Toru’s Mist


Duration: c. 12’
Dedication: Ensemble Tozai
Instrumentation: shakuhachi, violin, piano, Japanese untuned percussion
First performance: Ensemble Tozai, The Royal Pavilion, Brighton May 17th 2001

Fax to Chris Hinkins (cc. Rachel Oakley/ Rosie Lindsell)

April 19th 2001

Dear Chris

re. Toru's Mist

I need to add a couple of lines to the instructions for instrumentalists and I guess it would be best to put it on the page with the percussion instructions rather than on the prelims page (which Rachel will do).

If the text for the percussion part is tightened up on to three lines and the layout diagram is done slightly smaller maybe it could all fit? I realise however that the percussion layout would also need to be in the part as well as the score.

shakuhachi: although the part is written in a quite simple way, there are some indications of ornamentation and vibrato in the part, and the player is encouraged to extend this freely within the context of the overall musical texture.

piano: notes in the bass written as harmonics - diamond-shaped note heads - are to be depressed silently and held down, initially by the hand, though weights or matchsticks may be more effective. 

Is this OK? I know you're away until Monday of course.

All the best


Toru's Mist (2001)

for shakuhachi, violin, piano and Japanese percussion

This piece was written for the Ensemble Tozai for a series of performances starting in May 2001. The combination of performers - two playing western instruments, two playing Japanese - gives a unique flavour to the instrumentation, and is the source of many of the musical ideas within the piece. It represents a kind of memorial to Toru Takemitsu, whom I met for the first time in Tokyo in the mid-1980's, and whose ability to reconcile (so-called) Eastern and Western sensibilities produced a subtle and moving synthesis. For my part, I have had a long and sustained interest in Japanese culture: I was active in judo as a teenager (taking a greater interest in the aesthetic formal structures than fighting); I attended classes of the late Christmas Humphries at the Buddhist Society in London and, following my time as a philosophy student, find Zen Buddhism to be the most coherent form of religion; I studied Japanese written language (as a hobby) for three years in the early 70's; and the performances of Gagaku which I saw at the Albert Hall in 1969 struck me forcibly as being as close to ensemble perfection as it is possible to be.

In bringing these four instruments together as an ensemble, I sought to form some kind of hybrid - rather than fusion - from the individual elements. The "western" piano and "eastern" percussion form a single sound world at times concentrating a great deal on resonance, while the shakuhachi and violin adapt to western norms, for example in a series of quasi-baroque suspensions. The percussion instruments, almost entirely untuned, or rather with unspecified pitch, are those which form part of Joji Hirota's multi-percussion set-up.

The piano is also used in such a way as to generate selected overtones which accord with the tuning of the shakuhachi. Given that the shakuhachi is essentially a pentatonic instrument, from a given pitch (here D) I concentrate on those 'open' notes which form the essence of its normal tone production, although the context is far from modal. The chromatic world in which it finds itself in this piece is often at odds with the instrument's modal character but constantly seeks to find an accommodation. The instrument can, of course, be completely chromatic but I use this element sparingly, either by implication or through inflection.

The title refers both to the sense of atmosphere and veiled recollection in Takemitsu's music, but also to the climactic conditions in the Western Isles which produce the single malts that he and I enjoyed together.

Gavin Bryars