It is with sadness … I will return from my blogging exile today … in order to tell you about the recent death of Japanese musician Isao Tomita.
He was known simply as “Tomita” — and during the 1970s I was a big fan of his synthesizer-meets-classical music. I just now found out about his passing. (Cough) It was a few days ago.
His obituary in the New York Times is linked here. I would not be able to do justice to what is in the article, or even to this discography from Wikipedia linked here. Instead, I will share some of my memories of his work. I can’t say that I was a big follower of his recent work, but his early albums are a big influence on who I am as a music listener today.
I owned his great 1976 album “The Planets” — Tomita’s version of Gustav Holst’s famous symphony. I LOVED IT! Some of it was hokey, but most of it was AMAZING!
I was working in a Chinese restaurant at the time. I was a long-haired 16-year old stoner teenager. I remember a time, when one of the cute waitresses borrowed my LP … as she was a big classical music buff. We talked. She was a nice lady. I wonder what ever happened to her?
Um … through Tomita, I learned a little more appreciation for classical music. I also loved his “Pictures at an Exhibition” from the Mussorgsky symphony. I think I might have to go out and buy another copy tomorrow.
My burn-out friends hated Tomita of course. When I would try to play it for my stoner friends they would give me the old: “Get Away From Me Man!!!” routine.
Shit … KISS and Aerosmith are OK, but sometimes a young, developing mind needs to hear something else. Also, I was having dreams and visions about the information contained in libraries. I was starting to think that maybe I should not be another stoner-loser in an industrial hick town. You see, “pictures at an exhibition”. Open up those “Great Gates of Kiev” through Tomita-visions!
Every once in a while, I would catch some Tomita music which was being used in a commercial or TV show. I would sputter … IT’S TOMITA!!! You know, like when you go to one of those Marvel “Avengers” movies, and Stan Lee makes a cameo … and you nudge your friend and then whisper – THAT”S Stan Lee!!!
Another time in college, I heard the Tomita version of “Mars: the Bringer of War” from the Planets in an educational film about atmospheric storms. Weird. I’m sitting there in class thinking: THAT’S TOMITA! Of course, I could not say anything. Also you can’t look at your classmates sexy legs in those tight hot pants for too long either. Think of looking at girl’s legs is just like you are looking at the Sun. Look briefly, then away … and yes, I am digressing again. Still, no one to talk to about Tomita with — all through college.
Oh, my other Tomita story? One time in about 1976, I made an 8-track “mix tape” of rock music and I snuck a little bit of Tomita in. When I was 16 and 17, my friends and I would get 12 packs of beer and ride around Oldsmobile 442s and drink and smoke marijuana joints. (Dear Readers: This was me long before I became anti-drugs. Thinking back, it was a pretty crazy thing to do. Drive around with drunken friends and smoke out of a bong.) Oh, back to Tomita … Um, in among the tracks by Kansas, The Who, Rolling Stones, that I taped, I snuck in the Tomita electronic-synthesizer version of “Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells” from Pictures at an Exhibition.
We had just smoked this killer joint, and we were on the verge of tripping … it was so potent. Anyway, they start cracking up at how ridiculous it sounded. Laughing and coughing all that marijuana smoke. You know how ANYTHING can be funny when one is really, really high? Well, that was the only time I ever got my druggie friends to like something by Tomita. Don’t worry — I changed. I’m now drug free.
Kids: Learn from your Uncle Denny’s mistakes — Don’t do drugs.
Of course my grown-up friends still say “Get Away From Me Man” — when I talk about the music I like these days (cough .. Japanese Idols).
Tomita went on to record a lot of great electronic music in his later years. Some of it was goofy. Most of it was mystical and magical. He scored a number of Japanese films, TV dramas and animes. I liked what he composed for “Twilight Samurai” – one of my favorite Japanese films. Really, you should watch it.
I think I am going to catch up on some Tomita now, and listen to his work from the 1990s and beyond.
Starlight: Isao Tomita 冨田 勲 (Tomita Isao), April 22, 1932 – May 5, 2016.
“I will listen for you … out in the dark matter, Tomita-san”