Toshio Hosokawa’s Singing Garden


OpusNovus: Fascinating Sounds and Rhythms
Saturday, 9 November 2019 @ 7:30pm
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Concert Hall

Contributed by Yang Ting-Ting (BMUS4, YST)

Born in 1955, Hiroshima, Japan, Toshio Hosokawa has emerged as one of Japan’s leading composer. Subsequent to his initial study on piano and composition in Tokyo, he went to Berlin in 1976 and studied at the Universität der Künste under Isang Yun. Hosokawa continued his studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg with Klaus Huber and Brain Ferneyhough from 1983 to 1986. In 1980, he took part in the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, an ongoing well-known contemporary music festival, where his compositions were showcased. Subsequently, he became regular guest composer for the festival.

Hosokawa returned to Japan in 1985 to study Japanese traditional music Gagaku and Buddhist music Shomyo. He learned Sho, a Japanese traditional instrument Sho and studied the philosophy of Zen. Those experiences had a direct influence on his compositions. Tokyo 1985 (1985) and Seeds of Contemplation (1986/95) combined the use of Gagaku and elements from Buddhist chanting ceremony, showing a deep contemplation of philosophical ideas such as the relationship between time and music. In subsequent years, the composer’s reputation continued to increase within the international contemporary music scene and Hosokawa received numerous commissions. From 1989 to 1998, the composer was both artistic director and organizer of the annual Akiyoshidai International Contemporary Music Seminar and Festival in Yamagushi. He was the artistic director of the Japanese Takefu International Music Festival in Fukuj since 2001 and was appointed permanent guest professor at the Tokyo College of Music in 2004. Hosokawa currently lives in Nagano, Japan and in Mainz, Germany.

Hosokawa’s early music style was highly influenced by his teacher, Isang Yun. Yun was a Korean-born composer whose works employed techniques associated with traditional Korean music and Western avant garde music. Yun’s Hauptton technique was influential on Hosokawa. Yun has described this technique as follows:

“The fundamental element of my compositions is, to put it concretely, an individual tone (Einzelton). A countless number of variant possibilities inhere in an individual tone, to which surrounding elements such as appoggiatura, vibrato, accent, after notes and other ornamentations belong, in order to establish the foundation of the composition. I call this individual tone a main tone (Hauptton).” (Song, Bang-song. “Korean Music and Instrument” Seoul, Korea: National Classical Music Institute, 1973. p.35)

Hosokawa believed that every single sound has an independent soul and that it exists in a complete form. Unlike Yun, he used Hauptton technique (main tone) to develop vertical harmony, whereas Isang Yun developed the main tone into horizontal melodic lines. This can be seen in his Melodia (1979).

Hosokawa’s String Quartet No. 2, Urbilder, established an equal relationship between Western and Eastern influences. Urbilder portrays a strong sense of linearity and a growing expansion of detail, as time is compressed or extended through the manipulation of rhythmic elements. The single-movement structure eventually becomes what the composer calls ‘the sphere of purified time’, where the music becomes completely static.
Singing Garden (2003) is a piece written for six players, and was commissioned by Kajimoto Concert Management for the Boulez Soloists. Many of Hosokawa’s works draw inspiration from “singing” and “gardens”, such as Singing Trees—Requiem for Toru Takemitsu for children’s chorus, and Garden at First Light for gagaku ensemble. These were inspired by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Natural energy flows through the bottom of the garden, quickens in secret and then begins to sing. This idea strongly stimulated Hosokawa’s musical imagination. Sounds first squirm in a dormant state and then grow. They are born from within calmness and they return into calmness. In that calmness is the mysterious movement of nature. He expresses their subtle movements through music and the effect they have on one another.
Categories Compositions

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