Toru Takemitsu's Far calls. Coming, far!
Far Calls. Coming, far! is an expansion and elaboration of the river/sea them Takemitsu was exploring at the same time in the quartet A way a lone. In Far calls Takemitsu adds a new layer of depth by reworking the theme into the form of a violin concerto. River-like, the violin "flows" through the concerto, finally reaching its destination at the end of the work, when the music resolves into the tonal "C."
Although Far Calls has a very similar feel to the string quartet, the addition of the orchestra allows for more color; and bells, brass, and woodwind join in the gentle but eerie surges of the music. It is also more tonal in nature than the quartet, and sounds more sweet to the ears -- the sense of tension resolving as the work progresses is quite satisfying. The violin is uniformly beautiful, drifting hypnotically through the lush maze of orchestration, breaking into a delicate cadenza before being dissolved back into the harmonizing orchestra. (The program notes below give a very vivid account of the work.) It is a remarkable piece of music, forming a perfect bridge between the A way a lone and riverrun, where a piano finally carries the symbolic weight of the river.
Like Takemitsu's other Joyce works, inspiration for this piece comes from the "final & first" passage of Finnegans Wake, 620.11 to 620.15, which I reprint below, with the relevant text highlighted in red:
I'd die down over his feet, humbly dumbly, only to washup. Yes,
tid. There's where. First. We pass through grass behush the bush
to. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Us
then. Finn, again! Take. Bussoftlhee, mememormee! Till
thousendsthee. Lps. The keys to. Given ! A way a lone a last a loved a
riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to
Howth Castle and Environs.
| Excerpts from the liner notes from the Denon CD
Liner notes written by Hiromi Saito:
Takemitsu's music began to change during the late 1970s. Clusters of unconventional sound effects began to retreat from the forefront of his work, to be replaced by an emphasis on his earlier modal language supplemented by the incorporation of tonal contexts. He began to treat specific themes such as dreams and water, and became interested in numbers as manifestations of compositional logic. As Takemitsu writes in his notes to this work, Far calls. Coming, far! takes its title from James Joyce's novel, Finnegans Wake. In order to depict the world of dreams of a man as he sleeps through the night, Joyce wrote this highly abstruse novel on a base provided by the English language but supplemented by ancient and modern European languages. Takemitsu's work is based on the idea present within Finnegans Wake of a river (represented by the violin) flowing into the sea (tonality).
At the core of the work are the pitches E-flat (Es in German), E natural, and A, representing the letters of the word SEA. A hexatonic scale is then formed consisting of these three pitches together with their transpositions a third higher. This pitch material has a strongly tonal character similar to the character of the novel with its multiple layers of meaning. There are suggestions here also of the tone row, with its strong tonal implications, employed by Berg in his Violin Concerto.
After a short introduction which hints at the main theme, the solo violin presents a melody rooted in this theme. The music is based on the original hexatonic scale, and includes the melodic figurations built from a descending scale consisting of a retrograde form of this scale. The solo violin plays a strongly undulating melodic line while the orchestra plays harmonies with an overtly tonal character. Material from the main theme stretches weblike through the inner parts of the orchestra. A pedal on C appears in the bass halfway through the work, hinting homophonically at the proximity of the sea. Another short theme then appears in the bass line. This becomes the core which generates the music that follows with its melodic weblike character. The low C appears frequently; a violin cadenza emerges at the point where the music moves to a series of appearances of the short theme. After this almost too simple and prosaic chain of musical events, three "waves" based on the main pitch material roll forward above the bass pedal on C. The solo violin weaves a path between these waves, its material containing allusions to the main theme, and fades away after becoming absorbed by the sea
Program notes written by Toru Takemitsu:
Over the past few years I have been working on two series of compositions based on the themes of "dreams and numbers" and "water." Works in the former series include Quatrain and A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden, those in the latter are Waterways and Waves. The present work, Far calls. Coming, far! for violin and orchestra, is situated at the point of confluence between these two series.
I took the title from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, a novel that abound with this author's unique dream language, and apparently gains a certain identity from its water imagery. I say "apparently" because my linguistic ability is quite inadequate to enable me to read the highly abtruse original with any degree of comprehension. I can merely imagine the nature of the work by reading abridged translations and commentaries in Japanese.
The River Liffey, which flows through Dublin, plays an important role in the novel. According to the critic Masayoshi Osawa, "Far calls. Coming, far!" quoted as the title of my work are words sung by Anna Livia as she gazes on the union of the River Liffey with the paternal sea. In addition to its "literal" meaning, the phrase reverberates on a higher level with multilingual puns. Strong sexual imagery also appears to be present.
After a section of vacillation, the music advances into the mainstream, with a tonic on the pitch C. In the midst of a nocturnal landscape outlines by two sets of intervals (perfect fifth, augmented fourth, perfect fifth; minor second, perfect fourth, major third, minor third), the music streams outwards to the sea as represented by the tonality of C.
There are only two versions of this piece that are readily accessible in the States; one recording on Denon with Takemitsu's seminal November Steps, and an upcoming recording on ABC Classics, a re-release of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under Iwaki. There is also in import releas eon Seven Seas, with Hiroyuki Iwaki conducting the NHK Symphony Orchestra. (CD; KICC2017)
You may listen to sound samples and/or purchase Toru Takemitsu CDs online from Amazon.com below:
Takemitsu: Visions, November Steps, Far calls, / Wakasugi, Tokyo
Toru Takemitsu (Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1994
Iwaki conducts Takemitsu
Toru Takemitsu (Composer), et al / Audio CD / Release date January 2001
String Quartet No. 1, "A way a lone" -- (1980) A string quartet inspired by Finnegans Wake.
A way a lone II, for String Orchestra -- (1981) An orchestral elaboration of the above quartet.
riverrun -- (1989) For piano and orchestra. This page also has the most comprehensive notes on Takemitsu, and discusses the four pieces as a whole.