Toru Takemitsu's Toward The Sea: A Musical Homage to the Ocean and Moby-Dick
Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) was one of the most influential and original composers of the 20th century. His music combines elements of Western and Japanese traditions, as well as influences from nature, literature, and art. One of his most celebrated works is Toward The Sea, a series of three versions for different combinations of instruments, commissioned by Greenpeace for the Save the Whales campaign in 1981.
Toward The Sea is inspired by Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick, or The Whale, which Takemitsu admired for its spiritual dimension and its exploration of the relationship between humans and nature. The work consists of three movements: The Night, Moby-Dick, and Cape Cod. Each movement evokes a different aspect of the ocean and the whale, using a musical motif that spells \"sea\" in German notation: E flat-E-A. This motif appears in various forms throughout the work, creating a sense of unity and coherence.
The first version of Toward The Sea is for alto flute and guitar, which Takemitsu considered to be ideal instruments for expressing the sound of the sea. The flute has the primary melodic role, while the guitar provides harmonic and rhythmic support. The second version is for alto flute, harp, and string orchestra, which adds more color and texture to the musical landscape. The third version is for alto flute and harp only, which creates a more intimate and delicate atmosphere.
Toward The Sea is a remarkable example of Takemitsu's musical style, which blends tonality and atonality, free and structured rhythms, and Eastern and Western aesthetics. The work is also a testament to Takemitsu's environmental awareness and his admiration for Melville's literary masterpiece. Toward The Sea is a musical homage to the sea that creates all things and a sketch for the sea of tonality.
Toward The Sea has been widely performed and recorded by various musicians and ensembles around the world. The work has also received critical acclaim and recognition for its originality and beauty. Some of the notable performers and recordings of Toward The Sea include:
The first version for alto flute and guitar was premiered by AurÃle Nicolet and Leo Brouwer in Tokyo in 1981. It was also recorded by them for Philips in 1984.
The second version for alto flute, harp, and string orchestra was premiered by AurÃle Nicolet, Naoko Yoshino, and the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hiroyuki Iwaki in Tokyo in 1981. It was also recorded by them for Deutsche Grammophon in 2000.
The third version for alto flute and harp was premiered by AurÃle Nicolet and Naoko Yoshino in Tokyo in 1989. It was also recorded by them for Fontec in 1990.
Toward The Sea is a work that showcases Takemitsu's musical genius and his respect for nature and literature. It is a work that invites the listeners to immerse themselves in the sound of the sea and the story of the whale, and to reflect on their own connection with the world. a474f39169