Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Toru Takemitsu

Rain-Tree Sketch, a solo piano work composed in 1982, counts among a number of "water-themed" works Toru Takemitsu composed from the late 1970s through the subsequent decade. Many of Takemitsu's works draw on nature imagery for pictorial resonance; several pieces, for example, evoke the open space and pointillist design found in the serene traditional gardens of his native Japan. Takemitsu's water pieces, including Rain Tree (a percussion piece from 1981 related to the work under consideration here principally through their shared imagery), Rain Coming (1982), Toward the Sea I (1980), and I Hear the Water Dreaming (1987), imagine water in its various states and planes: as droplets falling from the sky, the sea resting below, or rivulets and rivers in their fluid downhill motions. Most writers associate the irregular pace and organic texture of Rain-Tree Sketch with Kensaburo Oe's "The Clever Rain Tree," a short story written in honor of French music critic and impresario Maurice Fleuret; Takemitsu dedicated his piece to Fleuret, as well. (There is also, however, a competing and decidedly less attractive attribution: some claim Takemitsu candidly admitted that he got the name "Rain Tree" from the label on a can of shaving cream he had seen during a trip to America, but that he endorsed the after-the-fact connection to Oe's tale because the imagery nonetheless seemed quite fitting.) Oe's story describes a tree with countless tiny leaves that collect and retain water from the morning rain shower so that throughout the day, after the storm has abated, the rain still falls from the tree. Takemitsu's piece works in a similar fashion: its precipitation falls alternately in single droplets of quiet, lone sustained notes and sudden dissonant clusters of tones, as if jostled from waterlogged branches. The composer carefully notates differentiated dynamics and accents, as well as precise pedaling techniques to lend careful nuance to these moment-to-moment contours. The piece's overall form follows an ABA structure delineated by tempo changes, but the rigidity of this form is rendered opaque by the ametrical flow of Takemitsu's gestures and the care and patience with which he releases them.