At the tender age of 6 I became a synthesizer fanatic. My first exposure was Wendy Carlos’ epic album, Switched on Bach. After hearing that I tried to find anything and everything that had synthesizers, particularly the big Moog modular synthesizer.
At about 12 I saw an album cover with the coolest synthesizer on the back. I had to have it! But at that age I really couldn’t afford it. Now the stories differ. I remember buying it for my brother for Christmas while he says he bought it himself, the first album he actually paid for. Whichever way, that cool looking album ended up in my brothers hands. Of course at 12 that meant it is almost mine forever.
I was totally blown away when I first heard it. Although I was a synth-fanatic, I had never heard sounds quite like it. There was lush soundscapes, complex textures, shimmering glides, ethereal voices and surrealistic instruments. Sure, there were some quirky, silly and novelty sounds mixed in, but as a kid I loved it. More than anything I’d heard created by synthesizer, this sounded living, organic. And yet it sounded spacey and futuristic.
The music I was listening to was Isao Tomita’s album, Snowflakes are Dancing, which is his electronic interpretations of music composed by Claude Debussy. The music was so different from things like Switched on Bach or the novelty tune, Popcorn, that I knew and loved. In my ears it was so, so much more.
A lot of the electronic music I have posted is much closer to the rock side of electronic music. There are shades of Pink Floyd and Yes with touches of Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre mixed in and even some tips of my hat to 1980s techno Pop. Despite this more rock, pop and new age sound, don’t doubt for a second that Isao Tomita was one of the largest musical influences in my life. Not just the sound, but the introduction to music of this era, like Debussy and Stravinsky. If you listen to my classical music you can hear a lot of the sounds of the lat Romantic, early Modern composers coming through, many of which I discovered as a child through Tomita.
And I’m not alone. Many electronic musicians cite Tomita as an influence, including Stevie Wonder. There is a video of Micheal Jackson visiting Tomita in Japan with Tomita demoing some sounds on his large synthesizer.
Isao Tomita passed away a couple of weeks ago, May 5, at the age of 84. Although not a shock like Prince or a tragedy like Kieth Emerson, it is still a loss to the music world. He was in the middle of a music project that will now never be heard.
Today’s Throwback Thursday goes out to one of the great pioneers of electronic music. He was one of my personal musical heroes. 2016 has been an awful year for music, hasn’t it?