Thursday, June 16, 2011

Takemitsu : Kwaidan sound track

The 1960s film of a selection of the Japanese Kwaidan (strange tales) has a wonderful score by Toru Takemitsu. The film's credits describe it as 'sound' rather than 'music' and you can see why. Takemitsu produces a score that combines Japanese traditional musical instruments and idioms with very avant garde techniques.

The selection here comes from the late-lamented Avant Garde Project. Ki is the story of a samurai who leaves his wife in poverty to seek his fortune. When he returns, the house is in ruins, but she is there, unchanged, still waiting for him. You can imagine the rest… In Yuki, a young woodcutter meets Yuki Onna, the woman of the snow, while trapped by a violent blizzard. In Japanese folk belief, she is a malevolent spirit who freezes hapless travellers to death, but in this story she falls in love with the woodcutter. Things do not, however, turn out well.

The central panel of Kwaidan is the tale of Hōichi the Earless. Yes, it's gruesome, but it revolves around the restless spirits of the Heike who died in the battle of Dan no Ura. Hoichi is a blind singer and biwa player, and he inadvertently ends up entertaining the Heike with the tale of their own downfall. 
Takemitsu's score builds on the traditional recitation of the tale of the Heike, and as a bonus track the upload includes Kinshi Tsurita declaiming the legend of the battle of Dan no Ura. I am amazed at the ability of the biwa and Tsurita's voice to conjure up the images of this legendary event. You will hear arrows whistling through the air, and the desolate voice of the Lady Nii, who, when she realises all is lost, takes the infant emperor in her arms and jumps into the sea. If you've seen the film, you will know what I mean. If you haven't, well, just listen and marvel.

mp3 at 320 kbs

Download from mediafire


  1. much indebted to your attaching the Takemitsu soundtrack

  2. Thank you for making this wonderful piece of music available.

  3. I know this is late, but thank you!!! The music was such an important part of this film... and is utterly unique