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The Modal World of Toru Takemitsu Part III

In this instalment I take a look at the final movement of TT’s In The Woods, Muir Woods. There is an interesting underlying connection of keys in the first page, each with a group of scales that revolve around the same root note. For example, it is far more common when playing in a key to use the more consonant sounding changes that move the music through different keys:

Say in the key of C Major, the root of the C Ionian mode is raised for the change to the key of D minor and then perhaps raiding the root of G Lydian + to G# moves the music into A Harmonic Major via its G# Locrian bb7 mode. Now you can see that the roots of all of the scales are different, C Major, D Melodic and A Harmonic Major. What TT is doing in this piece though is having all of the scales, or a vast percentage of them anyway, all on the same root note. This he does on the root notes of A, F#, its relative minor and D, spelling out a D Major triad but with each note a key with multiple scales built around them.

The first few bar establishes the tonal centre of A with the use of the scales A Melodic, A Major, A Hungarian minor and A Harmonic Major. The next tonal centre is then on the relative minor of F# and the scales used are F# Melodic and F# Harmonic minor.

The next section on page one moves to the tonal centre of D and TT uses more of his signature scales that contain a b5 or in this case a b4, D Neapolitan minor, D Neapolitan minor b4, D Alt nat 7, D Neapolitan Major b4, D Hungarian minor and finally D Harmonic Major #4. This last scale is often used to lead back into the Major scale as the mode on its 6th degree is Lydian +#26 and when its root is raised (+1) it becomes the Dorian mode of a Major scale a tone lower, in this case A Major. With more of a signature move which creates the tonal world contained in much of his music, he opts instead for A Neapolitan Major which ushers in the next section in the tonal centre of A which takes us to the end of the first page. So, the keys used are A, F#, D and A once more.

Page 2 provides a contrast to the pages on either side, with different tonal centres and some more unusual sounding scales. The tonal centre moves from A to E, C, G and finally C# before establishing the second half of the page in A once more but this time the scales from the first movement in the piece, Wainscot Pond, start to reappear in a sort of recapitulation to give symmetry to the whole. Harmonic minor b5, Melodic b5, Harmonic minor b5, Harmonic Major b5 and Ionian b5 all make appearances as well as some lesser known scales Nomadic (1 2 b3 b4 b5 6 7 scale no. 25), Pacific minor (1 b2 b3 4 b5 bb6 7 no. 34) and Dysphoric (1 b2 b3 b4 b5 6 7 no. 19) ending on A Harmonic Major b5 to lead us nicely into the final page.

TT opts for a sequence of changes now, the first two lines following the pattern of A Mel b5, (his signature sound of the first movement, if you recall) to Ionian b5 which is then repeated. Next comes Major to Harmonic Major and then Major to Melodic again repeated. Again, all on the tonal centre of A. Its easier to see the sequence as it is below:

(A Mel b5 – A Ion b5) x2 – A Maj – A H. Maj – (A Maj – A Mel) x2 – A Maj – A H. Maj

You can see the construction of this sequence quite clearly shown now, the first is repeated, then the second, the third is repeated then the second is played again. This whole sequence is the played again from bar 12 but is interrupted towards the end by a sustained period (2 bars) in A Harmonic Major.

Lastly, the tonal centre on A using all the b5 scales once more gives way to D melodic b5, the tonal centre and scale at the beginning of the first movement, for a lovely sequence to end:

D Persian nat 6 – D Neapolitan Major b5 – D Melodic b5

This last scale is sustained for the last three bars, much the same as it was in the first bars in the movement, returning us nicely to the starting point of our journey through the woods, perhaps that is what he intended.

I hope you enjoyed experiencing the modal world of Toru Takemitsu, it will continue next with All in Twilight. Thanks for reading. All of the scales and how to use them are covered in my book. The Modal Method of Music

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