Sunday, September 3, 2017

Eclipse (For Biwa And Shakuhachi)

Welcome back to the Sunday music feature. In September we’ll be featuring the music of Toru Takemitsu.

Takemitsu is a major composer & a few blog posts over the course of a month can serve only as the most cursory introduction & exploration of his music. I’d strongly encourage those who are interested in what they hear to seek out more information at the links given with each post & also to seek out more of Takemitsu’s music, which is readily available.

We begin the series with Takemitsu’s 1966 composition, “Eclipse. This is scored for traditional Japanese instruments, the shakuhachi & the biwa. The former is a bamboo flute, while the latter is a type of lute.
Although Takemitsu was strongly influenced by Western music (Debussy, Messiaen, & Webern particularly) & indeed at one point expressed an aversion to traditional Japanese music—because it reminded him of World War II militarism—he began incorporating elements of Japanese music into his compositions under the influence of John Cage beginning in the early 1960s. Takemitsu’s 1967 composition “November Steps” for biwa, shakuhachi, & orchestra is related to “Eclipse”.

Hope you enjoy the music

Images link to their sources on Wiki Commons:
  1. “Performer playing shakuhachi in 60th Himeji oshiro festival, 2009”. Photo by Wiki user Corpse Reviver, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
  2. “A selection of biwa in a Japanese museum”. Photo by Wiki user Jnn, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.1 Japan license.


  1. Ahhhhh! September is going to be very interesting! I first encountered Takemitsu's music some time in the '80s, and I've been listening ever since. Good pick, John!

  2. November Steps was the first piece of Takemitsu I came across. I was too young to "get it" then, I think, but sensed there was something there to be "got" (a feeling I frequently had back then!)


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