Part IX - Myths, Monsters and Laments


Akira Ifukube in 1957.

March 27, 1956 saw the release of Tadashi Imai's courtroom drama Darkness at Noon, the last film that Ifukube would score for almost three months. It was during this intentional pause in his film schedule that he began to commit his artistic energy to his first ballet in three years, which would be based on a Tibetan Buddhist legend.

While Ifukube's mind was immersed in the stories of ancient Tibet, Godzilla had just made his arrival to the United States. On April 2, Godzilla was released to American audiences with the expanded title Godzilla, King of the Monsters. This was by no means Ishiro Honda's original film: The company that oversaw Godzilla's distribution in the United States, Trans World Releasing Corporation, sought to downplay the film's multiple references to nuclear weapons and the Second World War in an apparent attempt to avoid stirring political controversy. Therefore, Trans World removed about 18 minutes of Honda's original footage, much of which contained these controversial references. In order to restore length to this edited version of Godzilla, and to further "Americanize" it, the director Terry Morse was hired to film brand new scenes on a Los Angeles sound stage with the actor Raymond Burr (who would go on to be famous as television's Perry Mason) that would later be ingeniously (and sometimes seamlessly) spliced together with the original Japanese footage. This technique resulted in Burr's character, the reporter Steve Martin, being able to share scenes and "interact" with Honda's original cast, whose spoken dialogue was dubbed into English. In this rearranged and "sanitized" guise, Godzilla, King of the Monsters loses much of the original film's intellectual and emotional impact and, consequently, plays much more like a standard, straightforward "atomic-age-monster-on-the-loose film" such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (the film that inspired Godzilla in the first place) (1953), Them! (1954), It Came from Beneath The Sea (1955), etc.

Despite the liberal amount of editing that went into the American version of Godzilla, virtually all of Ifukube's music remained intact and untampered with, excepting only the opening credits: In the Japanese version, the film opens with a lengthy credit roll accompanied by the famous "Do-Shi-Ra / Go-Ji-Ra" music and the sound effects of the monster's roars and footfalls. The American version removes this in favor of a simple title card reading "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" with Godzilla's sound effects, but no music.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters premièred at Loew's State Theater in New York City. The film went on to be a hit and earned $2 million dollars during its initial American run. [1]

In mid to late June, despite his focus on the new ballet, Ifukube fulfilled two quick film assignments with his scores for Kaneto Shindo's drama, Ryuuri no Kishi, released on June 21, and Yasuki Chiba and Motoyoshi Oda's Demon Fire, released on July 5. In August, as the completion of the ballet was drawing nearer, Ifukube decided to take a brief break from all musical activities and take his family on their first ever group vacation. He and his wife chose to visit the historically rich mountain town of Nikko, where the family had lived for less than a year before moving to Tokyo. The Ifukubes stayed in Nikko for three days and two nights, lodging at the Konishi Ryokan, which is today known as the Okunikko Konishi Hotel. Among their activities the family visited the Kujira Shrine, which was (and still is) located near their former home. The Ifukubes also enjoyed taking in the scenery at the famous Toshogu Temple as well as at Lake Chuzenji.


The Ifukube family at the Kujira Shrine.
Photo by Akira Ifukube


At Lake Chuzenji.
Photo by Ai Ifukube.

Back in Tokyo, refreshed from the Nikko excursion, Ifukube continued to hammer away at the ballet throughout the rest of the summer, accepting only one film job in early September for Yasuki Chiba's Kojinbutu no fufu. Finally, in about early October, Ifukube completed his "Tibetan ballet," which he would entitle Fashan Jarboo.

Fashan Jarboo is, according to the composer, "based on the Lamaist tale of TAKUE." In this story, the "heretical" Ran-Darma seeks to subvert Lamaism and take over the Tibetan throne. The apostle Fashan Jarboo charges himself with the heroic task of killing Ran-Darma in order to restore Lamaism (or, as it is more commonly known nowadays, Tibetan Buddhism) to the land.*

The ballet is divided into two acts: Act I, An Alter in the Lamasery and Act II, A Room in the King's Castle. The first act portrays Ran-Darma's raid of Fashan Jarboo's temple. Ran-Darma, aided by his minions, sets the temple ablaze in an effort to wipe out Lamaism and seize power. Fashan Jarboo luckily escapes the fire. Ran-Darma has taken over.

In Act II, Fashan Jarboo must overthrow Ran-Darma and reestablish Lamaism. One night, Fashan Jarboo steals into Ran-Darma's castle and performs several costumed dances to deceive his enemy into thinking thinking that he is being visited by a god. In the first dance, Fashan Jarboo dresses like a large bird. In the second dance, he is in the costume of a bull. In the third dance, he is disguised as a skeleton. In the fourth and final dance, Fashan Jarboo transforms himself into a naked woman to arouse Ran-Darma's most carnal of desires and, thus, distract him. Fashan Jarboo takes advantage of Ran-Darma's inattention and slays the evil ruler with his own sword. Lamaism is restored.

Fashan Jarboo undoubtedly required more of Ifukube's concentration and effort than any of his previous ballets: Not only did he write the music but he also wrote the libretto (based on the Takue story) and helped to design the costumes. His old friend Takaya Eguchi, along with fellow dancer - and wife - Misako Miya (1907 - 2009), created the choreography.


Cover page of the first act for Fashan Jarboo. Note the Cyrillic script.

During the development of the choreography, Eguchi assigned himself the role of Ran-Darma and it was determined that Miya would dance the male role of Fashan Jarboo. The reason for this unusual casting is clear: Toward the end of the ballet, Fashan Jarboo transforms himself into a naked woman; it was deemed that such an image could only be convincingly rendered by a dancer who was "actually" female in the first place!

In the photos below, we can see Misako Miya wearing her naked woman "costume," which consists of a simple flesh-colored body stocking. In the first three photos she poses with the bird, bull and skeleton masks, respectively. Following those photos is an example of the full skeleton costume, complete with mask and robe.

The bull and skeleton masks are actual masks used in traditional Lamaist ceremonies; the bird mask is entirely of Ifukube's original design.

Typical for his ballet scores, Fashan Jarboo opens with broad melodies but one is immediately struck by the dark tone and highly unusual dissonances; there is nothing quite like it in any of the composer's previous orchestral scores. After this introduction, Ifukube's music for the temple raid exhibits great violence: The orchestra plays in a constant triple forte with relentless, jagged and barbaric cross rhythms banged out by the full orchestra and percussion.

The darkness, dissonances and strange rhythms continue into the second act where Fashan Jarboo sneaks into Ran-Darma's castle to perform the various dances. When Fashan Jarboo kills Ran-Darma and watches him die, the slow and strangely dissonant music from the introduction returns to make the grim scene yet grimmer.

Taking into consideration that Ifukube personally chose the Fashan Jarboo story as a ballet subject, wrote the libretto and composed such dissonant, often raging music, one is indeed tempted to search for a significance or subtext. It is plausible that Fashan Jarboo is yet another direct reaction to the scathing criticism the composer received after the debut of Sinfonia Tapkaara - and his most impassioned one to date; in other words, the prevailing lugubrious quality of the music, with its dissonance and violence, can be interpreted as the latest aural expression of the composer's frustration - and even anger - toward the unsympathetic Japanese musical establishment that excoriated his symphony.**

Another valid theory regarding the dissonance that it is not so much a representation of sentiment against the modern as it is an attempt to be modern; in this sense, Fashan Jarboo takes on the same "spirit of experimentation" that the composer so blatantly displayed in Deux Caractères, which was written immediately after the Japanese première of Sinfonia Tapkaara.

Whatever the composer's reasons were for exploring orchestral dissonance in a way that he had never done before, the Fashan Jarboo story readily supports the notion that, with this work, Ifukube was expressing his protest against the modernists who sought to diminish his "conservative" style; after all, the ballet portrays the battle between the decency of tradition against those "heretics" who would burn it down in order to seize control. Again, Fashan Jarboo is a monk who worships and protects Lamaism, a branch of Buddhism. Ran-Darma (and his followers) attack the sacred Lamaist temple and literally burn it to the ground. In the story, it is as if Ifukube represents himself as the monk Fashan Jarboo who protects the "correct" tradition of Buddhism, which is, incidentally, the second most practiced religion in Japan. The subversive king Ran-Darma and his army set out to destroy this "correct" and long established tradition in order to take power; therefore, they can be likened to the "heretics" in the elite Japanese musical world who themselves sought to burn down the figurative temple of traditional ways in order to establish reign of modernism. At the end of the ballet, Fashan Jarboo is able to outwit the drunk usurper and slay him with his own sword; consequently, the defender of wholesome tradition (Fashan Jarboo / Ifukube) wins while the evil barbarian (Ran-Darma / the new musical establishment), who forced his way to the top by dastardly means, is ultimately and decisively brought down. The hero practically relishes his enemy's death throes as the curtain falls.

Fashan Jarboo's premiere took place on November 21 and 25 with Takaya Eguchi's dance troupe and the Tokyo Symphony led by Masahi Ueda.

Mere weeks after the début of Fashan Jarboo, Ifukube would once again step into the world of kaiju eiga, or monster films, as he agreed to write the music for Toho's up-coming special effects spectacular, Sora no daikaiju Radon, or, Rodan, Monster of the Skies.

It was undoubtedly Godzilla's success in the American market earlier in the year that prompted Toho to try their hand at producing their third giant monster film. Ostensibly wanting to give Godzilla a rest, Toho, with Tomoyuki Tanaka again leading the charge, decided to invent a different type of beast, Rodan, a kaiju that would resemble a huge pterosaur, or flying dinosaur. The studio turned to the science fiction writer Ken Kuronuma (1902 - 1985) to dream up the Rodan story.

After Kuronuma completed the story outline, screenwriting duties were delegated to Takeo Murata, the co-writer of Godzilla and Godzilla's Counter Attack, and Takeshi Kimura (1912 - 1988), a man known for his dour demeanor and a certain strain of piquant cynicism in his writings. Kimura was brought on board, it seems, to imbue Rodan with a sense of gravitas not unlike that of Godzilla.

It was a given that Eiji Tsuburaya would handle the special effects and, fortunately, Tanaka was able to bring on Ishiro Honda as the director. After the somewhat disappointing financial returns of the previous year's Godzilla's Counter Attack, which lacked Honda and Ifukube's participation, Tanaka must have felt enthused (and relieved) to have secured the director and composer who assuredly contributed, in no small way, to the enormous domestic and international success of the original Godzilla film.

Also, the man who played Godzilla, Haruo Nakajima, agreed to don the Rodan suit and lend his particular talents to the new production.

In Rodan, a mining town on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu is struck by a series of mysterious earthquakes. Following the strange seismic events, huge insects called maganulons appear and begin to attack and kill the miners. One miner named Shigeru, played by Kenji Sahara (1932 - ) (who would go on to be a mainstay in Toho's canon of monster/special effects films), sets out to investigate the source of the meganulons and begins to explore the mine shafts. Shigeru's exploration leads him into a huge cavern directly under the volcanic Mount Aso. Here, he stumbles upon Rodan's nest and witnesses the winged monster hatching from its massive egg.

What Shigeru doesn't realize is that he has only discovered one of the Rodans - there are actually two. The Rodan monsters eventually emerge from their subterranean lair to terrorize the Japanese skies (they can fly at supersonic speed) and to wreck havoc in the cities of Sasebo and Fukuoka. When the Rodans return to their home under the volcano, the Japanese military devises plan to kill the monsters: Firing a relentless volley of missiles, the military pummels Mount Aso, an active volcano, in order to induce an eruption. An eruption indeed happens and the two monsters are burned to death in the flowing lava.

In many ways, Ifukube's score for Rodan is quite different from that of Godzilla. If the Godzilla music was mostly slow, funereal and even at times understated, Rodan, by contrast, is decidedly more extroverted, colorful and bombastic even though the composer used, essentially, the same orchestral instrumentation; the main difference is that Rodan calls for two pianos whereas Godzilla required only one.


Title page of the Rodan manuscript. The title is written in Cyrillic.


Ifukube refers to the film's title as La don throughout the rest of the manuscript.

Rodan's main title cue is certainly some of the composer's most perfectly conceived "horror music." Scored for full orchestra and two pianos, the cue begins with a triple forte crash from the tam-tam in concert with forceful tone clusters on the two pianos; as in the Godzilla score, these are executed with the elbows (marked gomiti in the manuscript) crashing down on the lowest white and black keys simultaneously. Immediately after the initial elbow crashes, the player of " Piano I" plays smaller clusters "con la palma," or by pounding down on the low keys with the palm of the hand. More jarring gomiti clusters return later on both instruments and throughout the rest of the cue. The violins and violas (but not the cellos and contrabasses) play a steady progression of tremolo quarter notes that aptly express a quivering terror.


The gomiti and palma tone clusters in the Main Title cue from Rodan.

Also in the main title music, Ifukube makes use of Flatterzunge, or tongue fluttering, on the piccolos and the trumpets. Flatterzunge is a playing technique for brass and woodwind instruments; to execute it, the player rolls his or her tongue while blowing into the instrument; the result is a buzzing or fluttering sound that can be considered a type of tremolo. Ifukube makes use of piccolo and trumpet Flatterzunge continuously in the Rodan score and the resulting "flapping" effect that this creates is certainly evocative of a flying monster.


Flatterzunge on the piccolo in the Main Title cue from Rodan.

In Godzilla, Ifukube uses slow, ponderous music to accompany the monster's equally slow and ponderous offensives against humanity. In Rodan, because the monsters are considerably more quick and agile, the composer accentuates this quality by scoring their scenes of mayhem with music of fleet and aggressive bombast. This music (and its variations), which is heard during the monsters' raids of Sasebo and Fukuoka, though perfectly matched to these scenes, is not completely original to the film. These "attack cues" are a combination of reworked material from the executioner scene in the ballet Salome and entirely new music.


A sample from the Rodan Flies to Sasebo cue.

For the film's final scene in which the two Rodans are burned alive by the flowing lava from Mount Aso, Ifukube writes some of his most touching film music to date. Using the violins, violas, cor anglais and clarinet to voice the melody, accompanied by richly orchestrated pedal points from the bassoon, contrabassoon, bass clarinet, cellos and contrabasses, Ifukube conjures music of such poetic, tender sadness that the death of the monsters, a scene tragic enough on its own, is rendered absolutely heartbreaking.

As he had done in Hiroshima and in Godzilla, Ifukube used the piano - or in the case of Rodan, two pianos and a timpani - to craft a musical "special effect." The effect in question is heard during one of the film's many earthquakes. In "scoring" the temblor, Ifukube requires that the timpanist perform several consecutive glissandi on his drum with the pedal down. The pianos, with their pedals down as well, are manipulated directly on the strings: The player of "Piano I " carries out a series of up and down glissandi on the harp with a rubber stick while the the player of "Piano II" does the same on his instrument, but with a wooden stick. The final effect is one of a surreal, disquieting rumble.

Although the composer did not personally contribute to any of the film's additional sound effects, the sound technician, Ichiro Minawa, did reuse Ifukube's "contrabass technique" from the production of Godzilla to create the Rodans' own horrifying shrieks. On top of his strange contrabass noises, Minawa layered a human voice and sped up the playback of the recording.

Rodan was released on December 26. It was the first of Toho's monster films to be released in color.


Poster for Rodan.

The year 1957 did not see the production of any concert works; it was, however, loaded with film assignments. By the end of that year, Ifukube scored an astounding nineteen films. The most notable of these were Hiroshi Inagaki's (1905 - 1980) Yagyu Secret Scrolls, a film set during the Tokugawa period starring Toshiro Mifune, and The Mysterians for Toho.

Ishiro Honda's The Mysterians (Chikyu Boeigun), the first of Toho's tokusatsu (special effects) films to be shot in TohoScope - that studio's own version of CinemaScope - would be another science fiction/special effects extravaganza, courtesy of Eiji Tsuburaya and company. Rodan's Kenji Sahara was brought on to play the film's protagonist, Joji Atsumi, along with three of Godzilla's principal players, Momoko Kochi, Takashi Shimura, Aihiko Hirata. Seven Samurai's Yoshio Tsuchiya, as the leader of the Mysterians, rounded out the cast.

Takashi Kimura's plot, which was based on original treatment by the novelist Jojiro Okami (1918 - 2003), was simple enough: A Japanese village is ravaged by a mysterious forest fire and then an earthquake. When authorities begin to investigate the causes of these strange events, a giant birdlike robot, called Mogera (played by Haruo Nakajima), emerges from the side of a mountain and goes on the obligatory rampage. The Japanese military battles Mogera and is eventually successful at defeating the robot. Later, it is discovered that Mogera was controlled by the The Mysterians, an alien race who have come to earth to ask for the right to interbreed with human women; due to a previous nuclear war on their home planet, Mysteroid, and the resulting radiation, the majority of the Mysterians are deformed and crippled. Interbreeding with healthy earth women will assure the survival of their kind. Unwilling to accommodate their request, Japan forms a multinational military alliance to attack the Mysterians' base, a huge fortified dome near Mount Fuji, and a fierce battle ensues. The coalition forces win and the Mysterians are driven from the earth.

For The Mysterians, Ifukube was allowed a rather large orchestra, probably his biggest ever for a film up to this point. The composer makes use of the same instrumentation in the Godzilla and Rodan scores but with the following additions and differences: Ifukube employs two types of trombone (tenor and bass), two types of tuba (bass and contrabass), a contrabass sarrusophone, cymbals, a vibraphone and, as in Rodan, two pianos.

Interestingly, and for unknown reasons, Ifukube refers to the film's title as Mogela (an alternative transliteration of the name of the Mysterians' giant robot) throughout the manuscript and, more interestingly yet, whenever he writes Mogela, he does so in the Greek alphabet!***


Portion of the first page of the Mysterians manuscript. Note the Greek title Mogela.

The music of The Mysterians is a mixture of rousing bravado - best exemplified by the Ifukube's main battle march - and ethereal eeriness; because of the film's theme of outer space, Ifukube, feeling more experimental than he had on either Godzilla or Rodan, uses his sizable orchestra to create haunting and even disturbing sounds that vividly portray the otherworldliness of the alien invaders. Ifukube's most salient and reoccurring "eerie technique" is the use of glissandi, primarily on the strings. This is first heard in the main title cue, which Ifukube refers to as Preludio in his manuscript. Here, after a four-bar quotation of the brash battle march, the cellos and the contrabasses begin to play rising and falling quarter note oscillations between A and C while the violins, played with tremolo below the bridge (marked sub ponticello), produce a continuous, unnerving screech.**** On top of this, a guttural melody, played on the bassoons, contrabassoons, bass trombone, and base tuba, contributes to the ominous atmosphere.

Ifukube creates more weird foreboding in the sparsely scored Scientific Lunar Phenomenon cue. The vibraphone joins a piano playing a series of thirty-second notes as an accompaniment of Flatterzunge flutes and ghostly pedal points from the violins, violas and cellos lurks underneath. After two bars, the cellos play a downward glissando, while the violins and violas maintain the pedal. The composer, conductor and researcher John DeSentis had the following to say about this strange music: "The piano figure is quite interesting because of the particular grouping of the notes. The figure is chromatic in structure but the sequence of notes and their relationship to the glissandi and vibraphone is what gives the piece its sound. The alternating piano notes of A and G, which both divide the three accidentals, are played in sequence and are wholly spaced. This creates a very unsettling sound as what is normally a "bright" sequence is tinged dark by the natural notes. Working with this is the vibraphone, which actually plays in five against the 4/4 meter, making the piece polyrhythmic."


The piano figure in the Scientific Lunar Phenomenon cue.

When Mogera emerges from the mountain, Ifukube assigns the extremely low pitched, "guttural" melody from the Preludio to the gigantic robot and its attack.


The Appearance of Mogera cue.

Possibly Ifukube's most startling section of the score is called Mysterian Dome. It opens with slow but narrow upward glissandi from the bass clarinet, bassoons, contrabassoon, sarrusophone, tenor trombones, cellos, contrabasses and the two pianos. After this menacing introduction, a sinister melody is voiced on the trombones and is punctuated by forte exclamation on the horns. Then, the trombone melody repeats but now accompanied by a nightmarish series of deliberate triple forte glissandi on the cellos and contrabasses.*****


The glissandi of the Mysterian Dome cue.

In the Ending cue, which accompanies the escape of the Mysterians' space craft, Ifukube writes music similar to that the Lunar Experiment Phenomenon cue, i.e., with prominent vibraphone and thirty-second notes on the piano. John DeSentis remarks that: "The thirty-second note piano figure is used yet again in the ending as the Mysterians are retreating from the earth, but this time, polyrhythm becomes polytonality as it is joined by a very beautiful requiem for strings which builds to and F-major finish. Against a very consonant sound, this piano figure becomes even more unsettling."

The Mysterians was released on December 28. The film's soundtrack was presented in Perspecta stereophonic sound, the first of Ifukube's film scores to receive such treatment.


Poster for The Mysterians.

As 1957 segued into 1958, Ifukube was able to complete his first concert work since Fashan Jarboo, a "choral ode" entitled Sea of Okhotsk, which was a musical setting of a poem of the same name by Genzo Sarashina (1904 - 1985), a Japanese poet and researcher of Ainu culture. In Sarashina's poem, a forlorn seabird soaring over the frigid Sea of Okhotsk, a body of water situated between Hokkaido and Russia, laments the advent of modern civilization and its ruinous effects on traditional ways of life. Indeed, the poet's bird is a graceful symbolization of the Ainu people and Ifukube's sympathies for the message of this poem are obvious: For both Sarashina and Ifukube, the Ainu represent not only the nostalgia for a simple, pastoral life but these indigenous people are also the embodiment of the most ancient and pure soul of the Japanese nation; the plight of the Ainu - their inability to cope with the myriad oppressions of modern society - is the image par excellence of the tragic postwar degradation of true Japanese culture in general.

Taking the message of Sarashina's poem into consideration, Ifukube's Sea of Okhotsk, with its blatant thematic of anti-modernism, is the natural follow-up to Fashan Jarboo, which in its own way - albeit more subtly - also expressed Ifukube's distaste toward the corrupted new viciously overtaking the wholesome old.

In orchestrating his mostly melancholic Okhotsk music, Ifukube took his inspiration, at least partially, from Igor Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (1930), also a choral piece for orchestra, in which the Russian composer eschews the use of clarinets, violins and violas. Like Stravinsky, Ifukube does not employ violins or violas in Sea of Okhotsk; he does, however, retain the clarinets. Ifukube's decision to remove the violins and violas "aimed to emphasize the contrast between voices and instruments by omitting high and medium note strings which are similar to human voices." [3]


First page of the Sea of Okhotsk manuscript.

The Sea of Okhostk debuted on February 26 in the Japanese capital. Ifukube himself conducted the Tokyo Symphony in tandem with the Tokyo Vocal Ensemble. This performance was broadcast on local Hokkaido radio.

After the début of Sea of Okhotsk, Ifukube's attention turned exclusively to film scores for the rest of the year; he would write thirteen in total. His most famous movie music from 1958 is assuredly his score for yet another giant monster film from Toho, Varan (Daikaiju Baran).

With the overseas success of their growing canon of monster films in mind - the first Godzilla film was a hit in the United States and the American release of Rodan had also proved to be lucrative - Toho decided to produce a new giant monster film for the express purpose of international export. As well, in response to the growing popularity of television, the film in question would be produced for that medium. Thus Varan was born.

Production began in August with the usual cast of characters, Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya, helming the film. The story and screenplay were written by Rodan's Ken Kuronuma and a newcomer to the monster genre, Shinichi Sekizawa (1921 - 1992). Haruo Nakajima, by now Japan's foremost monster actor, was immediately engaged to play the role of the titular monster.

Varan is a huge spiky reptilian that lives in the mountains of the Tohoku region of northern Honshu. Known as Baradagi to the local natives who worship him as a god, Varan rampages throughout the region prompting a response from the military. The beast eventually reaches Haneda airport in Tokyo where he is finally vanquished after being lured into swallowing a special explosive.

Although the filming of Varan began with the international television market in mind - it was being shot in black and white and in a "square" aspect ratio to fit television screens - there are no records to indicate that any overseas entities were interested in purchasing the forthcoming film.****** It is likely due to the disappointing lack of international interest that, well into the production of the made-for-television film, Toho decided to scrap their initial idea and refashion Varan for a domestic theatrical release. [4]

By the time Toho decided to change their course of action, Ifukube had already written and recorded his score; the recording sessions took place on August 27 and 29. [5] Since Varan would now be undergoing drastic changes and several scenes were to be reedited, removed or added in preparation for the theatrical version, this rendered Ifukube's score more or less useless. The composer, whether he liked it or not, therefore had to write a brand-new, expanded score to accommodate the expanded version of the film. This new music, which sometimes combines reworked material from the score that Ifukube had written for the television version of Varan, and completely new cues, was recorded on October 4.

In either Varan score Ifukube retains, more or less, the same instrumentation used in his three previous tokusatsu works. Despite the fact that the television score and the film score make use of the same instrumental forces, there are, as previously mentioned, often notable differences between them.

Firstly, throughout the television version, Ifukube writes the film's title in Roman letters and refers to it as Balan. In the film version, Ifukube again uses the Roman alphabet but changes the spelling to Varan, which is of course the title that the film would eventually use in overseas markets. (As evidenced from Ifukube's previous manuscript scores, the act of transliterating monster names such as Gojira, Radon and Mogera from Japanese katakana into alternate alphabets is never an exact science!)

There are, of course, musical differences too: For the television version of the Main Title cue, Ifukube orchestrates a portentous, grumbling introduction with the bass clarinet, bassoons, contrabassoons, bass trombone, two pianos and the contrabasses. This three bar introduction (see below) is a quotation of a motif that reoccurs later within the main body of the Title music.


Segment of the Main Title of the television version of Varan.

However, in the film version, Ifukube makes significant changes to this introduction. First, he removes the original three bar introductory quotation in favor of another one; in other words, he uses a completely different melody, also sourced from the main body of the Title music.******* Additionally, this new introduction makes use of a different instrumentation: Eschewing the low woodwinds, brass and strings from the original three bar introduction, Ifukube employs a solo cor anglais atop tremolo violins and violas in a decidedly higher register.


Segment of the Main Title of the film version of Varan.

Once Ifukube segues into the main body of the Main Title in either score, the listener is introduced for the first time to the impressive Baradagi chant that will factor into several scenes later in either film. Varan is the first of Ifukube's daikaiju / tokusatsu film scores to feature a "tribal chant;" indeed, this type of musical number would go on to factor into several of Toho's subsequent special effects productions. ********

The Baradagi chant is sung by a small, fictitious tribe of Japanese Shintoists - worshippers of the monster - who dwell in Varan's remote mountain domain. Undoubtedly, the opportunity to score such scenes filled Ifukube with a rush of excitement; the depiction of ancient rituals certainly appealed to his primitivist and exoticist tendencies. The Japanese pianist and Ifukube specialist, Reiko Yamada, who was also a pupil of the composer, puts it very succinctly when she says that "Ifukube's music, due to its inherent primitivist nature, often brings to mind images of ancient peoples, such as the Jomon Japanese, wildly dancing around a fire pit." Really, expressing the vitality and the mystery of ancient peoples was always a primary goal of the composer - his fascination with the Ainu and need to absorb their aesthetic into his own is always an apt illustration of this - and Varan afforded Ifukube, very tangibly, a unique opportunity to really "go wild."

The task of writing the tribal Baradagi chant allowed Ifukube's imagination to flourish. The music is an imposing and rhythmic ostinato; with the addition of the all-male choir uttering their strange lyrics in a simple monophony, which further adds to the primitive feel, the song to the mountain god perfectly embodies the primeval weirdness surrounding the monster and his cult.

Although the mountain tribe in Varan are native Japanese Shintoists, their chant to Baradagi is not in Japanese. In order to give their musical prayer an added element of the arcane, Ifukube penned lyrics for them in a modified version of some of the archaic Pali language lyrics that that he employed in his Buddha-themed ballet Shaka roughly five years earlier. The Baradgi chant is as follows:

A Baradagi Baradagi
du hamma a cinti yo Baradagi


The Baradagi chant as it appears in the manuscript score.

Du hamma a cinti yo is a reworking of the Pali words buddhadhama and acintiyo, respectively.

Returning to some of the other salient differences between the television and film scores, John DeSentis points out the following: "It is interesting to note is that when the time came to revise his score, Ifukube seemed to go back and cherry-pick elements of the television version for use in the later film version. One particular observation is that on the fifth page of the manuscript for the television Main Title, Ifukube wrote, in red, an early passage of music that never appeared in any of the television cues, but would become a prominent element in the film version. This musical passage occurs at about 53 seconds into the film Main Title. This figure would also lead off the Finale of the film version."


A segment of the melodic fragment, in red pencil, that DeSentis mentions above.

It is apparent that the red pencil scribblings were added to these pages after the fact. In other words, when Ifukube began writing the new Main Title for the film version of Varan, the composer rather indifferently used his previous Main Title manuscript as a sketch pad for his new ideas. After writing these completely new passages directly on the old Main Title pages, the composer wove them into his new Main Title music, which he did write out on fresh pieces of staff paper. Therefore, as DeSentis mentions, Ifukube cherry-picked what he wanted from the previous music and mixed it with the new music that he had sketched in red to create a brand new Main Title cue.

There are other instances of this type of activity: When Ifukube elected to make revisions to his original Lake of Varan (TV-4) cue (Cannon Shot Toward the Lake [M-7] in the film version), instead of writing out new music based on the previous material on a fresh sheet of paper, the composer simply erased whole segments of what he had already written on the old manuscript and penciled new music in its place. Incidentally, the main difference that Ifukube made to this cue is in the introductory string measures: In the television version, the violins, violas and contrabasses are instructed to play a simple tremolo whereas for the film version Ifukube adds sul pont molto, or "strongly under the bridge," after the original tremolo marking in order to command a disquieting sonority that DeSentis describes as the composer's "typical underwater sound."

There is at least one major instance where a piece of music written for the television version was completely removed in favor of another. DeSentis explains: "The ostinato military march in the television version (TV-3) is very fast moving music and was to accompany the defense forces on their way to the village near the area where Varan was sighted. This march was discarded completely for the film version and replaced with a completely different march." *********

Certainly, there are examples of music from the television version that the composer carried over, untouched, into the film version. These cues are: Varan Flies (TV-8), Varan Lands At Haneda Airport (TV-13), and Rebirth of Varan (TV-15). In fact, the composer did not bother re-recording these cues; he simply recycled the previous recordings from the television version for inclusion in the film version.

The cue Fierceness of Varan also appears in both films. However, Ifukube made minor changes to this cue and did rewrite and re-record it for the film version. Interestingly, when one listens to the new recording of this cue, one hears the inclusion of trumpet and piano parts that do not appear in the revised manuscript. This means that the composer decided at the very last minute to make these minor additions to the cue's instrumentation. [6]

There is an interesting anomaly in the television score manuscript. The music written for the film's final scene (Finale) is not fully orchestrated; it is a mere two-line piano sketch. Why Ifukube would not have written out a full score for this cue is unknown. John DeSentis posits that "Ifukube may have written the music in haste and instructed the copyists on how to expand it for the orchestra, essentially making them orchestrators." [7]


A portion of the piano sketch for Varan's final scene.

Why are the television and film versions of the scores often so different? At least one answer is obvious: As previously stated, Ifukube needed to write new music for new scenes. But in the instance of the Main Title, for example, why did he go to so much trouble to change the introductory measures as well as add new melodic material to the body of the cue? Why did he remove some cues in preference to completely new ones?

The most likely answer to these questions is that Ifukube was not given much time to write the television version of the score and this led to his ultimate displeasure with that initial version. The example of the bare-bones Finale piano sketch is likely the best proof of the composer's rushed schedule: If John DeSentis is correct, Ifukube did not have time to write a full orchestration for this cue. If the composer was rushed during his first attempt to write the score, this begins to explain why he was likely not happy with the initial version.

Adding credence to the assertion that he was not happy with several cues from first incarnation of the Varan music is the fact that Ifukube took every opportunity that he could to make improvements to the old score whilst preparing the new one. Again, that the composer blithely used pages of his television manuscript as sketch paper demonstrates his ultimate lack of regard for much of the original material. But perhaps the most clear indication of Ifukube's general unhappiness with his first attempt at the Varan music is best summed up in a seemingly innocuous note that he wrote on the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the film version's Main Title sheet: There, in green pencil, and in English, he notes the single word "better."


"better"

The final theatrical version of the film was released in Japan on October 14 with Ifukube's revised and expanded score presented in Perspecta stereo. Somewhat ironically, Varan would eventually be exported to foreign shores, but not until roughly three years later: A heavily edited, Americanized version of the film, called Varan the Unbelievable, was released in the United States in 1961. Sadly, every scrap of music that Ifukube worked so hard to perfect for the Japanese theatrical release was completely removed from the American version only to be replaced with decidedly less impressive stock horror cues.


A publicity still from Varan

In the final year 1950s, Ifukube wrote nine film scores, three of which are particularly notable. The first of these was for director Mikio Naruse's drama, Whistling in the Kotan (Kotan no kuchibue), for Toho. (Kotan is the Ainu word for village.) In the film, which was based on Nobuo Ishimori's novel of the same name, Kun Kubo and Ryoko Koda play two Ainu children in Hokkaido who struggle to live in an atmosphere of racial discrimination. (Even in the postwar years, ethnic Japanese racism toward the Ainu people still remained widespread.) The rest of Kotan's cast was made up of several of Toho's top up-and-coming stars including Akira Takarada, Akira Kubo and Kumi Mizuno. The veteran Takashi Shimura also appeared.

Among the film composers working in Japan at the time, Akira Ifukube was certainly the best suited to write the music for this film, and for obvious reasons: Because of his expertise in the study of Ainu culture, and because of the film's Hokkaido setting, who else but Ifukube could Toho have selected for this assignment?

As one would surely expect, Ifukube's score for the film often takes direct inspiration from Ainu music: More precisely, Ifukube made use of two movements from his Ainu-themed work, Eclogues after Epos Among Aino Races, which was originally written for soprano and four timpani, by reworking them for voice and orchestra. The composer personally asked Yoshiko Beltramelli, the soprano who sang the premiere of Eclogues, to sing the Ainu language vocal parts on the soundtrack, a request she was happy to oblige.

The film's opening credit sequence is accompanied by what was originally the second movement of Eclogues, Yaishema ne na (Song of a Bird Dying in the North Sea), in its new orchestral guise. Before the entrance of Beltramelli's singing, a performer is heard whistling the track's main melody in a clear reference to the Whistling in the film's title.

The composer also uses an instrumental version of the Shine onne ekashi kor shinotcha (Song of an Old Woman) movement from Eclogues later in the film. Somewhat curiously, Ifukube throws in an orchestral version of the first movement of Three Lullabies Among the Native Tribes on the Island of Sakhalin, also a chamber piece, which was originally written for soprano and piano. What is strange about the inclusion of this music is that it lacks any tangible connection to the film's Ainu theme. The music in question, bu :lu Bu :lu, is based on the music of the Evenki people, who share no cultural or genetic relations to the Ainu. It seems that Ifukube used this music in the film to express in more general terms the spirit of northern Asia's indigenous peoples.

Whistling in the Kotan premiered on March 29, 1959.

Throughout the spring and summer, Ifukube busily plugged away at a handful of new film scores. At some point in the middle of the summer, probably around the beginning of July, he got to work on what was his biggest, most ambitious film score to date.

The Birth of Japan (Nippon tanjô) (also known alternatively in English as The Three Treasures and The Age of the Gods) was already in production by the time Ifukube was hired to write its score. Toho, the entity producing the film, deemed it to be their 1000th since the founding of the studio in 1932. In order to celebrate this august milestone, Toho decided that an unprecedented, large-scale production on par with the epic films that were increasingly popular in the United States would be in order.

Ostensibly taking their cue from Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956), the suits at Toho dared an attempt to bring to life their own epic religious story, but this time based on the Shinto myths found in the Kojiki, an 8th century text and the so-called "Record of Ancient Matters," that is known to be the oldest extant chronicle in Japan. The Kojiki, which deals with a variety of mythological subjects such as the creation of the Japanese islands and the exploits of Shinto's various kami, or deities, was ripe for the picking. Packed with countless fantastic and exciting stories, the text contained no shortage of material that could translate very well into the type of sweeping cinematic adventure that Toho was determined to bring to the big screen. (In Tohoscope, of course!)

Everything about The Birth of Japan had to be massive and top-shelf. First, Toho brought on board the director Hiroshi Inagaki (1905 - 1980), a specialist in period dramas whose film Samurai: The Legend of Musashi (1954) won the Oscar for best Foreign Language Film at the 28th Academy Awards in 1955. Second, the cast would be an impressive conglomeration of Japan's biggest stars and included the likes of Toshiro Mifune (in a double role, first as Yamato Takeru, the film's main protagonist and second as the kami Susanô), Takashi Shimura, Setsuko Hara, Kumi Mizuno, Akira Kubo, Akihiko Hirata, Akira Takarada and many others. In order to bring to life the more incredible elements of the film's narrative, which included, among other things, a depiction of the creation of the Japanese islands, the rampages of the eight-headed dragon Orochi and the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Fuji, The Birth of Japan would also showcase almost nonstop special effects from Eiji Tsuburaya, now a larger than life movie star in his own right.

The size of the music had to measure up to the rest of the production and Toho, sparing no expense, knew that Ifukube was the perfect man for the job. "I was told my film music was the most costly in terms of an orchestra. It required a great number of musicians and very loud volume," Ifukube once explained. [8] As eager as the studio was to secure Ifukube's participation on The Birth of Japan, the composer was himself equally as enthusiastic. Indeed, Ifukube's deep and long lasting family ties to Shinto quickly endeared him to the project. Additionally, the film would afford the composer the unique opportunity - bolstered by the film's unusually large budget - to again tap into his fascination with and admiration for Japan's ancient cultural traditions and pull out all the stops for a score colossal not only in its instrumental forces but also its length.

Ifukube's Birth of Japan score is more than just a simple exercise in large-scale music making for its own sake, however. By delving into several elements of its composition, one can quickly glean the rather extensive amount of study that the composer undertook to endow his music with a great amount of "ancient authenticity." First, Ifukube researched, according to an essay penned by the Japanese soprano Yumi Aikawa, the tonal character of the wagon (or yamatogoto, as it is sometimes called), a six or seven-stringed instrument that, despite its similarity to the more well known koto, is believed to be truly native to Japan. [9] (The koto, while indelibly linked to all that is essential in Japanese culture today, was actually imported to Japan via China in the 7th and 8th centuries.) [10] The wagon and its variations have been excavated from Jomon Period (roughly 14,500 BC- 300 BC) and Yayoi Period (roughly 300 BC- 250 AD) archeological sites throughout the Japanese archipelago, thus strongly supporting the notion of its purely indigenous provenance.[10]


Fujiwara no Otsugu (773 - 843 AD) playing the wagon

Throughout the centuries, the tuning of the wagon varied but was finally standardized by the Imperial government in the early 8th century. The ultimate tuning chosen for the wagon is known as ichikotsucho, an octotonic scale. According to Aikawa, the music throughout The Birth of Japan is written in this antique scale in order to make a direct aural link to the earliest origins of the Japanese people and their nation. [11] In this sense, in terms of tonality, the Birth of Japan score is authentic to the period depicted on the screen.


The ichikotsucho scale

If Ifukube's film scores required large orchestras, as he himself once stated, The Birth of Japan does not deviate from this norm and in fact employs what is likely the composer's most extensive instrumental ensemble for a film to date (thus surpassing The Mysterians), combining both standard Western orchestral instruments with an impressive host of traditional instruments from around the world, primarily of Asian origin. In terms of Ifukube's Western-style orchestral instrumentation, there is little of note here: It mimics what we have already encountered in films scores such as Rodan and The Mysterians. Regarding the other, decidedly more exotic instruments required, the most noteworthy of these are Japanese taiko drums; tenor and bass congas; two ocarinas; sistrums (a type of metal rattle that was popular in several ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire); kotos; geomungo (a Korean zither similar to a koto); guqin (a Chinese seven-string zither, also similar to a koto); hichiriki (a double reed Japanese flute); shô (a Japanese mouth organ); yunluo (a Chinese instrument comprised of several small gongs mounted on a wooden frame); tecomates (a type of marimba, widespread in Central America, whose resonators are fashioned from gourds); antique cymbals and paiban (a Chinese wooden clapper). Indeed, by using such a wide gamut of unusual, old world instruments, Ifukube cannily endowed the Birth of Japan score with bold strokes of fanciful, primeval color.


Ifukube's own sketch showing the lay out of his Birth of Japan orchestra as well at the placement of the microphones. The microphones are represented by the "x within o" symbol.

In addition to all of this, Ifukube tops off his already huge instrumental forces with a sizable mixed male and female choir. In order to provide lyrics for his choir, the composer again explored the primordial by referencing ancient Japanese writings. The imposing music for the Main Title features the choir singing words from the Hotsuma-Tsutae, a text written in yamato-kobata (an offshoot of Old Japanese, which is comprised of an archaic vocabulary that predates contact with China). ********** The text in question is a prayer to the sun goddess Ameterasu:

Aware ana omo shiro Ana tanoshi
Ana sayake oke sayake oke
aware omo shiro sayake oke ano tanoshi

Translated this text reads:

The sun is radiant, how brightly the faces shine, how happy we are!
Cleanse the unclean, cleanse the unclean!
The sun is radiant, faces shine brightly, cleanse the unclean, how happy we are!
[12]

Ifukube's grand;y solmen music written for this chant, which makes deliberate use of the ichikotsucho scale, appropriately accompanies a stunning special effects image of a solar eclipse, deftly provided by Tsuburaya and his team.

There are other instances where Ifukube extracts lyrics from old compendiums for use in his score: Uda Song (Uda is the name of a district in the ancient [and now defunct] Yamato Province) is another outstanding example of this. Like the Main Title cue, this track, which accompanies a scene taking place in the Uda district, features a choir singing an arrangement of words sourced from the Kojiki. This specific text is taken from a song entitled About the Man with Two Wives. The yamato-kobata lyrics are as follows:

Ee
Shi ya koshi ya
Aa
Shi ya koshi ya
Konami ga
NA kowasaba
Tachisoba no
Mi no nakeku o
Kokishi hiene
EE
Shi ya koshi ya
AA
Shi ya koshi ya
Uwanari GA
NA kowasaba
Ichisakaki
MI no okeku o
kokida hiene
EE
Shi ya koshi ya
AA
Shiy ya koshi ya
Uda no
Takaki ni
Wa GA matsu ya
Kujira sayaru
[13] ***********

By keeping in mind that the humorous words of this song describe a married man who attempts to attract the attention of a younger girl - and gets caught by his wife in the process - it is apparent that Ifukube did not include these lyrics in his score due to their overriding thematic content. Upon closer examination, however, we see that the song takes place in Uda Province: The lyrics Uda no takaki ni translate to In a flat place on a high hill in Uda. It is easy to conclude, then, that Ifukube chose to write original music for these lyrics because the story described therein took place in Uda; evidently, as far as Ifukube was concerned, it was important that the sung words in this cue have some connection to the scene, no matter how remote that connection may seem. This highlights very vividly the amount of extraordinary consideration the composer took when selecting lyrical content for the choral interludes in The Birth of Japan.


A portion of the Uda's Song cue from the Birth of Japan manuscript. Note Ifukube's requirement of twenty four singers for the coro masculino, or men's choir.

The music for the treacherous, sake-drinking Orochi, the eight-headed dragon (not always convincingly) brought to life by Tsuburaya's crack special effects department, is as big, thrilling and menacing as anything that Ifukube had previously wrought for the other kaiju in Toho's ever-growing canon. This cue, which Ifukube refers to as "Dragon" in the manuscript, makes ample use of jarring dissonance and creepy chromatic runs, especially on the strings and in the brass; since chromaticism appears so readily in his other monster scores - while being virtually absent elsewhere in his already vast catalogue of film and concert music - the associations that the composer makes between twelve-note scales, which were so favored and promoted by the musical modernists of the period, and vicious, giant creatures become quite apparent: Chromaticism - certainly a representation of twelve-note, atonal music - is inherently hideous and monstrous.

Other standout moments in the Birth of Japan score are those where Ifukube brings in his arsenal of ethnic instruments front and center. In particular, the Kumaso Banquet cue is striking in its raucous exoticism: eschewing the available Western orchestral instruments almost completely, this music is mainly characterized by chanting from the mixed choir, persistently hooting ocarinas and relentless clatter from the tecomates, timpani, congas, taiko drum, antique cymbals and tam-tam. In the decidedly more static and sparsely scored Prince Susanô's Strategem cue, Ifukube conjures an atmosphere of surreal mystery by layering tremolo sul ponticello strings under the dreamy - and dreary - warbling plucked strings of the Korean geomungo. The effect thereof is at least slightly unsettling and - ironically due to the striking unusualness of the resulting sound - practically approaching the avant-garde.

For the Birth of Japan, Ifukube recorded an hour and a half's worth of music. Although he only wrote music for about half of the film's running time, which is three hours, the resulting score was the composer's longest for a film to date.

The Birth of Japan was released on November 1, 1959. It was a moderate box office hit.


Poster for The Birth of Japan.

As The Birth of Japan was hitting movie screens throughout Japan, Ifukube began work on his final film score of the year. Toho, apparently on a creative roll - and with no shortage of money - was in the process of wrapping up production on yet another special effects spectacular, Battle in Outer Space (Uchu daisensô), a loose sequel to The Mysterians. Ishiro Honda was back in the director's chair for this picture and the indefatigable Eiji Tsuburaya was also back, having just barely put the finishing touches on the effects for The Birth of Japan. Jojiro Okami, who had written the original story for The Mysterians, was hired to outline the film's basic plot and Varan's Shinichi Sekizawa returned to expand the story into a full screenplay.

The plot involves an alien race, the Natal, who use their advanced technology to instigate a series of catastrophes on earth. In order to investigate the dastardly machinations of these alien beings, the United Nations sends two rockets to the moon, where the Natal base is located, to gather reconnaissance. The base is discovered and destroyed. In response to this, the Natal send a fleet of their space craft toward the earth and successfully carry out retaliatory attacks in New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. Humanity fights back by sending their Scout Ships into orbit to engage the enemy in an sweeping dogfight. The Natal are finally beaten and the planet earth is saved.

Ifukube's music for Battle in Outer Space, which he brusquely refers to as "War" in his manuscript, is predictably overflowing with martial bombast. Prominent examples of this include the driving and, according to John DeSentis, vaguely Russian-sounding Main Title music as well as a march that is often heard accompanying the earth's combat operations in the film. This march is a slight reworking of the famous Frigate March first heard in Godzilla, which itself was based on the composer's 1943 naval piece Kishi Mai.

Perhaps the film's more intriguing musical moments are those in which the composer seeks to express the stark eerieness of space and the otherworldliness of the Natal aliens. In the film's prologue we see a small squadron of Natal saucers emerge from the blackness of the cosmos (a exceedingly well executed visual by Tsuburaya and company) en route to carry out an attack of a United Nations space station. John DeSentis is particularly impressed by the music heard in this scene: "Ifukube (here) uses triangle, vibraphone, delicate piano and high tremolo strings to create a sense of mystery. The mystery changes to panic as the Natal craft begin to attack. Interestingly, at this moment, only the violas, cellos and basses rise to a crescendo with the piano while the violins hover at a soft dynamic. The viola cutting through sounds like a type of synthesizer; it's a fascinating way to create an otherworldly sound with acoustic instruments."


A segment from the score heard in the film's prologue. Note how the composer refers to this scene as "Universe."

To further evoke the weirdness of space, the composer creatively uses the piano to fashion several acoustic special effects. Specifically, Ifukube returns to his pattern of direct manipulation of the piano harp (as seen in Godzilla and Rodan) to create strangely fascinating sonorities.

In the cues titled The Cave and The Natal, Ifukube transforms the piano harp into a hammered dulcimer. Instead of calling for the use traditional dulcimer mallets, however, Ifukube requires that a wire brush (noted in Italian as un scovolo di fil di ferro) rapidly strike the strings in order to create a menacing rattle.


The wire brush.

The special piano techniques do not end there. In the cue titled Onward (Cue 21 in the manuscript), which, like The Cave and The Natal cues, takes place on the barren, alien surface of the moon, Ifukube creates a further sense of otherworldly unease with his addition of a prepared piano into the score. Prepared pianos were popular among the avant-garde composers of the mid-20th century, particularly with the American composer John Cage (1912 - 1992), a true musical maverick who is often credited for inventing the prepared piano technique. To equip a prepared piano, various objects such as (but by no means limited to) screws, bolts, paper, leather and even cutlery are inserted between or affixed to the strings of the instrument. When the hammers hit the strings, the resulting sounds amount to "thuds and buzzes," as the author Larry Sitsky once described them. [14]

At the bottom of the Cue 21 manuscript page, Ifukube shows which notes are to be manipulated and, therefore, which piano strings are to have objects attached. Although Ifukube makes no mention of the objects that are to be used, by listening to the soundtrack, it is clear that the objects in question were metallic due to the dull jangling produced when the hammers strike the strings. [15]

That Ifukube would resort to using this instrumental technique in the Battle in Outer Space is significant: Since the prepared piano was such a fashionable accouterment of the avant-garde composers, the composer's embrace of it here is striking. It is possible that Ifukube, simply in an experimental mood, resorted to a prepared piano for the creation of another "far out" sound effect. Perhaps, though, the prepared piano could be considered yet another example of the composer's recent habit of making a less-than-flattering commentary on the nature of the mid-20th century's zealous embrace of modernism; That is, the prepared piano, acting as a stand in for avant-garde music is general, is as devious, subversive and invasive as the alien race that the instrument represents.

The Battle in Outer Space score is also notable for two brief jazz interludes. The first is heard while Yoshio Tsuchiya's character, Yuichi Iwamura, is listening to his car radio prior to being abducted by the Natal. The second moment of jazz accompanies the scene in which Iwamura is released by his alien captors and, in a state of confusion, observes the distant lights of Tokyo.

It is not clear whether or not Ifukube himself wrote the jazz music heard on Iwamura's radio; The uncertainty surrounding the authorship of this music is reinforced by its complete absence from the manuscript. Was the music written by another composer? Or was it written by Ifukube but is now missing from the extant pages of the manuscript score? It is indeed tempting to surmise that Ifukube did write the brief, 24-second jazz ditty based on comments that the composer made to Ed Godziszewski in 1995. Ifukube explained to Godziszewski that, while scoring a film early in his career (the film in question is not specified), there was a need to record a jazz segment. Since this style of music was not the composer's specialty, he elected to allow his hired musicians to improvise something of their own during the recording session. The musicians were incapable of improvisation. "I finally realized that all players employed for me were trained with a method of classical music which is designed for scores to be realized in actual sound as precisely as possible," Ifukube commented. "To them, it was impossible to perform without fully written scores. With this experience, I would prepare entirely finished scores, no matter how 'pop' or 'jazzy' it would be." [16]

If Ifukube's commentary from 1995 suggests that he did indeed write the jazz music heard on the car radio cue, he later states in the same interview that, despite his habit of fully scoring pop and jazz numbers, he also allowed room, from time to time, for limited improvisation. This is quite evident on the manuscript page outlining the music for the cue heard when Iwamura is returned to earth after being brainwashed by the Natal. The moody music heard during this scene is entirely Ifukube's, however, just as Yoshio Tsuchiya's character sees Tokyo from afar, a rather incongruous drum solo appears on the soundtrack, rhythmically at odds with the rest of the music. Although this rapid-fire drumming is not notated anywhere on the sheet music written for this scene, Ifukube does describe the entrance of an improvised jazz drum set to begin playing in a "hot style" at just the right moment. Based on Ifukube's remarks in the 1995 interview, it is likely that the drummer called into the studio for this solo was not a classical musician but rather a jazz specialist. "Many jazz musicians don't like to play with a score...most drummers especially can't even read a score!" [17]


Ifukube's notes describing the "hot jazz" drum solo.

Battle in Outer Space premiered in Japan on December 26. It would later be released in the United States on July 8, 1960 with the composer's original score mostly intact.

And thus the 1950s, a decade that was by far the composer's busiest and most lucrative to date, had come to a close. Despite the artistic frustrations that the composer battled with throughout much of the decade due to the negative reactions brought about by his Sinfonia Tapkaara, Ifukube's financial success in the film industry, largely thanks the Godzilla phenomenon and the popularity of the burgeoning monster film genre in general, was undeniable. If Japan's classical music community remained skeptical of Ifukube's talents, the Japanese film industry was quite assured of them. As Ifukube was about to enter into the 1960s, he remained a misunderstood outsider in the concert music scene but continued his prodigious ascent to the very top of the Japanese film industry.


Poster for Battle in Outer Space.


* Despite my best efforts as a researcher, I have been unable to find specific references to this "Takue" story. The story of Ran-Darma, who is more commonly known as Langdarma, however, is well known in Tibetan Buddhism. He was a real person, a zealous anti-Buddhist, who did indeed take over the Tibetan throne and ruled that country from 838 until 841 AD. Records show he was killed by a Buddhist monk. However, I cannot find any sources referencing this monk as "Fashan Jarboo." Therefore, while the Langdarma episode in Tibetan Buddhism is well known, my attempts to uncover more about "Takue" and the character "Fashan Jarboo" have born no fruit. Ifukube must have had access to a very rare text about the Langdarma story that used, I suppose, a rather unusual nomenclature.

** If there is any validity to this theory, and I truly believe that there is, this adds further credence to the notion that, at least to some extent, Sinfonia Tapkaara's bad reception did bother the composer despite the assertion from Hirohiko Nagase that Ifukube was able to keep his cool due to his practices of Zen Buddhist techniques. I'm sure that, at least outwardly, Ifukube did present himself as calm and undaunted following the attacks against his symphony. However, as we saw in the previous section of the Biography, the harmonic experimentation of Deux Caractères and the lyrical content of Eclogues After Epos Among Aino Races certainly hinted at some amount of hurt on the part of the composer and the nature of Fashan Jarboo's music and themes, yet another hint, ostensibly confirms it.

*** Ifukube had a habit of writing the titles of his scores, of both concert works and film soundtracks, in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. This practice dates back to at least Arctic Forest, where the composer used Cyrillic on the title page of that score. He also did this on the cover page of Egozaida as well as the cover of Fashan Jarboo, as we can see above. Both Godzilla and Rodan had their titles written in Cyrillic as well. Why is this? Ifukube had a great affinity for foreign languages and Russian culture. When writing scores, he liked to combine these two interests by using the Russian alphabet in order to "dress up" the physical appearance of his manuscripts. In the case of The Mysterians, it is unclear why he makes the switch to Greek. This is simply, perhaps, nothing more than the composer wanting to do something slightly different. And why he refers to the film's title as Mogela throughout is also unclear.

**** This sub ponticello technique is the same that Ifukube used to "score" the Oxygen Destroyer's fish tank experiments in Godzilla.

***** Although the forte glissandi from the cellos and contrabasses are readily heard on the soundtrack recording of the original score, they are virtually undetectable in the film. This is because the music accompanies the subterranean dome's rise to the surface of the earth. During this sequence, the soundtrack is swamped with low frequency, rumbling sound effects that drown out the low frequencies in Ifukube music, especially the cellos and the contrabasses.

****** It is often believed that AB-PT, a division of the American Broadcasting Corporation, or ABC, was a potential purchaser of Varan, but there are no documents to definitively confirm this.

******* The new introductory melody in question would be easily recognizable to any fan of kaiju eiga: It would later go on to serve as the theme music of another, more popular monster in Toho's canon, Rodan.

******** Several of Toho's daikaiju and tokusatsu films feature scenes in which members of a superstitious cult or tribe dance and chant prayers to placate the giant monsters that they worship as gods. These monster worshippers can be placed into two categories: First, they might be native Japanese who reside in remote areas, cut off from the rest of modern Japan. This was the case in Godzilla (1954) with the depiction of the Odo islanders. Despite the fact there is no singing or chanting, the Shintoist exorcism scene in that film does feature music and dance. This scene certainly prefigures the later reoccurring theme of musical ceremonies that are carried out to venerate or appease monster-gods, as we now see in Varan. Again, here, the tribe is composed of native Japanese Shintoists who live isolated from the rest of Japan in the mountains of Tohoku. The second category of monster worshippers involves foreign, indigenous peoples who live on far-flung islands in the Pacific. Later films such as King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Atragon (196X) and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), all of which Ifukube would score, contain such scenes. These films will be discussed in more detail later in the Biography.

********* The new march that John DeSentis mentions would be recycled into the composer's score for Battle in Outer Space only one year later. The march has gone on to be more closely associated with the latter film.

********** The Hotsuma-Tsutae, though offering an alternative telling of several of the myths to be found in the Kojiki, is thought to be nowhere near as old...or authentic. While the Kojiki can most certainly be traced back to the 8th century, the Hotsuna-Tsuate is not believed to be older than the 18th century. Despite the probable late date of its composition, it is written in yamato-kobata. It is not known whether or not Ifukube was aware of the fact that the Hotsuma-Tsutae is more or less a modern, fabricated refashioning of familiar Shinto mythology, but if he did know, that clearly did not stop him from using some of its text in his Birth of Japan score.

*********** I will decline to give a full, line-by-line translation here. While Ifukube leaves most of the original text intact, he does in some instances rearrange some of the stanzas and he even goes so far as to completely omit some of them, too. This was done, assuredly, to make the text better comply with the music he wrote for it. Because of Ifukube's several edits, providing a linear and fully comprehensible line-by-line translation is by no means practical nor truly possible, for that matter.


[1] Ryfle, Steve. Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G". Page 58. Ontario: ECW Press. 1998.
[2] Katayama, Morihide. Liner notes for Akira Ifukube: Anthology of vox principal works. Camerata. 1995.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Thank you, Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Thank you, John DeSentis.
[7] Thank you, John DeSentis.
[8] Interview with Akira Ifukube (supplementary material). Godzilla. DVD. Criterion Collection, 2012.
[9] Aikawa, Yumi. The Film 'The Three Treasures (The Birth of Japan)' and Akira Ifukube. Essay from liner notes for Kagura Music and Akira Ifukube. Camerata, 2014.
[10] Miki, Minoru. Reagan, Marty. Flavin, Philip. Composing for Japanese Instruments. Page 125. University Rochester Press. 2008.
[11] Aikawa, Yumi. The Film 'The Three Treasures (The Birth of Japan)' and Akira Ifukube. Essay from liner notes for Kagura Music and Akira Ifukube. Camerata, 2014
[12]
Hotsuma-Tsutae, The Book of Heaven (Chapter 7). www.hotsuma.gr.jp/aya/aya07-e.htm
[13] Brower, Robert H. Milner, Earl Roy. Japanese Court Poetry. Pages 77-78. Stanford University Press. 1988.

[14] Sitsky. Larry. Music of the Twentieth-century Avant-Garde: A Biocritical Sourcebook. Page 93. Greenwood Publishing Group. 2002.
[15] Thank you, John DeSentis.
[16] Godziszewski, Ed. Ifukube on Ifukube. G-Fan Magazine November/December 1995. Page 35.
[17] Ibid.



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