Toru's Mist

Bryars

“Toru’s Mist is a kind of memorial to Toru Takemitsu, whom I met for the first time in Tokyo in the mid-1980s, and whose ability to reconcile (so-called) Eastern and Western sensibilities produced a subtle and moving synthesis. I have always had a sustained interest in Japanese culture, from practising judo as a teenager to studying written Japanese, and find Zen Buddhism the most coherent for of religion.

The combination of performers gives the instrumentation a unique flavour and supplies many of the musical ideas in the piece, and I sought to form a hybrid – rather than a 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 instance in a series of quasi-baroque suspensions. The percussion instruments, with unspecified pitch, form part of Hirota’s multi-percussion set-up.

Click here to hear an extract

The piano also generates selected overtones which accord with the shakuhachi’s tuning. As the shakuhachi is essentially a pentatonic instrument, from a given pitch (here D) I concentrate on those ‘open’ notes forming the essence of its normal tone. The piece’s chromatic world is often at odds with the instrument’s modal character but it 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, and to the climactic conditions in the Western Isles which produce the single malts he and I enjoyed together.”

Gavin Bryars

Commissioned with funds from the PRS Foundation and South East Arts. First Performance at the Brighton Festival, 17 May 2001.

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