This year marks the 80th anniversary of Kenji Miyazawa’s Death, and as a tribute to the celebrated writer a revival of the Ihatov Symphony was performed in his hometown of Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture on 29 August. The symphony was composed by Isao Tomita, a true originator of electronic music in Japan and features Hatsune Miku the iconic vocaloid who embodies the trail blazed by Tomita decades ago.

Kenji Miyazawa lived from 1896 to 1933, and while being involved in the social issues of his home in Iwate he also wrote some of Japan’s most influential stories and poems. His poem Ame ni mo Makezu (Be Not Defeated by the Rain) is a standard in the Japanese school system. Many of his stories feature a fictional land called Ihatov which was largely based on Iwate. However, it was his story Gingatetsudo No Yoru (Night on the Galactic Railroad) that probably got the most fame worldwide after being adapted into an anime.

One year before the death of Kenji Miyazawa came the birth of Isao Tomita, who would later become the musician who brought the Moog synthesizer to Japan. He earned respect around the world for his work in pioneering electronic and space music, and was especially known for recreating classical pieces completely by synthesizer. He even started to recreate human voices electronically, as can be heard at around the 1:20 mark of this song.

Artificial voice technology would continue to grow until Miyazawa’s 111th and Tomita’s 75th birthdays in 2007 when Hatsune Miku came into the world. While different from Tomita’s artificial sounds Hatsune Miku is a sampled voice that can be augmented into any number of lyrics and melodies. To put it simply, she’s a software package that acts as your own personal singer, available 24/7.

“Ihatov Symphony” is Tomita’s 35-minute arrangement that draws heavily on the works of Kenji Miyazawa. For this piece, Tomita is putting down the Moog and is using a human orchestra to provide the music. Also, in the spirit of Miyazawa’s local activism, he hired a local Iwate choir to give the featured soloist Hatsune Miku support.

The combination of these three dream-filled artists has created something truly beautiful and euphoric. Here’s a sample of the Hanamaki performance of “Ihatov Symphony.”

This was actually the second time “Ihatov Symphony” was performed, the first being last November in Tokyo. Also, this thankfully won’t be the last as two shows are scheduled for Tokyo Bunkamura Orchard Hall on 15 and 16 September, while one show is planned for the ORIX Theater in Osaka on 21 September.

Check it out if you can. It’s a truly limited chance to witness over a century of Japanese culture in a single performance.

Video: YouTube – tubesoda, deezol, sonymusicnetwork, ColumbiaMusicJp
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