Chapter 3 : "Japanese-Style Music"
Following Taki's Menuetto (Chapter 1) and Yamada's Yoru no shikyoku (Chapter 2), in this chapter I would like to introduce one of Akira Ifukube's piano works. His music delivers a totally different atmosphere from previous works.
Akira Ifukube "Bon-odori [Noctual dance of the Bon-Festival]"from Nihon Kumikyoku [Japanese Suite]
Akira Ifukube is a well-known composer who wrote music for the film Godzilla. He composed a lot of works - mainly works for films- until he died in February 2006. Nippon Kumikyoku [Japanese Suite] ( 1. Bon-dori, 2. Tanabata [Fete of Vega], 3. Nagashi [Profane minstrel], 4. Nebuta [Festal ballad]) is his only work written for piano solo. He composed it in 1933 at his age of 19. At that time, this work made a fresh departure from other Japanese composers' works which were under the influence of European music and realized the distinctive Japanese flavour. Some of you may feel like dancing when you hear Bon-odori due to its atmosphere of traditional Japanese festival.
Japanese music scene had been led by Kosaku Yamada since he returned from Germany in 1914. However, by the time of Ifukube's Bon-odori, young composers began to form the anti-Yamada schools. At that time, more composers began to study not only in Germany but also in other countries including France. Musical information inside of Japan also increased thanks to the development of the media such as radio broadcasting, records and musical journals. As a result, people's view of music was diversified and various musical groups were born.
Saburo Moroi who was a member of Suruya, one of the anti-Yamada schools, said, "Recently, most of Japanese people just enjoy imitation of Western music, except for children's songs and folk songs. We need to synthesize Western and Japanese style." Many other groups had been formed until then. For instance, Shin Ongaku Renmei [New Music Federation] was led by Ifukube and Fumio Hayasaka. Shinko Sakkyokuka Renmei [New Composer's Federation], current Japan Society for Contemporary Music was set up by composers such as Syukichi Mitsukuri, Yasuji Kiyose and Yorinori Matsudaira. Despite a variety of those groups, all of them committed to get out of imitation of Western style and create "Japanese-style music."
By that time, it had been fifty years since Japan started to import Western music. And now Japanese composers embarked on creating their own music turning from Western style. Ifukube's Bon-odori was one of the results of it. However, with the start of World War II, composers were demanded to produce martial songs and nationalistic music due to the political reasons. After the Japan's defeat in the war, "Japanese-style music" began to fall into disfavour because of its nationalistic tone. In that context, it was in the early 1930s that the works such as Bon-odori could be born. Therefore, they are precious and exotic works all the more. It is a quite interesting fact that "Japanese-style music" in that era still fascinates people especially from different countries.