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Akira Ifukube

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Akira Ifukube

Hokkaido University

Akira Ifukube wwwreikofujisawacomwpcontentuploads201307a

February 8, 2006, Meguro, Tokyo City, Tokyo, Japan

Godzilla, Best Classics

Toshizo Ifukube, Kiwa Ifukube

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Akira ifukube biography with tribute by shogo tomiyama

Akira Ifukube (伊福部 昭, Ifukube Akira, 31 May 1914 – 8 February 2006) was a Japanese composer of classical music and film scores, perhaps best known for his work on the soundtracks of the Godzilla movies by Toho.


Akira Ifukube Akira Ifukube Biography with Tribute by Shogo Tomiyama

Akira ifukube godzilla 1954


Akira Ifukube was born on May 31, 1914, in Kushiro on the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, the third son of a Shinto priest. Much of his childhood was spent in areas with a mixed Japanese and Ainu population, and his father, unusually for the time, socialised with Ainu. Ifukube was strongly influenced by the traditional music of both peoples, and studied the violin and the shamisen. His first encounter with classical music occurred when attending secondary school in Hokkaidō's capital, Sapporo. Legend has it that Ifukube decided to become a composer at the age of 14 after hearing a radio performance of Igor Stravinsky's ballet, The Rite of Spring. He also cited the music of Manuel de Falla as a major influence.

Ifukube went on to study forestry at Hokkaido University and composing in his spare time, which prefigured a line of self-taught Japanese composers such as Tōru Takemitsu and Takashi Yoshimatsu. His first piece was the piano solo, Piano Suite (later the title was changed to Japan Suite, arranged for orchestra). This piece was dedicated to the pianist George Copeland who was then living in Spain. Atsushi Miura, musicologist and Ifukube's friend in university, sent a fan letter to Copeland. Copeland replied, "It is wonderful that you listen my disc in spite of you living in Japan, the opposite side of the earth. I imagine you may compose music. Send me some piano pieces." Then Miura, who was not a composer, presented Ifukube and this piece to Copeland. Copeland promised to interpret it, but the correspondence was unfortunately stopped because of the Spanish Civil War. Ifukube's big break came in 1935, when his first orchestral piece, Japanese Rhapsody, won the first prize in an international contest for young composers promoted by Alexander Tcherepnin. The judges of that contest—Albert Roussel, Jacques Ibert, Arthur Honegger, Alexandre Tansman, Tibor Harsányi, Pierre-Octave Ferroud, and Henri Gil-Marchex—were unanimous in their selection of Ifukube as the winner. The next year, Ifukube studied modern Western composition while Tcherepnin was visiting Japan, and in 1938 his Piano Suite obtained an honourable mention at the I.C.S.M. festival in Venice. In the late 1930s his music, especially Japanese Rhapsody, was performed in Europe on a number of occasions.

On completing University, he worked as a forestry officer and lumber processor, and towards the end of the Second World War was appointed by the Imperial Japanese Army to study the elasticity and vibratory strength of wood. He suffered radiation exposure after carrying out x-rays without protection, a consequence of the wartime lead shortage. Thus, he had to abandon forestry work and became a professional composer and teacher. Ifukube spent some time in hospital due to the radiation exposure, and was startled one day to hear one of his own marches being played over the radio when General Douglas MacArthur arrived to formalize the Japanese surrender.

From 1946 to 1953, he taught at the Tokyo University of the Arts, during which period he composed his first film score for The End of the Silver Mountains, released in 1947. Over the next fifty years, he would compose more than 250 film scores, the high point of which was his 1954 music for Ishirō Honda's Toho movie, Godzilla. Ifukube also created Godzilla's trademark roar – produced by rubbing a resin-covered leather glove along the loosened strings of a double bass – and its footsteps, created by striking an amplifier box.

Despite his financial success as a film composer, Ifukube's first love had always been his general classical work as a composer. In fact his compositions for the two genres cross-fertilized each other. For example, he was to recycle his 1953 music for the ballet Shaka, about how the young Siddhartha Gautama eventually became the Buddha, for Kenji Misumi's 1961 film Buddha. Then in 1988 he reworked the film music to create his three-movement symphonic ode Gotama the Buddha. Meanwhile, he had returned to teaching at the Tokyo College of Music, becoming president of the college the following year, and in 1987 retired to become head of the College's ethnomusicology department. He trained younger generation composers such as Toshiro Mayuzumi, Yasushi Akutagawa, Kaoru Wada, Yssimal Motoji, Tadashi Yamauchi and Imai Satoshi. See: List of music students by teacher: G to J#Akira Ifukube. He also published Orchestration, a 1,000-page book on theory.

He died in Tokyo at Meguro-ku Hospital of multiple organ dysfunction on February 8, 2006, at the age of 91.


The Japanese government awarded Ifukube the Order of Culture. Subsequently, he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class.


  • Japanese Rhapsody (1935)
  • Triptyque aborigene for chamber orchestra (1937)
  • Symphony Concertante for piano and orchestra (1941)
  • Ballata sinfonica (1943)
  • Overture to the Nation of Philippines (1944)
  • Salome (1948, score revised and expanded 1987)Ballet based on Oscar Wilde's play of the same name. The piece is written in a conservative, late-romantic style reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky or even Khachaturian.
  • Fire of Prometheus (1950)
  • Drumming of Japan (1951, revised 1984)
  • Sinfonia Tapkaara (1954, revised 1979)
  • Ritmica Ostinata for piano and orchestra (1961, revised 1971)
  • Ronde in Burlesque for wind orchestra (1972, arranged to orchestra in 1983)
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 (1978)
  • Lauda concertata for marimba and orchestra (1979)
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 1 (1983)
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 2 (1983)
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 3 (1983)
  • Gotama the Buddha, symphonic ode for mixed chorus and orchestra (1989)
  • Japanese Suite for orchestra (1991)
  • Japanese Suite for string orchestra (1998)
  • Chamber and instrumental

  • Piano Suite (1933)
  • Toccata for guitar (1970)
  • Fantasia for baroque lute (1980)
  • Sonata for violin and piano (1985)
  • Ballata sinfonica for duo-treble and bass 25-stringed koto (2001)
  • Vocal

  • Ancient Minstrelsies of Gilyak Tribes (1946)
  • Three Lullabies among the Native Tribes on the Island of Sakhalin (1949)
  • Eclogues after Epos among Aino Races for solo voice and 4 kettle drums (1950)
  • A Shanty of the Shiretoko Peninsula (1960)
  • The Sea of Okhotsk for soprano, bassoon, piano (or harp) and double bass (1988)
  • Tomo no oto for traditional ensemble and orchestra (1990)
  • Lake Kimtaankamuito (Lake Mashū) (摩周湖, Mashū-ko) for soprano, viola and harp or piano (1992)
  • La Fontaine sacrée for soprano, viola, bassoon and harp (1964, 2000); arrangement by the composer from the 1964 film score Mothra vs. Godzilla
  • Film scores

  • Snow Trail (1947)
  • Woman in the Typhoon Belt (1948)
  • The Quiet Duel (1949)
  • Jakoman and Tetsu (1949)
  • Kumo no machi (City of the Spider) (1950)
  • The Tale of Genji (1951)
  • Children of Hiroshima (1952)
  • Tenryu River (1952)
  • Hiroshima (1953)
  • Anatahan (アナタハン), also known as The Saga of Anatahan (1953)
  • Sakuma Dam Part 1 (1954)
  • Cape Ashizuri (1954)
  • Godzilla (1954)
  • Dobu (1954)
  • Ningen gyorai kaiten (1955)
  • Sakuma Dam Part 2 (1955)
  • The Burmese Harp (1956)
  • Rodan (1956)
  • Sakuma Dam Part 3 (1957)
  • The Mysterians (1957)
  • Varan the Unbelievable (1958)
  • The Birth of Japan (1958)
  • Battle in Outer Space (1959)
  • The Big Boss (Boss of the Underworld) (1959)
  • Baluchaung Project (1960)
  • Shinran (1960)
  • Zoku Shinran (1960)
  • Musashi Miyamoto (1961)
  • The Story of Osaka Castle (1961)
  • The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)
  • Whale God (1962)
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
  • Chushingura (1962)
  • 13 Assassins (1963)
  • New Tale of Zatoichi (1963)
  • Wanpaku Ouji no Orochi Taiji (1963)
  • Atragon (1963)
  • Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963)
  • Zatoichi on the Road (1963)
  • Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
  • Fight, Zatoichi, Fight (1964)
  • Dogora (1964)
  • Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
  • Whirlwind (1964)
  • Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
  • Zatoichi's Revenge (1965)
  • Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965)
  • Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
  • The War of the Gargantuas (1966)
  • Daimajin (1966)
  • Wrath of Daimajin (1966)
  • Zatoichi's Vengeance (1966)
  • Return of Daimajin (1966)
  • King Kong Escapes (1967)
  • Zatoichi Challenged (1967)
  • Destroy All Monsters (1968)
  • Latitude Zero (1969)
  • Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970)
  • Space Amoeba (1970)
  • Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
  • Zatoichi's Conspiracy (1973)
  • Sandakan No. 8 (1974)
  • Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
  • Lady Ogin (1978)
  • Dozoku no ranjo (1991)
  • Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
  • Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
  • Kushiro Marshland (1993)
  • Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
  • In addition, his work has also been used in Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, Godzilla 2000, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Godzilla: Final Wars, and Shin Godzilla.


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