On This Day (May 31)…Happy Birthday, Akira Ifukube!

The Japanese composer Akira Ifukube was born on this day in 1914 in Hokkaido, Japan.

Retrieved from here.

As a young child on Japan’s northernmost island, Ifukube was exposed to the music of the Ainu, an ethnic group indigenous to Hokkaido, as well as traditional Japanese music. The last ingredient in the swirling cauldron of Ifukube’s early influences was Western Classical music. Above all, he looked up to the avant-garde Igor Stravinsky.

Ifukube first began composing seriously in the 1930s, though he majored in forestry at University rather than music. A radiation-related accident while he was in the field led him to retire from forestry work and to focus on music full-time.

I have almost always been very frustrated while writing a score. I therefore can’t select any of my scores as favorites.

Akira Ifukube about his film work. From a December 1992 interview. Retrieved from here.

As a composer, Ifukube is sometimes referred to as the “John Williams” of Japan for his work on film. While he also composed serious symphonic works, it is his film work which is the best known. He composed for nearly 300 films during his career, which stretched over five decades. He is best known for his work on the Godzilla franchise, beginning with the first picture in the series, Gojira, in 1954. His last Godzilla score was for Godzilla vs. Destroyah, released in 1995. As well as providing memorable leitmotifs for the series, Ifukube created Godzilla’s famous roar. To do so, he rubbed the strings of a double bass with a resin-coated leather glove, then manipulated the sound.

Today is a good day to turn on a movie featuring the King of Monsters, keeping an ear out for the orchestral genius that underscores the action.

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