1993)
- "School" (1993)
- "First Emperor" (as musical supervisor, 1994)
- "Shin Nihon Kikou" (1994)
- "Nasca Fantasy" (supporting Kodo, 1994)
- "Bach Fantasy" (1996)
- "Jungle Emperor Leo" (1997)
- "Gakko I-III" (1998)
- "Tale of Genji" (live, 1999)
- "21 seiki e no densetsushi Shigeo Nagashima" (2000)
- "Tale of Genji Symphonic Fantasy" (studio, 2000)
- "Sennen no Koi - Hikaru Genji Monogatari" (2001)
- "Tokyo Disney Sea Aquasphere Theme Music" (2002)
- "The Planets 2003" (2003)
- "Tomita on NHK" (compilation, 2003)
- "Twilight Samaurai" (2003)
- "Kakushi ken oni no Tsume" (2004)
- "Black Jack: Futari no kuroi isha" (2005)
- "Bushi no Ichibun" (2006)
- "Kaabei" (2008)
- Hideki Matsutake, Tomita's assistant and member of Yellow Magic Orchestra
- Susumu Hirasawa
- Wendy Carlos
- Maurice Ravel
- Haruomi Hosono
- Ryuichi Sakamoto
- Nobuo Uematsu
- Patrick Moraz
- Jean Michel Jarre
- Tangerine Dream
- Eloy Fritsch
- Suzanne Ciani
- New-age music
- Francis Rimbert
- Keith Emerson
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- Jonathan Clements, Helen McCarthy. The Anime Encyclopedia, Revised & Expanded Edition: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917. — Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press, 2006. — P. 253. — ISBN 978-1-933330-10-5
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