Skip navigation

Category Archives: Ito-Yasuhide

Yasuhide Ito (b. 1960) is one of Japan’s premier composers of original music for wind band.  He is best known for his 1990 suite for wind band Gloriosawhich is performed frequently all over the world.  He has written several dozen other pieces for band and other media, including symphonies for band and at least one full opera, going back to his first band work, On the March, of 1978, written when he was in his third year of high school.  Ito is also a renowned pianist, conductor, lecturer, and translator.

Below are the program notes from the score of Ito’s 2012 Jalan-jalan di Singapura.  Note that I had to edit the rehearsal letters mentioned in the notes, since they seemed to point to the wrong places:

Singapore is a vibrant city.  Though modern buildings line its streets, cultures of Chinese, Indians, and Malays can still be found everywhere.

The cheerful march has been composed to capture this crosslink of cultures in Singapore.  The title Jalan-jalan di Singapura is in Malay and translates literally to “A Walk in Singapore”.  Singapura-ku, a melody from Singapore, can be heard at the end of the march at rehearsal letter [J].  A motif from Movement 2 of Sinfonia Singaporia (Singapore Symphony, composed [by Ito] in 2005) can also be heard from rehearsal letters [F] to [H].  With this short march, the composer aims to capture a variety of musical characteristics that are clearly unique and symbolic of Singapore.

This work is commissioned by and dedicated to the Band Directors’ Association, Singapore.  (BDAS) The premiere was performed on the 25th of July 2012 under the baton of the composer with the NYWO (Singapore Youth Wind Orchestra) during the Opening Ceremony gala of the concert of the 17th Conference of the Asia Pacific Band Directors’ Association held in Singapore at the SIA Theatre of Lasalle College of Arts.

Interestingly, Jalan-jalan di Singapura has no snare drum part, yet Ito indicates that “percussion can be substituted by players’ own idea”, leaving the door open to that and much more.

Here is the march itself, recorded by the NYWO in rehearsal:

Ito very clearly quotes his own Sinfonia Singapuriana in the middle of the march.  Below is the second movement:

Singapura-ku is a national folk song that is popular enough to have been performed in this spectacular context:

It is worth it to read up on the history of Singapore, a small and prosperous island city-state on the crossroads between Malaysia and Indonesia, to understand the cultural influences that led to the creation of this march.

More on the composer on wikipedia, Bravo Music, and his own (mostly Japanese language!) website.

Yasuhide Ito (b. 1960) is one of Japan’s premier composers of original music for wind band.  He is best known for his 1990 suite for wind band Gloriosa, which is performed frequently all over the world.  He has written several dozen other pieces for band and other media, including symphonies for band and at least one full opera, going back to his first band work, On the March, of 1978, written when he was in his third year of high school.  Ito is also a renowned pianist, conductor, lecturer, and translator.

Ito wrote Festal Scenes in 1986.  He says he “was inspired to write Festal Scenes after receiving a letter from a wandering philosophical friend in Shanghai, who said ‘- everything seems like Paradise blooming all together.  Life is a festival, indeed.'”  The piece uses four Japanese folk songs from Aomori Prefecture, home of the famous Nebuta Festival, as its source material.  It also calls for 2 Japanese percussion instruments that are used in the Nebuta Festival: the Tebiragane, a type of antique cymbal, and the Nebuta-daiko, alarge drum played with long bamboo sticks.

Here’s a nice, punchy performance of Festal Scenes by what I can only conclude is a Japanese band.  I can’t read the Japanese text below the video, so I’m not sure.  Don’t be put off by the fast tempos in the outer sections, but DO listen very carefully to how crisply articulated everything is in the woodwinds!

Now to the folk songs: the first, called “Jongara-jamisen” by Ito, seems to be based on the playing of the shamisen, a banjo-like instrument with three strings.  Listen to this video to get an idea of the sound – this is the sound that Ito is going for in the opening bars of the piece!

The next song is “Hohai-bushi”, which you can hear in a modern version in this video.  One commenter (ok, the only commenter) aptly calls it “Japanese mountain music”.

What Ito calls “Tsugaru-aiya-bushi”, and interprets as a lyrical melody, appears to come from another shamisen tune.  The closest I could find to the melody as in Festal Scenes comes in this performance:

The fourth folk song is impossible to track down, given that Ito calls it “Nebuta-festival”, which also happens to be the name of the very lively and ongoing festival which inspired it.  Suffice it to say, it appears alongside the long section of Nebuta-daiko drumming from 125-151, and it is very expressive and lyrical, with grace notes galore and an octave jump at the end of each phrase.  In lieu of the song itself, you’ll have to settle instead for a video of some Nebuta-daiko-like drumming.  Watch the moves!

And finally, more Nebuta-daiko drumming (and so much more) in a video from the 2010 Nebuta Festival:

More on the composer on wikipedia, Bravo Music, and his own (Japanese language!) website.