The Ocean that has no West and no East
is a short elegy in memory of Toru Takemitsu, who died last year (1996). I first met Toru in Boston in 1983 and found him charming, inquisitive about life, gentle in character, and also slightly mysterious. Later on, I conducted a number of his pieces. One piece in particular, How Slow the Wind
, reminded me of Gagaku music in that the conductor has to breathe with the orchestra in order for the subtle beauty of the music to manifest.
I spent the most time with Toru in Tokyo when I was invited to be a guest composer at his Music Today Festival in 1987. Peter Serkin and composer Oliver Knussen were also there, as was cellist Fred Sherry. Though he was the senior of our group by many years, Toru stayed up with us every night and literally drank us under the table. I was confirmed in my impression of Toru as a person who lived his life like a traditional Zen poet.
The title “The Ocean that has no West and no East” comes from a line Toru wrote in a postcard that Peter Serkin received some days after Toru died. The complete line read, “I am enjoying swimming in the Ocean that has no West and no East.”
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