The Shumei Arts Council in Pasadena is celebrating composer Toru Takemitsu with a free festival this weekend called “Confronting Silence: The Music of Toru Takemitsu.” The events, including a symposium, concert, film, and other entertainment, are about art, aesthetics, nature, and spirituality, as much as a personal tribute to one of the major composers of the late 20th century.
Takemitsu (1930-1996), the first Japanese composer to win international acclaim, wrote more than 100 pieces for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and piano and another 100 film scores, including music for Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 epic, “Ran.” In addition to traditional Japanese music and composers such as Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen, Takemitsu was inspired by jazz, popular music and the avant-garde.
Sat., April 25
A symposium at 1 p.m. will focus on the Japanese concept of “ma,” an artistic principle that plays a key role in Takemitsu’s compositions. On its website, the Shumei Arts Council defines “ma” as “an open space, a breath, a pause, or a silence defined by sound and found between sounds.” (In visual terms, that’s like the aesthetic relationship between the white space in a painting [silence] and the color [sound].) Among the panelists are Japan Society of Boston’s Peter Grilli and Southwest Chamber Music’s Jeff von der Schmidt. Pianist and Occidental faculty member Junko Ueno Garrett will demonstrate instances of “ma” in Takemitsu’s music.
Starting at 4 p.m., an event produced by Takemitsu’s nephew Kouji Sh’tara will put the theory of “ma” into practice with music by Takemitsu and his niece Haruno Kira, as well as the world premiere of “Seihitsu? Thoughts for Takemitsu” by taiko master Koji Nakamura. The music will be accompanied by dance, photography, calligraphy and even a tea ceremony. Then enjoy a reception with a calligraphy demonstration and more from 5 to 7 p.m.
Sun., April 26
Grilli and Sh’tara introduce “Music for Movies: Toru Takemitsu,” a documentary film about Takemitsu’s 40-year film-scoring career, at 1 p.m.
Finally, a 3 p.m. concert by Southwest Chamber Music will include compositions from Takemitsu’s “Waterscapes” series, with harps, vibraphones, and Japanese percussion. The music is inspired by nature; “Toward the Sea III,” for instance, was written in 1981 as a contribution to the Greenpeace Foundation’s Save the Whales program.
Southwest Chamber Music will repeat this concert and conclude their regular season on Mon., May 4, at 8 p.m. at the Colburn School, 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. The ensemble will also perform a selection of pieces from the “Waterscape” series in a free family concert on Sat., May 2, at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. First., LA 90012, and at 4 p.m. at the Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena 91101. For more information, visit www.swmusic.org.
Shumei Hall, 2430 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91107
For more information about these and other events in the Takemitsu festival, visit www.shumeiarts.org/takemitsu.htm.