Akira Ifukube

From Academic Kids

Akira Ifukube (伊福部 昭 Ifukube Akira, born 31 May,1914) is a Japanese composer of classical music and film scores, perhaps best known for his work on the soundtracks of the Godzilla movies.

Akira Ifukube born on 31 May, 1914 in Kushiro on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, 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 musical traditions of both peoples, and studied the violin and the shamisen. While attending secondary school in Hokkaido's capital, Sapporo, he fist encountered classical music, and legend has it that Ifukube decided to become a composer at the age of 14 after hearing a radio performance of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and he also cites the music of Manuel de Falla as a major influence.

Despite this, Ifukube went on to study forestry at Hokkaido University while starting to compose in his spare time, prefiguring a line of self-taught Japanese composers such as Toru Takemitsu and Takashi Yoshimatsu. His first piece was the piano solo Bon Odori Suite, and his big break came in 1935, when his first orchestral piece, Japanese Rhapsody, won first prize in an international contest for young composers promoted by Alexander Tcherepnin. The next year, Ifukube studied modern western composition while Tcherepnin was visiting Japan, and in 1938 his Piano Suite obtained an honourable mention at 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 Japanese Imperial Army to study the elasticity and vibratory strength of wood, and suffered radiation exposure as a consequence of carrying out x-rays without protection, a consequence of the wartime lead shortage. As a consequence, he had to abandon forestry work, becoming a professional composer and teacher.

From 1946 to 1953 he taught at the Nihon University College of Art, during which period he composed his first film score, the 1947 The End of the Silver Mountains. Over the next fifty years, he would compose more than 250 film scores, the high point of which was his 1954 music for 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 has always been his general classical work as a composer.

In 1974, he returned to teaching at the Tokyo College of Music, becoming president of the college the following year, and in 1987 'retired' to become president of the College's ethnomusicology department. He also published, Orchestration, a 1,000-page book on theory. The Japanese government has awarded him the Order of Culture and the Order of the Sacred Treasure.

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