Google doodle to honor Japanese composer Akira Ifukube on his 107th birthday
Happy birthday, Akira Ifukube!
Today Google made a beautiful doodle to celebrate the 107th birthday of Japanese composer Akira Ifukube—a prodigious talent in classical music and cinematic film scores widely known for his work on the original soundtrack for the "Godzilla" movies of the 1950s.
Akira Ifukube was born on this day in 1914 in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. He was the third son of a police officer Toshimitsu Ifukube. The origins of this family can be traced back to at least the 7th century with the birth of Ifukibe-no-Tokotarihime.
A passionate listener of European musical scores as a teenager, Akira Ifukube aspired to intertwine his deep-rooted national identity into original compositions, an idea further solidified after listening to Russian composer Stravinsky's 1913 emotive orchestral piece "The Rite of Spring" at 14 years old.
Akira Ifukube studied forestry at Hokkaido Imperial University in Sapporo and composed in his spare time, which prefigured a line of self-taught Japanese composers. Following a brief stint as a forestry officer and lumber processor, he chose to pursue music composition full time.
In 1947, he released the first of his more than 250 film scores that he produced over the next half-century. His first piece was the piano solo, Piano Suite (later the title was changed to Japan Suite, arranged for orchestra), dedicated to George Copeland who was living in Spain.
Ifukube's friend Atsushi Miura at university sent a 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 Akira Ifukube and this piece to Copeland. Copeland promised to interpret it, but the correspondence was unfortunately stopped because of the Spanish Civil War.
Akira Ifukube's big break came in 1935 when his first orchestral piece Japanese Rhapsody won the first prize in an international competition for young composers promoted by Alexander Tcherepnin.
He taught at the Tokyo University of the Arts (formerly Tokyo Music School), 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 height of his film score career came in 1954 when he wrote the soundtrack for "Godzilla," whose signature roar he created by taking a resin-covered leather glove and dragging it against the loose string of a double bass. He also music for Ishirō Honda's Toho movie.
Akira Ifukube trained younger generation composers such as Toshiro Mayuzumi, Yasushi Akutagawa, Akio Yashiro, Teizo Matsumura, Sei Ikeno, Minoru Miki, Maki Ishii, Kaoru Wada, Yssimal Motoji, and Imai Satoshi.
Outside of his lifelong work as a composer, Akira served as president of the Tokyo College of Music starting in 1976. He also published Orchestration, a 1,000-page book on theory, widely used among Japanese composers. The Japanese government honored his lifetime achievements with both the Order of Culture and the Order of the Sacred Treasure.
Akira Ifukube died in Tokyo at Meguro-ku Hospital of multiple organ dysfunction on 8 February in 2006, at the age of 91, and was buried at the Ube shrine in Tottori.