Minoru Miki

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Minoru Miki
三木 稔
Born(1930-03-16)16 March 1930
Died8 December 2011(2011-12-08) (aged 81)

Minoru Miki (Japanese: 三木 稔, 16 March 1930 – 8 December 2011) was a Japanese composer and artistic director, particularly known for his promotional activities in favor of Japanese (as well as Chinese and Korean) traditional instruments and some of their performers.


His catalog, where the aforementioned traditional instruments figure profusely either solo or in various types of ensembles with or without Western instruments, demonstrates large stylistic and formal diversity. It includes operas and various kinds of stage music and orchestral, concerto, chamber and solo music, and music for films. Miki was probably[vague] the second best-known Japanese composer overseas after Tōru Takemitsu.[citation needed]

He was a pioneer in the composition of contemporary classical music for large ensembles of traditional Japanese musical instruments. In 1964, he founded the Nihon Ongaku Shūdan (Pro Musica Nipponia ensemble), also known as Ensemble Nipponia, for which he has composed extensively.

Miki was born in Tokushima on March 16, 1930.[1] His first musical experiences were of the traditional music of his region. He had no formal music education before he moved to Okayama for high school, where he first had contact with European classical music. From there, he moved to Tokyo, graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts in 1964. In that same year, Miki founded Pro musica Nipponia (日本音楽集団), an orchestra of traditional Japanese instruments for which he would compose a large number of works. He also began collaborating with koto virtuoso Keiko Nosaka, developing the 20-string koto and reviving the instrument's repertoire with many new works in various genres and combinations, including five concertos for koto and orchestra. Miki composed his first opera, Shunkinsho in 1975, based on Tanizaki's eponymous novel. Interest in Japanese traditional music by members of the English Music Theatre Company resulted in the commission of the opera Ada, An Actor's Revenge, to an English libretto by James Kirkup. Ada premiered in London in 1979 and was one of the last works commissioned and performed by the EMTC before its ultimate disbandment in 1980. During this period, Miki developed a relationship with director Colin Graham that was to last until the latter's death in 2007. The most notable result of this collaboration was the opera Jōruri which was commissioned by Graham for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and premiered in 1985. It was here where he had moved to following the disbandment of the EMTC.

From 1992 with Wakahime, Miki adopted a pan-Asian perspective, incorporating music and instruments from a number of Asian countries into his compositions and collaborating with a number of Asian artists. Some of Miki's operas from thereon – mostly notably Wakahime and Aien – also increasingly dealt with episodes of Japan's presence and interaction with its neighboring Asian countries. This recurring theme was often performed on stage and within the plot of those various Asian countries' traditional instruments.

Miki died of sepsis at Mitaka city hospital, in Tokyo, during the early hours of December 8 2011.[2]


Operatic cycle on Japanese history (日本史オペラ連作)[edit]

  • Shunkinshō (春琴抄) (1975)
  • Ada, An Actor's Revenge (あだ) (1979); piano score by Geoffrey Tozer[3][4]
  • Jōruri (じょうるり) (1985)
  • Wakahime (ワカヒメ) (1991)
  • Shizuka to Yoshitsune (静と義経) (1993)
  • The River Sumida / Kusabira (隅田川/くさびら) (1995)
  • Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji; 源氏物語) (1999)
  • Ai-en (愛 怨) (2005)
  • The Happy Pagoda (幸せのパゴダ) (2010)

Other operas[edit]

  • The Monkey Poet (うたよみざる) (1983)
  • Yomigaeru (よみがえる) (1986–1992)
  • Terute and Oguri (照手と小栗) (1993)


  • From the Land of Light 光の国から


  • Trinita sinfonica (1953)
  • Symphony Joya (1960)
  • Symphony from Life (1980)
  • Beijing Requiem for string orchestra (1990)
  • MAI 舞 (1992)


  • Marimba Concerto (1969)
  • Eurasian Trilogy 鳳凰三連 (1969; 74; 81), Japanese and Western instruments
  • Koto Concerto No. 1 (1974); this piece is also the second movement of Eurasian Trilogy
  • Koto Concerto No. 2 (1978)
  • Koto Concerto No. 3 (1980); aka Concerto Requiem
  • Koto Concerto No. 4 (1984); aka Pine Concerto 松の協奏曲
  • Koto Concerto No. 5 (1985)
  • Z Concerto (1992), marimba and percussion soli
  • Pipa Concerto (1997)
  • Requiem 99 (1998); marimba solo, orchestra of Japanese traditional instruments
  • Trio Concerto (2000), shakuhachi, pipa, 21-koto soli, orchestra of Japanese instruments
  • Shakuhachi Concerto (2002), aka Lotus Concerto

Chamber music[edit]

  • Piano Sextet (1965), fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, pf
  • Piano Trio (1986), pf, vn, vc
  • String Quartet (1989)
  • Marimba Spiritual (1983), marimba solo with percussion trio


  • Time for Marimba, (1968), marimba
  • Ballades for koto (I-Winter, 1969; II-Spring, 1976; III-Summer, 1983, ; IV-Autumn, 1990)

Film music[edit]


  • Shirabe, 4 songs for tenor and harp (1979)
  • Requiem (1963), baritone solo, male chorus, orchestra
  • The Mole's Tale (1966), male chorus, 2 perc.


  • Miki, Minoru (2008). Flavin, Philip (ed.). Composing for Japanese instruments. Translated by Regan, Marty. Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press. ISBN 9781580462730.


  1. ^ Randel, Don Michael, ed. (1996). "Miki, Minoru". The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 588. ISBN 978-0-674-37299-3.
  2. ^ 作曲家の三木稔さんが死去 オペラや現代邦楽. 47news.jp. 8 December 2011. Archived from the original on 21 December 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  3. ^ Geoffrey Tozer Publications Archived 2011-12-27 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Guy Rickards, Obituary of Geoffrey Tozer in The Gramophone
  • 三木稔、「日本楽器法」、東京:音楽之友社、1996年。
  • 三木稔、「オペラ《源氏物語》ができるまで」、東京:中央アート出版社、2001年。

External links[edit]