Toru Takemitsu 武満徹
Toru Takemitsu was Japan's preeminent composer of the twentieth century and the first Japanese composer of Western music to be recognized in the West. Largely self-taught, he was introduced to Western music first surreptitiously during the War when even Western orchestral music was banned, and continued his exposure to it via Occupation radio while recuperating from a long illness after the War.
Takemitsu was influenced especially by Debussy, as well as Messiaen, American jazz musicians, and avant garde composers like Stockhausen and Cage. He was an extraordinarily prolific composer, writing 93 film scores (he was an avid movie-goer, seeing about 300 films a year!) and hundreds of compositions for concert hall performance.
With his orchestral music, he began attracting attention from outside Japan during the 1950's. He was a recognized international name in avante garde music by 1970. Among his many awards was the Los Angeles Film Critics Award in 1987 for his score for Akira Kurosawa's Ran.
Takemitsu's musical tastes spanned nearly everything, and he was a devoted fan of Western pop music. He was gregarious, with a renowned sense of humor, and befriended a great number of leading musicians and artists from all over the world.
Later in life he began to be influenced by traditional Japanese music. Some of his most famous Japanese-influenced compositions are November Steps, In an Autumn Garden, and A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden.
As well as composing music, Takemitsu wrote works of fiction and non-fiction, and even appeared on TV as a chef.
Toru Takemitsu died in the city he was born in, Tokyo, of pneumonia in 1996.