Listen: Arabesque No. 1 / Tomita TomitaArabesque.mp3
Born in 1932 and still active today, Isao Tomita began composing for film and television as early as ’55. By the late 60′s, he turned his attention to electronic pieces after hearing Walter Carlos, whereby he performed classical music on the Moog synthesizer. Isao acquired a Moog III and began building a home studio. He started arranging Claude Debussy’s pieces for synthesizer and, in ’74, transformed those works into SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. When the album was released; it became a worldwide success, even in the US.
Corinne and I worked at Discount Records on the Syracuse University campus then. She ended up overseeing the classical department. This was in the day when record stores, particularly Discount, stocked very deep catalog titles. Classical music collectors are as eccentric as we pop hoarders. They would come in daily, she had a real following, almost groupie-like. I was never intimidated though. Talk about nut jobs – one guy was even a priest and super hysterical. With a sense of humor like no other, he made constant fun of the nuns, and had us round the parish a few times for some home cooked dinners. We scraped by in those days, preferring to spend cash on drinks and of course records. Those invites were God-sends, so to speak. It was a real blast of a summer though.
During that period, Tomita’s album started to gain traction. There was always a diverse in-store playlist variety going on. Everyone employed was a record crazy of some sort – all with extreme and bizarre musical tastes, yours truly included.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when the RCA salesman came in and handed me a bunch of Tomita 7′s, on red vinyl, a real anomaly in those days. All those sales guys gave me their promo singles, NO ONE else wanted singles. It was heaven.
Listen: Snowflakes Are Dancing / Tomita TomitaSnowflakesAreDancing.mp3
She started spinning SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING, and that baby would fly out of the shop as a result. A bunch of us were into Tangerine Dream and Faust, Amon Duul II, Can and of course Kraftwerk.
Think about it, ‘Autobahn’ was a hit single then. Would that happen on crap US radio now? And we thought it was bad then…anyways, Tomita fit right in. Everyone was content, which many times wasn’t the case, particularly as the night hours wore on and we all started getting buzzed.
This guy was, well still is, amazing. In 1984, he released CANON OF THE THREE STARS, featuring classical pieces renamed for astronomical objects. Rightly so, he credits himself with inventing The Plasma Symphony Orchestra, a computer synthesizer process using the wave forms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonics of that album.
Tomita has performed a number of outdoor Sound Cloud concerts, with speakers surrounding the audience in what else, a ‘cloud of sound’. He did a serious ass concert in ’84 at the annual Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria called Mind Of The Universe, get this: mixing tracks live in a glass pyramid suspended over an audience of 80,000 people.
He performed another concert in New York two years later to celebrate the Statue Of Liberty centennial (Back To The Earth) as well as one in Sydney for the ’88 Australian Bicentennial. That performance was part of a $7 million gift from Japan to New South Wales, which included the largest ever fireworks display at that time, six fixed sound and lighting systems â€” one of those on a moored barge in the centre of a bay, the other flown in by Chinook helicopter â€” for the relevant parts of the show. A fleet of barges with Japanese cultural performances, including kabuki fire drumming, passed by at various times.
His most recent Sound Cloud event was in Nagoya, Japan in ’97 featuring guest performances by Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, and Rick Wakeman.
Of course we knew nothing of any Tomita history back in ’74. We just loved SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. Hopefully he’ll come back to New York one more time. We will not miss it.