Tomita beeps

A few weeks ago I mentioned on my radio show, Beef Jerky Time, that I have been accused of liking rather electronic-y music full of "beeping." I'll just come out and admit that that's true. When I consider it, I find electronic sounds comfortable and homey somehow. I believe this is because of an early exposure to the works of Japanese composer Isao Tomita. Perhaps family members will correct me on this, but my memory is that when my older brother went to college he got really into Tomita and electronic music, and even bought a synthesizer. For Christmas every year we would get a new Tomita album from him, until we got so hooked we started buying them ourselves. Here's a list of the Tomita albums I am proud to own today. Notice the nostalgic timespan--1974-1982 were heady days, man.

Snowflakes are Dancing (Tomita covers Debussy) (1974)
Pictures at an Exhibition (Tomita covers Mussorgsky) (1975)
Firebird (Tomita covers Stravinsky) (1976)
The Planets (Tomita covers Holst) (1976)
Kosmos (various composers) (1978)
The Bermuda Triangle (various composers, plus Tomita originals) (1979)
Daphnis et Chloé (Bolero) (Tomita covers Ravel) (1980)
Grand Canyon (Tomita covers Grofé and others) (1982)

Being brought up on mostly classical music (plus the Beatles, folk and what would now be called "world"), I always found Tomita very accessible because he picks familiar material. But he also gives the music his own crazy twists--the sound of electronic chickens for example, or spaceships taking off, or just mad beeps you couldn't get with regular instruments. (I'm sure there are some technical terms I should be using instead of "mad beeps," but I don't know them.) Reading the backs of some of these albums in preparation for my Tomita show, I learned that working on a synthesizer was really hard back in the day. You had to compose each track separately, then render them and then layer them. If you want more than 16 tracks you have to merge the first 16 into 1 track and start layering again. Anyway, the 2/18/09 edition of Beef Jerky Time was dedicated to electronic sounds and synthesizers, with emphasis on Tomita.
  • Casio Fight Song: David Shouse & the Bloodthirsty Lovers [an intro tune, go Casio!]
  • Sinfonia to Cantata #29 from Switched on Bach: Walter Carlos (name at that time)
  • Taste of Honey: Martin Denny [played on the Moog]
The following are all Tomita, so I'll give the album name instead of the artist.
  • Snowflakes are Dancing, from Snowflakes are Dancing
  • Bydlo, from Pictures at an Exhibition
  • Fairy Garden, Mother Goose Suite, from Daphnis & Chloe
  • Golliwog's Cake Walk, from Snowflakes are Dancing
  • Infernal Dance of King Kastchei, from Firebird
  • A Spaceship Lands Emitting Silvery Light, a Tomita original from The Bermuda Triangle
  • Electromagnetic Waves Descend, based on Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet, from The Bermuda Triangle
  • Jupiter (The Bringer of Jollity), from The Planets
  • On the Trail, from the Grand Canyon
  • Star Wars Main Theme, from Kosmos
  • Arabesque #1, from Snowflakes are Dancing

One last note: The Bermuda Triangle has an awesome psychedelic album cover, and the record inside is PINK.

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