Part IV - The War Years


Akira Ifukube during the first half of the 1940s.

As 1939 segued into 1940, the Second World War was well under way. The situation in Europe was worsening by the day and, on the other side of the world Japan, under the command of Emperor Hirohito and his nationalist, militarist government, was involved in several conflicts throughout Asia. These conflicts were due to Japan's policy of regional conquest known as Pan-Asianism (Ajia ichi in Japanese), the idea that Japan had an express obligation to free the Asian continent from its European and American colonial captors and unite all Asian peoples together to create a powerful defense against further subjugation. Because Japan was ruled by a divine emperor, a literal god on earth, the fanatical militarists in the government believed that only Japan had the moral and divine authority to bring all Asian nations together as one. It was due to this Pan-Asianist policy that the Japanese had already invaded and annexed multiple areas throughout Asia by 1940, including several regions of mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Ifukube had just moved back to Sapporo and probably did not have war on his mind as much as finding a new line of work. Fortunately, it did not take long for the ex-forester to find employment; in fact, he found a position at his alma mater, Hokkaido Imperial University. Ifukube was hired by Professor Tai Harada into the university's Experimental Wood Laboratory; Harada, whose lab was occasionally engaged in conducting experiments to benefit the Japanese war effort, had been impressed by Ifukube's graduation thesis on wood vibration and thought the young man's expertise would be a benefit to the laboratory's scientific experiments. The facility housing the laboratory, which also served as a training office for new foresters, was not located in Sapporo proper but in Toyohira, which is situated to the south of Hokkaido's capital. [1] Ifukube took up residence in a cabin close to the lab.


The Experimental Wood Laboratory in Toyohira.

1940 was the year that the nationalist Japanese government considered to be the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Empire of Japan.* To celebrate this occasion, the government commissioned Japan's best known composers such as Shiro Fukai (1907 - 1959), Kunihiko Hashimoto (1904 - 1949) and Hisato Ozawa (1907 - 1953) to write musical works to commemorate the anniversary. Additionally, Japan called upon several European composers to contribute to the musical festivities: Among them were Jacques Ibert and Richard Strauss. Ifukube, having only just started his new job with the university, was also selected to write a commemorative piece.

Ifukube's assignment was commissioned by the Imperial Japanese Government but it also received sponsorship from the Prefecture of Hokkaido as well as the local Otaru Shinbun newspaper. It was entirely the Imperial Government, however, that selected the general theme for Ifukube's work: The glory of Japan's ancient history. Although Ifukube was to an extent uncomfortable with the political overtones of the assignment, he knew that he had to fulfill it.

With the nationalist theme in mind, the composer immediately started to think of a suitable subject that would please the government. His thoughts went to the ancient court music of Japan, gagaku, and its associated dances. The idea of dance must have resonated deeply within Ifukube; after all, ever since becoming a musician and subsequently a composer, he was fascinated with ballet. Certainly Stravinsky, perhaps his greatest influence, had made a name for himself with his works in that genre. Therefore, it is not surprising that Ifukube would eventually desire to try his hand at this type of musical work. And as for the the eventual subject of the music itself, specifically it would be etenraku, one of the most famous dance numbers from the gagaku repertoire.

Ifukube's deliberately titled Ballet symphonique après Etenraku (Symphonic Ballet after Etenraku) took form as an orchestral arrangement of the original etenraku melody, which develops continuously as a sort of rondo. And what an arrangement it would be: It seems that Ifukube was bent on writing the most colossal work of Japanese concert music ever; his version of Etenraku would require an orchestra of two hundred members (which would require every available musician in Sapporo), a mixed choir of three hundred members, a thirty-piece brass section (surely a touch to satisfy the militarist faction of the government) and a fifty-member ballet troupe; in other words, Etenraku would require nearly six hundred performers!

Ifukube's ambitions were not limited to the size of the work; he was determined to conduct the first performance Etenraku himself, a first for his career. To prepare for his debut as a conductor, Ifukube sought the instruction of a German composer and conductor, Manfred Gurlitt, who was at the time living in Tokyo. Ifukube traveled to Japan's capital to meet with Gurlitt.


Manfred Gurlitt.

Manfred Gurlitt (1890 - 1972) was born in Berlin and had studied under Engelbert Humperdinck. Denounced by the Nazi regime, Gurlitt emigrated to Japan in 1939. Immediately, Gurlitt became active in the Japanese music scene; by 1940 he was hired as the Musical Director of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. When Ifukube visited Gurlitt, the German musician asked Ifukube to demonstrate what he already knew about the art of conducting. When Ifukube showed Gurlitt what he was capable of, the German composer was surprised; he exclaimed to Ifukube that he already knew how to conduct!


A newspaper article about Ifukube's preparations for Etenraku. Ifukube is seen conducting.

Since Etenraku was to include ballet dancers, Ifukube needed to make a connection with a Hokkaido-based dance troupe. With the help of his friend, the Hokkaido Times journalist Jiro Sekiguchi, Ifukube was introduced to Ai Yûzaki, a beautiful young dancer who had founded her own school in Sapporo, the Aiko Dance Studio. (Aiko was the dancer's stage name.) Yûzaki, the youngest of seven siblings, was born on August 16, 1918 into a well-respected family who had made their fortune in the wholesale produce business. After having graduated from the Sapporo Girls High School, Yûzaki, who had a passion for performing arts, went to Tokyo to study dance with the famed Japanese dancer Takaya Eguchi. After studying with Eguchi in Tokyo, Yûzaki eventually returned to her home town and opened her own dance studio.


Ai Yûzaki.

Upon her formal introduction to Ifukube, Yûzaki realized that she had seen the composer before. The two frequented the Shienso Café in Sapporo where the dancer often saw Ifukube sitting at a table, alone, poring over musical scores. Although Yûzaki did not know who this young man was at the time, she thought he was handsome and had the air of a philosopher.

Yûzaki, intrigued by Ifukube's proposed ballet and attracted to his personality and good looks, agreed to choreograph the piece. Since Ifukube was directly basing his music on etenraku, Yûzaki thought it appropriate that her choreography for the ballet portion should mimic the original associated dances. Also, Yûzaki shared Ifukube's trepidation over the nationalistic politics behind the production; both the composer and choreographer wanted to produce a more artistic ballet instead of a politcal one.

As their work on Etenraku progressed, it was undeniable that the composer and the choreographer become increasingly fond of each other. It did not take long to ascertain that this was becoming much more than a simple artistic collaboration. Their mutual affection and attraction to each other had blossomed into a vigorous romance. The two were in love.


Ai Yûzaki.

On July 7, 1940 at 8:30 PM, a smitten Akira Ifukube took to the conductor's platform and Etenraku had its premiere on the grounds of the Hokkaido Shrine in Maruyama Park - the Shinto site where the spirit of Emperor Meiji is enshrined - as part of the local Sacred Fire Festival. The ballet symphonique was performed outside in the open air for two reasons: First, there was no indoor facility in Sapporo that could accommodate the nearly 600 performers plus a large audience and second, Ifukube thought that performing the piece under the night sky in semi-darkness (except, of course, for the minimal on-stage lighting) would lend a mystical atmosphere to the sights and sounds. This was the composer's intention from the start: In fact, the first page of the score confirms this with its inscription in French: "A la faveur de l'obscurité de la nuit" ("Aided by the darkness of the night"). Because of the darkness, Ifukube conducted his huge opus with a reflective silver baton for the visual benefit of both the performers and audience. And, speaking of the the audience, there were no less than 50,000 in attendance! Surely, on every level, Etenraku was a gargantuan event.**


Akira Ifukube conducting the premiere (and only) performance of Etenraku in Sapporo.

There are some interesting instrumental choices in Etenraku. Ifukube's unusually large brass section called for six trombones, six cornets, four trumpets, two horns, four alto saxophones, six baritone saxophones, a tuba and a sousaphone. The composer also employs tubular bells, an instrument that he would rarely use again in future works.

There are also the vocal forces. Toward the end of the score, Ifukube brings in his choir to sing words in what can be considered a somewhat archaic Japanese. The lyrics, which appear to have been penned by the composer himself, are below. Note that they make reference to kagura (literally, "god entertainment"), or a Shinto theatrical dance. This dance was performed in the imperial court, often to mark sacred occasions.

Kokoro shite
Kokoro shite
Utae ya
Mae ya
Kagura hito
Kagura hito
Kagura hito
Utae ya
Mae ya
Kagura hito
Kakari keru yo
Shiru mo shiranu mo
Onaji kokoro ni
Utae ya
Mae ya
Kagura hito
Kagura hito
Aaa...

In English:

With thoughtful mind
With thoughtful mind
May you sing
May you dance
People of the
kagura
People of the
kagura
People of the
kagura
May you sing
May you dance
In this all-embracing moment
Whether we know each other or not
We are of the same heart and spirit
May you sing
May you dance
People of the
kagura
People of the
kagura
Aaa...

These lyrics, which take on the character of a type of prayer, do well to further demonstrate the nonpolitical tone that Ifukube wanted to emphasize in Etenraku. Instead of writing words in celebration of Japan's imperial house or militarism, Ifukube instead aspires that, though his music, people will come together to revel in the esoteric beauty of this ancient kagura-inspired song and dance. With these words the choir, joined by the full orchestra, bring the music to a powerful conclusion in a sweeping triple forte swell. [2]


The cover page and first page of the score for Etenraku.

After the premiere of Etenraku, Ifukube and Yûzaki continued to collaborate musically, but on a decidedly smaller scale. Ifukube, though a string player by experience, had over the years become a proficient pianist. The composer often lent his keyboard talents to Ai's dance studio to add the needed musical accompaniment to her students' dance lessons. All the while, the love that had begun to take shape during the composition of Etenraku continued to reach new heights and the inevitable happened: Akira asked Ai for her hand in marriage.


Two artists in love.


Ifukube plays the piano for Ai's dance studio.
Photo courtesy of Motoji Yssimal.

On April 11, 1941, Akira Ifukube and Ai Yûzaki were married in a traditional Shinto ceremony Sapporo. After the wedding, Ai moved in with her husband at his Toyohira cabin.


The Ifukube and Yûzaki families on April 10 1941, the day before the wedding.


Akira and Ai Ifukube, April 11, 1941.

After Etenraku, Ifukube remained firmly on the Japanese government's musical radar; little did the newlywed composer and scientist know that he was only at the beginning of a string of repeated collaborations with it. Not all of Ifukube's music-related government assignments involved the writing of original compositions, however. Ifukube once recalled that, not long after his marriage to Ai, he was required to administer singing lessons to the army. "[A] military officer came with his soldiers to the wood laboratory and took me in an airplane to Tomakomai in Hokkaido. My wife was terrified that I was under arrest or something. But actually it was just for training soldiers how to sing the hymns of soldiers." [3]


The happy couple.

It was also not long after the wedding that Ifukube's conducting instructor, Manfred Gurlitt, requested that the composer write a new score, this time a symphony. It appears that Ifukube, while eager to fulfill Gurlitt's request, was not willing to write a pure symphony per se. It was Alexander Tcherepnin during his stay in Japan in 1936 who advised his young, enthusiastic protégé to take as much time as he needed to perfect his craft before attempting to take on the venerable symphony, the pinnacle of the composer's craft. Tcherepnin explained to the young Ifukube that Johannes Brahms needed twenty one years before finishing his first symphony and the Russian composer Mily Balakirev required thirty four years before achieving his. This was Tcherepnin's way of explaining that one must wait until just the right moment to compose a symphony, even if it means a delay of decades. Apparently taking Tcherepnin's words to heart and not yet ready to write a symphony in the purest sense of the word, Ifukube settled instead on a large scale, three movement concerto for piano and orchestra which he would dub Symphony Concertante for Piano and Orchestra. Ifukube finished the work toward the end of 1941 and sent the manuscript score to Gurlitt in Tokyo. Symphony Concertante was premiered the following year on March 3, 1942 by Gurlitt and his Tokyo Philharmonic at the Hibiya Public Hall. Yoko Matsukuma was the solo pianist.

The often brutally bombastic Symphony Concertante surely demonstrates that Ifukube's artistry was moving in a new direction on multiple levels. Described by the composer himself as the "blending [of] Asian indigenous vitality [with] machine-civilization modernism," [4] Ifukube takes full advantage of the folklorism of his preceding compositions (his open use here of various Japanese pentatonic scales demonstrates this) and mixes it with the dense, monolithic sounds reminiscent of the Soviet futurist composers such as Sergei Prokofiev (a composer adored by Ifukube) and Dmitri Shostakovich in what the Japanese musicologist Morihide Katayama describes as "a combination of primitive barbarism with the modernistic sound of iron and steel." [5] That is, with this work, Ifukube had given up what could be considered a strict adherence to the musical representation of the rustic and the ancient and shows a willingness to embrace and express the technological progress of modern Japanese civilization.

This is more than a simple aesthetic shift, however. If the composer had been more apolitical up to and during the composition of Etenraku less than a year before, and uncomfortable with the political undertones of that government commissioned work, Symphony Concertante demonstrates an evolution of the composer's political state of mind. The work clearly shows that Ifukube, who wrote the piece of his own volition after Gurlitt's suggestion - it was not a government commission - had begun to show support for the Japanese war effort by writing a piece that glorified the mechanization and fortification of Japan's military infrastructure. Katayama's reference to the clamor of "iron and steel" in the work is not coincidental; he elaborates on this point by stating that "[Symphony Concertante] can be regarded as a [...] made-in-Japan tank, battleship and canon concerto." [6]

If Symphony Concertante is clear in its aesthetic as well as political aims, it is much less clear as to what may have prompted the rather rapid change in Ifukube's wartime thinking. It is plausible that, after dealing with the Imperial government during the conception of Etenraku and his firsthand exposure to the military while teaching soldiers to sing military songs, Ifukube quickly fell under the influence of the nationalist and militarist rhetoric and propaganda that would have been ever present in these situations - and ever present in day to day life, in general. Moreover, Ifukube was born into a military family; as we have already seen, his father Toshizo was a proud ex-soldier himself whose Meiji-era philosophy was that it was the duty of every Japanese citizen to "enrich and strengthen the nation" must have also ended up making a substantial impression on the composer's psyche.***

Symphony Concertante's three movements are: Vivace meccanico; Lento con malincolia; Allegro barbaro.

Vivace meccanico has perhaps the most "modernistic" sounding music of the piece. The widespread jagged rhythms and pounding percussion surely bring to mind images of iron mills, swinging hammers and pulsating pistons. Lento con malincolia is music of a completely different character, much more redolent of Ifukube in his Nocturne from Japanese Rhapsody or Timbe from Triptyque aborigène. Evocative of "the loneliness of one who lives in the remote north," [7] Ifukube makes use of a beautifully mournful cor anglais melody on top of haunting string tremolos easily reminiscent of Jean Sibelius's music. In the conspicuously titled Allegro barbaro (a reference to Béla Bartók's work of the same name?), Ifukube conjures up some of the most explosively aggressive, vulgar music that he would ever write; again we hear the relentless rhythms and audacious percussion of the first movement mixed with theatrical piano gestures that recall, at times, a frenzied Franz Liszt. There are also moments in which Ifukube requires the pianist to strike the keyboard with outstretched hands to create shocking tone clusters, a technique that deftly adds to the "barbaro" character of the movement. The piece comes to a close with the orchestra working itself into a rhythmic delirium as the pianist executes several continuous glissandi up and down the keyboard.

After the debut of Symphony Concertante, and throughout the rest of 1942 Ifukube, busy at his post at the wood laboratory, did not pursue any additional musical compositions. If his day-to-day life during this time was more or less routine, that would surely change on the snowy night of December 12. Late that evening, Akira and Ai heard a knock at their cabin door. When Akira answered the door, a messenger handed him a telegraph. Reading the message, Ifukube's heart sank: His older brother and dear musical partner, Isao, was dead at the age of thirty.


Isao Ifukube 1912 - 1942

Isao, also a scientist, had been employed by the Japanese government to conduct experiments with fluorescence in Tokyo. The result of his experiments was the invention of an luminescent paint that was used by Japanese soldiers. Ifukube once explained: "On the back of the soldiers there was used IFK paint, my brother's invention. This was important as a precaution for preventing injury to the soldiers since they are holding rifles with bayonets. The luminescence was to make sure that at close range no one would run into the person in front and actually stab them." [8]

Isao had quickly become ill and died due to the massive amounts of radiation that he was exposed to during the development of his invention.

A heartbroken Ifukube traveled to Tokyo to attend Isao's funeral, which took place on December 15. Just before heading back to Hokkaido, Ifukube was blindsided by a request from the Imperial Japanese Navy to write a patriotic march for wind band. Ifukube perhaps did not give much initial thought to this request as he was still shocked and devastated over his brother's death. In fact, it is likely that his thoughts were focused on the idea for another musical piece that he had begun ruminating over, an orchestral work in honor of his late brother.

Now back in Hokkaido, Ifukube received a second, and perhaps more emphatic request from the Navy toward the end of January 1943 and Ifukube, feeling the pressure from the government, got to work right away on his commissioned march. Ifukube decided that he did not want to write something ordinary; he wanted the piece to demonstrate national pride on a grand scale. Looking for inspiration, Ifukube recalled the exploits of Empress Jingu (AD 169-264) who conquered the kingdom of Silla on the Korean peninsula. When she and her soldiers triumphantly returned to Japan, they brought back many important treasures, indeed symbolic of the glories of the Empress. Ifukube explained: "The story behind this piece - it's a 4th or 5th century (sic) episode as proven history through text critique, and it is described in both Kojiki, Record of Old Incidents, the oldest surviving book in Japan, as a great accomplishment of the Empress Jingu, after the death of her Emperor, Chuai." Ifukube continued: "Kishi Mai was believed performed at the triumphant return of the Empress Jingu. I knew about this, so I wrote a military march for the Imperial Navy and titled it Kishi Mai - it was considered to be a very good omen by a number of people." [9]


Empress Jingu.

Kishi Mai (Good Fortune Dance) is scored for a wind band of 38 performers. Unlike the vast majority of the more routine, simplistic Japanese martial music that was composed during the war period, Kishi Mai is characterized by unusually complex rhythms and its rich counterpoint. The extraordinarily sophisticated nature of Kishi Mai is no coincidence; "I didn't like to compose a simple hymn or regular march for the military, so instead I just tried to imagine what a court musician in the ninth year in the reign of Emperor Chuai might have composed for his majesty's Empress Jingu. They should have written in this kind of way...an epic military march." [10]


Title page of Ifukube's Kishi Mai manuscript.

Ifukube wasted no time in completing Kishi Mai; the march was completed in less than a month in February 1943. It premiered in an NHK radio broadcast on April 8.****

The composition of Kishi Mai further demonstrates Ifukube's ever increasing support of the Japanese war effort after Symphony Concertante. True, it was commissioned by the government and Ifukube likely would have had to fulfill the request whether he wanted to or not, but his remarks on his aims when writing the piece are indeed revealing. By expressing his desire to compose a march on an unusually grand scale worthy of the past invasions and subsequent conquests of Empress Jingu, Ifukube clearly states that his heart was in the music's glorious - and unsubtle - message.

In May, not long after the premiere of Kishi Mai, it appears that Ifukube began sketches for another martial work, this time for full orchestra. Entitled Marche triomphale, little is currently known about this piece. The composer is not known to have spoken about Marche triomphale in his lifetime and Ifukube researchers only became aware of the score's existence in 2007, about a year after Ifukube's death; it was discovered in the late composer's personal archives in his home.

The extant manuscript score indeed shows that Ifukube was working on the piece in late May 1943. The title Marche triomphale more or less confirms that this was intended as a military march, likely for the Japanese army. No clues are given, however, as to whether or not it was a commissioned work, though it would almost certainly have been the fulfillment of a government request. The manuscript clearly demonstrates that the composer began to write the music in great haste: The notation is uncharacteristically sloppy throughout and the orchestration is incomplete. On the cover page, the words "par radiocast" are scribbled, demonstrating that whatever the purpose was for Marche triomphale, it was ultimately intended for a radio performance, likely a follow-up to the previous month's Kishi Mai broadcast.

Marche triomphale is written as a steady marciale pesante. Its orchestration is fairly routine, but does include a xylophone, an instrument not normally used by the composer.

It is certain that Marche triomphale was never completed during Ifukube's lifetime. Shortly after its rediscovery, Ifukube's former assistant, Satoshi Imai, fashioned a reconstruction of the piece for wind band using the incomplete manuscript as a basis. After arranging it for wind band, Imai also created a version for solo piano.*****

Whatever his reasons for abandoning Marche triomphale, Ifukube now had free time to turn his artistic attention back to his dearly departed Isao and writing a piece of music in his honor. With a flood of inspiration, Ifukube began writing this work, titled Ballata Sinfonica.

Finished in the late summer of 1943, Ballata Sinfonica is in two movements and is scored for a moderately sized orchestra. Unlike Japanese Rhapsody, Etenraku and Symphony Concertante, all of which enjoyed huge orchestral forces, the ever increasing wartime austerities implemented by the Japanese government would have prevented the composer from writing a new piece for an unusually large ensemble. Aware of this, Ifukube required a smaller orchestra for his Ballata to ensure the viability of its performance. [11]

The piece's two movements are Prima Ballata: Allegro capriccioso and Seconda Ballata: Andante rapsodico. While the first movement is comprised of completely original music, Ifukube had recycled some previously written material into the second; the composer refashioned content from the jettisoned Danse de Jongara movement of the original version of Japanese Rhapsody and wove it into the mournful Seconda Ballata. In describing these two movements, Ifukube once stated: "I wish to evoke the melodies not yet sung but which dwells in us, the Japanese people. The first movement emphasizes the rhythmic side and the second movement is the cantabile side." [12]

Ballata Sinfonica is perhaps Ifukube's first true masterpiece; it is an exceptionally fine work, expertly orchestrated and structured. The breathtakingly energetic first movement never loses its forward momentum, even during the central slower sections. When the music regains its fury toward the end of the movement, the music, punched out with full orchestra, comes to an abrupt but thrilling conclusion. The second movement is much more somber, even dark, and aptly expresses the deep anguish that Ifukube felt for the loss of his brother. The oboe is prominent here and weaves a principal melody in an exotic tonality resembling the pentatonic iwato scale of the 13-string koto. As the second movement comes to an end, the full orchestra gives an emphatic (if frustrated) exclamation only to quickly die down and end with three furtive - and even pessimistic - pianissimo chords.

Upon Ballata Sinfonica's completion, it attracted an unusual amount of attention. Immediately after Ifukube had finished the work, the Japan Victor record label announced a contest for Japanese composers to submit an original work. The winner of the contest would have their submission recorded and distributed for sale to the general public. Clearly feeling confident of the merits of his newest work, Ifukube entered his Ballata into the competition, whose jury included such prominent musical figures as the composers Kosaku Yamada, Saburo Moroi, Yasuji Kiyose and Kunihiko Hashimoto. To Ifukube's absolute delight, Ballata Sinfonica won the competition and on September 4 the work was committed to an SP recording with Kazuo Yamada conducting the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. This was a significant moment for Ifukube, marking the second time that he had been awarded a first prize for one of his orchestral compositions (of course, Japanese Rhapsody was the first) and, additionally, Ballata Sinfonica was the first of his compositions to be commercially recorded. Thanks to the distribution of Ballata Sinfonica, the piece became, overnight, the composer's most widely heard composition. Ifukube was exceedingly happy that the piece written in his beloved brother's memory was the recipient of so much praise and attention.

The salience of Ballata Sinfonica did not end there. Roughly two months later, the work had its first public performance on November 20 at the Hibiya Public Hall. This performance was again led by Maestro Yamada and his Tokyo forces. And later in 1944, Ballata Sinfonica would win another prize, the Ministry of Education Award, which recognizes excellence in the field of fine arts.

Thanks to Ballata Sinfonica, 1943 was coming to a close on an artistic high note. Back at his day job at the wood laboratory, though, Ifukube's responsibilities were about to change. Japan's Ministry of the Imperial Household was seeking research scientists to develop timber reinforcements for wooden airplanes. Because of Ifukube's unique experience as an expert in the physics of wood, his supervisor Professor Harada had recommended that Ifukube join the Ministry's research efforts. Harada's suggestion was in truth a sort of formal command; according to Ifukube, joining the Ministry's scientific team was "semi-compulsary." [13] Regarding his recruitment into the Ministry, Ifukube stated: "I was chosen [...] after they had checked all of my family tree...they were very keen and sharp about this kind of thing. The Ifukube family was a family of honor. This was not the actual reason for my being selected by the Board, but I could not have been selected if it were not so." [14] Although Ifukube was now working directly for the Ministry of the Imperial Household instead of for Hokkaido Imperial University, he was able to remain at the same research facility in Toyohira. This must have been a relief to Ifukube: Although the Pacific War was currently raging more ferociously than ever, this new scientific appointment would prevent the young man, who had luckily avoided direct military service up to this point, from being drafted. "That's why I didn't go to the front, because I was involved in this research," Ifukube once explained. [15]

Immediately after joining the Imperial research team, Ifukube was given another musical commission from the government. The commission in question would be to celebrate Japan's annexation of the Philippines, which had taken place roughly two years previously on December 7, 1941, mere hours after the Japanese attack on the American naval base of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When the Japanese seized the Philippines from the Americans, who then had sovereignty over the archipelago nation, the invaders saw their cause as just and necessary under the idea of Pan-Asianism. Ifukube's music to mark the Japanese annexation of the Philippines would be written "for the Filipino people after their liberation by Japanese forces," as the composer once put it. "[Countries like the Philippines were] colonies of the western world, and we Japanese believed that we liberated them from the oppression of white people." [16].

The full title of Ifukube's new, celebratory work was Oberture festiva: Sa Bago Filipinas, A Gift to the Philippines.****** Written for full orchestra, Oberture festiva recycles some elements from the unfinished Marche triomphale, which Ifukube had begun earlier that year.

Oberture festiva has a simple ABA structure: The first section is primarily comprised of a rousing march brimming with triumphant brass, syncopated rhythms and crashing cymbals. Notably, like Marche triomphale, Oberture festiva makes use of two pianos. Despite this, Ifukube did not carry over any of Marche triomphale's double-keyboard content into the Oberture; rather, for those instruments, he wrote completely new material, quickly played ostinato motifs that evoke the bell-like sound of indigenous Filipino kulintang music, which is similar to the better known Indonesian gamelan gong ensemble. After this initial fast A section, Ifukube introduces the introspectively mournful B section that seems, perhaps, a little out of place in an "oberture festiva." With a bang from the bass drum and pianos, the rousing first section is repeated and works toward a coda into which Ifukube transplanted his principal march melody originally composed for Marche triomphale.

Oberture Festiva received its first performance on January 30, 1944. Tadashi Otaka conducted the Nippon Symphony Orchestra at the Hibiya Public Hall. A repeat performance took place with the same ensemble in September of that same year.

Let us return to Ifukube's candid remarks that Oberture festiva was written to celebrate the Philippines' "liberation" by "we Japanese;" this statement, which was made to the American expert of Japanese science fiction cinema Ed Godziszewski in 1995 - fifty years after the conclusion of the Second World War - is indeed revealing and seems to demonstrate to what extent Ifukube's political feelings had evolved when he had written this piece. We have already seen how, since Etenraku, his political outlook had changed in the midst of writing Symphony Concertante and Kishi Mai; Ifukube's backing of the Imperial government's militarism had been ever increasing. Again, Oberture festiva was conceived just after the composer had officially joined the Ministry of the Imperial Household as a research scientist; undoubtedly, his now direct involvement in the Japanese war effort would have done much more to bolster and even consolidate his overall sympathies for his new employer's political goals, including its policy of Pan-Asianism.

Oberture festiva represents more than Ifukube's Pan-Asianism on a political level, however. It is the composer's first musical piece to take its main inspiration from a subject outside of Japan; here, Ifukube enthusiastically represents the music of the Philippines with his use of two pianos to imitate and evoke the rapid-fire, percussive sonority of that country's kulintang tradition. Oberture festiva gave the composer, then, the perfect opportunity to explore a wider range of Asian sounds without limiting himself to the compositional and aesthetic representation of the folk music of his home country's ethnic Japanese and Ainu populations; therefore, his "Gift to the Philippines" can legitimately be designated as the hitherto Japan-centric composer's first piece of truly Pan-Asian music and thus marks a significant branching out of his artistic aims.

In music, Pan-Asianism can be defined as "the composition of works based on Eastern or Japanese cultural attributes." [17] The term, han tôyôshugi in Japanese, was coined and promoted by Fumio Hayasaka, Ifukube's close friend and fellow musician, after he had relocated to Tokyo in 1939 to pursue a career as a film composer. Since moving to Tokyo, Hayasaka had quickly become a salient musical figure, not only because of his work in the film industry but also because of a series of articles that he had penned outlining the theory and practice of musical Pan-Asianism.

It can be said that both political and musical Pan-Asianism sought to promote Asian empowerment in the face of what was perceived to be wicked European and American cultural supremacy, but the similarities between the two theories more or less end there. If political Pan-Asianism can primarily be considered the unification of Asian peoples by way of Japan's military invasions, Hayasaka's Pan-Asianism was much more benign and its goals were above all artistic. Hayasaka believed that Asian composers had a duty "to thwart the dominance of Western music" throughout the Asian continent and offer "alternatives to contemporary Western-style composing" in international art music. [18]

Certainly, both Ifukube and Hayasaka had believed in the practice of musical Pan-Asianism to promote Japanese music well before Hayasaka had coined the term in his public writings, but the approach that the two composers took to this idea were, in essence, markedly different. Hayasaka's idea of musical Pan-Asianism was more concentrated on linking the music of his native Japan to Western classical music. Consequently, he all but excluded an exploration of non-Japanese Asian music in his scores. His ready embrace of Western idioms, however, was demonstrably strong and is ironically at odds with the notion that Asian art music should do whatever it could to subvert Western influence. Let us take for example his Piano Concerto (1948), which is divided into two movements: Lento and and Rondo. The Lento is especially "European" in its flavor; the tonal and harmonic features of the movement readily recall the late-Romantic stylings of Sergei Rachmaninov. The Rondo, despite some suggestion of Japanese pentatonic scales, takes clear influence from the lighthearted whimsy of French composers such as Jacques Ibert and Darius Milhaud. Let us also take into account Hayasaka's final composition, Yukara (1955). Though based on an ancient Ainu myth, Yukara retains practically no obvious aesthetic link to actual Ainu music. Rather, it prefers to flirt with atonality, the avant-garde musical practice that was so firmly en vogue throughout Europe and the rest of the Western world in the period in which it was written, the mid-20th century.*******

Although Ifukube himself is not known to have used the term "Pan-Asian" to describe his own music, ironically, it can be argued that, between him and Hayasaka, he would end up being the more representative Pan-Asian composer of the two, especially if we are to take the term at face value and understand that it calls for a more vigorous absorption of differing Asian musical traditions into the compositional fold - not just Japanese music. As well, although Ifukube used Western instruments and orchestras to express his Japanese- or Asia-centric aesthetic, he, unlike Hayasaka, purposefully avoided writing music in an style that was overtly derivative of European music. "[European classical music] was all like French cuisine to me - very luxurious and very great culture, but it did not belong to me," Ifukube once explained. [19]

Oberture festiva, with its clear cross-cultural references to Filipino kulintang was, therefore, Pan-Asian music par excellence - in every sense of the word.

The arrival of 1944 saw the Pacific War raging with tremendous ferocity. Japan was embroiled in a host conflicts from northern China to the South Pacific and, back in Toyohira, Ifukube continued his experiments at the wood laboratory in the service of the Ministry of the Imperial Household. It was probably in early 1944 that Japanese forces had shot down a type of British fighter plane, the De Havilland Mosquito, which was mostly fabricated of wood, in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. The Japanese were fascinated by the technology used to build the captured aircraft; because it was mostly wooden - it used adhesives instead of metal rivets to be held together - the aircraft could avoid easy detection by radar. Wanting to study this enemy technology - with the hope of adapting it for their own causes - the Japanese shipped the downed plane to the Toyohira laboratory where Ifukube and his team of scientists could examine it.

Ifukube performed a battery of experiments on the captured Mosquito; specifically, he was interested in the chemicals, compression technology and cements used to build the plane. [20] These tests required the wide use of X-rays; this was a potentially dangerous situation as all of Ifukube's X-ray experiments were carried out without the proper protective suits; this was due to a shortage of lead caused by wartime austerities.


The De Havilland Mosquito.

In the late summer of 1944, Ifukube received a telegram from Captain Masahiko Amakasu (1891 - 1945), a powerful officer of the Imperial Japanese Army. Amakasu was a highly influential figure in Manchukuo, the Japanese name for their colony in Manchuria, and served as an advisor to Puyi, the man considered to be the last emperor of China (he had abdicated the throne in 1912) and who was currently acting as Manchukuo's puppet leader. Amakasu was also vigorously involved in the arts in Manchukuo: He was a chairman of the Shinkyo Orchestra in Manchukuo's capital [21] and he presided as the director of the Manchurian Film Cooperative.


Captain Masahiko Amakasu.

Amakasu's telegram requested that Ifukube "write music for the Manchurian people;" that is, the work, like Obertura festiva, should be a celebration of Japan's colonialism. [18] Amakasu felt that it was necessary for Ifukube to visit Manchukuo personally in order to receive the proper inspiration to write the commissioned work; therefore, the officer invited the composer to take a leave of absence from his experiments in Toyohira and come to the colony.

It was mid-September when Ifukube arrived in Manchukuo. There, the composer recalled that he was treated very well with, as he put it, "complete freedom to go wherever I wanted. Because of the Captain's great power, I had a free pass." Ifukube continued: "We were treated as field grade, so we were taught how to salute as we were supposed to do. We were told, 'No, no, no! Gentlemen, it's the salute of a soldier! You have to salute with a certain gentleness and slant like this!'" [22]

Indeed, Ifukube had his free pass and was able to roam throughout the colony to observe Manchukuo's countryside and indigenous customs. His travels were extensive: He ventured far into the west to visit Rehe Province (known today as Jehol Province) and farther yet into Mongolia. In Rehe, Ifukube visited several Buddhist temples and was particularly struck by the statues that he saw in them. In one temple, the large amount of statues and the way in which they were organized reminded him of his beloved ostinato musical technique and indeed validated his use of it as composer seeking to express himself in a singularly Japanese or Asian way. Ifukube said: "[At the temple I] saw numerous Buddha statues embedded all over the wall. Even though each statue was humble, seeing all of them together on the wall impressed me greatly. I felt overwhelmed with an Asian feeling I got from their vast quantity and thought they were really remarkable. Even if each item is small, a large quantity of small items can be impressive. A countless number of small items gives us a different kind of impact from that given by one enormous item. This philosophy is related to the ostinato technique."

It was now October and temperatures in Manchukuo began to sink precipitously toward freezing thanks to the region's proximity to frigid Siberia. Ifukube began to feel ill; the composer himself described having "contracted a contagious disease caused by an amoeba" and had to return to Hokkaido after a stay on the Asian mainland of 20 days. [23]

Eventually feeling better on his home turf in Toyohira, Ifukube got to work on Amakasu's commission. Profoundly moved by the regional beauty of Manchukuo - and by its cold climate - the composer was inspired to write a three-movement tone poem based on what he observed during his excursion. He dubbed it Tone Poem: Arctic Forest (Kangengaku no tame no oto Kantairin).


The title page and first page of the third movement of Arctic Forest.

Arctic Forest is scored for a standard-sized orchestra and has three movements: The Dimming of Light in the Forest (Andante tranquillo); Song of the Woodcutter (Moderato pastorale); Mountain Wine Festival (Allegro rapsodico).

The meditative Dimming of Light in the Forest is sumptuously beautiful and conspicuously repetitive; Ifukube's use of melodic ostinato here is perhaps more insistent than in any of his previous works. (It is possible that the image of the "ostinato" Buddha statues that the composer had just seen in Rehe Province was still very fresh in his mind when composing this section of the score.) This calm yet doleful music features a main melody sung on the oboe, often underpinned with chilly string tremolos and portentous pedals throughout, painting a hauntingly beautiful picture of a crepuscular moment in a primeval northern wood.

Song of the Woodcutter begins with a jaunty, Chinese-sounding melody that one must assume was inspired by a folkloric tune that Ifukube heard during his stay in the colony. After a gentle, slightly melancholic middle section, the main theme returns to conclude the movement.

In Mountain Wine Festival, Ifukube brings Arctic Forest to a rollicking climax. This is surely the swiftest and most percussive section of the music, aptly expressing with its multiple Chinese-inspired tunes the uninhibited joy of an alpine bacchanal.********

Thanks to its overriding Chinese theme and its use of Chinese tunes, Arctic Forest can surely be considered Ifukube's second true exercise in Pan-Asianism. As well, like Triptyque aborigène in 1937, Arctic Forest is a collection of three tone pictures with rather well defined folkloric programs for each section: That is, the composer is unusually precise in explaining what the music represents and what he would like his audience to envision when listening.

As Ifukube was putting the finishing touches on Arctic Forest at the tail end of 1944 and arranging for its eventual premiere performance in Manchukuo, he received yet another commission from the Imperial Japanese Army, this time for a military march. The result of Ifukube's labor was Prélude du soldat, or Overture to the Soldiers, as it is alternatively called in English. This allegro marciale was likely written with some haste: the overriding tune of the Prélude is nothing more than a simple reworking and expansion of the main melody of Marche triomphale, which also appeared in the coda of Oberture festiva. Scored for a standard-sized symphony orchestra, the march opens with an optimistic fanfare from the brass before segueing to a steady repetition of the "orphaned" march melody. The work is relatively brief, lasting about eight minutes. The Prélude had two performances at the Hibiya Public Hall on December 6 and 7 and although it is known that it was played by the Tokyo Symphony, there are no currently available records of who conducted it.

In February 1945, Akira and Ai welcomed their first child into the world, their daughter Reiko. It was around the time of Reiko's birth that Ifukube had completed his Arctic Forest and shipped the a copy of his score to Amakasu's office in Shinkyo. The work was played only twice, on April 26 and 27, by the Shinkyo Orchestra in the Shin Miyako Hall of the Manchurian capital. The conductor engaged for these two performances was Kazuo Yamada, the man who also led the debut performance of Ifukube's Ballata Sinfonica roughly two years earlier.


Akira Ifukube in 1945.

Ifukube recalled that he was paid twice for Arctic Forest. "[M]y payment was sent from Manchuria. Although I did receive it, I did not reply because I was so busy in my experiments in the laboratory. After a little while, I received a second payment saying, 'although we did send you a reward for your composition Arctic Forest for the Manchurian people, it seems it did not reach you because of America's commerce destruction warfare (sic), so we are sending you another one. Please forgive us...' I was surprised and felt guilty, but it was the final phase of the war, so it became impossible to communicate overseas. Unfortunately, Mr. Amakasu took his life life in the chaos during the fall of [Manchukuo]." [24]

Indeed, chaos and tumult were not exclusive to Manchukuo: The war in the European theater had already come to a close on May 8 - mere weeks following the premiere of Arctic Forest - after the Soviet invasion of Berlin. In the Pacific, the Japanese continued their pitifully desperate battle against Allied forces, knowing they could not win but refusing to surrender.

Manchukuo was invaded and captured by Soviet forces on August 8, two days after the United States had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6. On August 9 the Americans dropped a second atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki, an action that abruptly brought an end to the Second World War.

On August 15, Japan announced its initial intention to surrender to the United States. As General Douglas MacArthur's occupation of the archipelago nation was beginning to take shape subsequent to the surrender, Ifukube had still been working at the wood laboratory in Toyohira. The military scientist was shocked that his country had been so decisively crushed by the Allies' superior military technology. Ifukube harbored feelings of shameful inferiority that quickly morphed into bitter anger; Japan, the country that believed that it could free its neighboring Asian nations from the clutches of Western colonial powers was now itself conquered and in the possession of the United States.

On August 28, Ifukube and his colleagues, nervously realizing that their work would likely be seized by Occupation forces, decided it would be prudent to destroy the documents related to their research before investigators had the chance to arrive in Hokkaido. Ifukube and his team built a bonfire just outside of the laboratory and tossed into it the papers and books containing the results of their experiments. Once it was assured that any potentially incriminating paperwork was destroyed, Ifukube began to walk back to the lab. Perhaps agitated by his depressed and worried state, Ifukube suddenly began to vomit blood. Disoriented and scared, Ifukube collapsed and was taken by his colleagues to the nearest hospital in Sapporo.

Ifukube's physicians were initially uncertain about what might have caused Ifukube to cough blood and collapse; tuberculosis was an initial diagnosis. Whatever the cause of his condition, Ifukube had become too physically weak to remain ambulatory and was consequently admitted to the hospital for several days.

Ifukube was lying on his hospital bed on August 30 when General MacArthur arrived at Atsugi Air Base to fully formalize the Japanese Surrender. The dejected patient was intently listening to the proceedings on the radio when, suddenly, he was shocked by something that he heard. "MacArthur was coming out of his airplane, and at that moment I heard my Kishi Mai being performed by the band at that base," Ifukube said. "[I]t's an ironic twist of fate. [25] *********

The ironic twists of fate did not end there. Ifukube's doctors finally came to the conclusion that the cause of their patient's sickness was not due to tuberculosis but exposure to X-ray radiation: Ifukube's experiments on the the De Havilland Mosquito were to blame. The destructive X-rays had caused Ifukube's capillaries to rupture, which resulted in his vomiting of blood. [26] Ifukube must have been staggered to learn that he was suffering from radiation poisoning, the same condition that had struck down his brother in December 1942. Akira, however, unlike his unlucky sibling, would pull through.

Upon his eventual release from the hospital, Ifukube had to return to the laboratory in Toyohira to meet with an American investigator for questioning. Ifukube had a vague recollection of this encounter: "At the time, the amount of chemical reagents that we could use [to conduct our experiments] was barely one small flask per day and the investigator quietly asked how much reagent was used daily. This question hurt my self-esteem and I did not answer it. ********** I do not remember what else was asked. With this loss of self-esteem and sickness coming together, I was wondering whether or not to continue [scientific] work. All of my work on aircraft was banned on MacArthur's orders. That was final." [27]

Subsequent to their investigation, the Americans shut down the Toyohira laboratory and, as a result, Ifukube was now out of a job. Even if he wanted to work, Ifukube was still too physically weak. His radiation sickness was so severe, in fact, that he would not be able to work for an entire year after the war's end. Relying of the financial help of his and Ai's family, Ifukube was thankfully able to take this time to convalesce, heal and think about his future - uncertain as it was.


Ifukube in Sapporo, after the war.


* If 1940 truly marked the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Japanese empire, this would suggest that the first emperor, Jimmu, came to the throne in 660 BC. This date is actually sourced from Japanese mythology. Therefore, this is not considered an accurate date by historians. As well, there is virtually no evidence that Jimmu was a real person; he was a mythological figure.

** Etenraku was never performed again anywhere after the July 7, 1940 première.

*** Ifukube does not seem to have made many public comments that would definitively explain his rapid change of heart toward a more vigorous embrace of the Japanese war effort when writing Symphony Concertante. While I feel that my conclusions on the matter are plausible and do well to explain his shift in thinking, I hope that additional research will once day uncover a more concrete explanation.

**** It is worth noting that fans of Ifukube's daikaiju and tokusatsu film scores would be surprised to hear a familiar melody in Kishi Mai. The melody that would later be known as the Frigate March in the first Godzilla film of 1954 was actually first written for Kishi Mai. In fact, many of the well known march melodies in these films have their origins in Ifukube's martial music written during World War Two.

***** Fans of Ifukube's tokusatsu (special effects) film scores will immediately recognize that Marche triomphale's main march tune would later be used in Ifukube's soundtrack for Battle in Outer Space (1959), directed by Ishiro Honda.

****** A Gift to the Philippines is the English language subtitle that Ifukube himself gave to Oberture Festiva: Sa Bago Filipinas. It is interesting to note that the full title of this piece makes use of three languages: Spanish (Obertura festiva), Tagalog (Sa Bago Filipinas) and English (A Gift to the Philippines). All three languages have history in the Philippines: certainly, Tagalog is the principal, indigenous language of that country, and Spanish had been widely spoken there as the Philippines were ruled by Spain for over 300 years. After the conclusion of the Spanish-American War in 1898, English has been widely spoken in the Philippines; indeed today, it remains an official language alongside Tagalog. Speaking of Tagalog, Sa Bago Filipinas literally means "To a New Philippines." Filipinas is misspelled; it should read "Pilipinas."

******* In my opinion, Fumio Hayasaka was not a musical Pan-Asianist as much as he was a "Pan-Hemisphericist." In practice, he was more concerned with the musical linking of East (mainly Japan) and West.

******** Interestingly, in this movement, Ifukube introduces for the first time in his output a melodic fragment consisting of a descending three-note motif, C-B-A, that would eventually (and definitively) go on to be used as his world famous Godzilla theme. Could it be that Godzilla's musical roots were planted in Manchurian soil?

********* Ifukube often mentioned this anecdote in interviews over the years, and indeed many brief biographies of the composer, both in Japanese and in English, mention that Kishi Mai was played when Douglas MacArthur arrived at Atsugi Air Base on August 30, 1945. This is quite difficult to verify independently. All of the film footage that I have been able to find of MacArthur's exit from the plane is silent; clearly, this does not help efforts to corroborate the composer's story. The historical texts that I have consulted will occasionally mention that "a march" was struck up by a band as the American general exited the aircraft, but never go beyond that rudimentary description to offer concrete details of the music, nor a definitive title. Perhaps we will never know for sure if Kishi Mai was indeed played upon MacArthur's arrival.

********** Ifukube's implication here is that he would have been embarassed to admit to the American investigator that his lab's daily allocation of reagent chemicals for use in their experiements was comparitively miniscule, thus exposing the poverty and modesty of the facility.


[1] Godziszewski, Ed. Ifukube on Ifukube. G-Fan Magazine November/December 1995. Page 30.
[2] I wish to thank Reiko Yamada for her help translating the Etenraku lyrics.
[3] Godziszewski, Ed. Ifukube on Ifukube. G-Fan Magazine November/December 1995. Page 32.
[4] Katayama, Morihide. Liner notes for
The Artistry of Akira Ifukube 5. King Records. 1997.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid
[8]
Godziszewski, Ed. Ifukube on Ifukube. G-Fan Magazine November/December 1995. Page 30.
[9] Ibid. Page 33.
[10] Ibid. Page 33.
[11] Katayama, Morihide. Liner notes for
The Artistry of Akira Ifukube 1. King Records. 1997.
[12] Ibid.
[13]
Godziszewski, Ed. Ifukube on Ifukube. G-Fan Magazine November/December 1995. Pp. 30-31.
[14] Ibid. Page 30.
[15] Ryfle, Steve. Final Notes: Ifukube Interview. G-Fan Magazine September/October 1999. Page 10.

[16]
Godziszewski, Ed. Ifukube on Ifukube. G-Fan Magazine November/December 1995. Page 33.
[17] Takeuchi, Nao. The Musical Philosophy of Fumio Hayasaka: Formation process of 'Pan-Asianism'. 2015. Page 12.
[18] Havens, Thomas R. H. Radicals and Realists in the Japanese Nonverbal Arts: The Avant-garde Rejections of Modernism. University of Hawaii Press. 2006. Page 174.
[19] Godziszewski, Ed. Ifukube on Ifukube. G-Fan Magazine November/December 1995. Page 31.
[20] Ibid. Page 30.
[21] Ibid. Page 33.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ifukube, Akira. Nature Magazine. "Ten Years Later." Volume 12, no. 9. September 1957. Page 40.
[27] Ibid.



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