Takemitsu Toru - Toward the Sea Alto Flute and Guitar
Toward the Sea was composed as a contribution to the "Save the Whales" campaign of Greenpeace. In Japan, historically a whale-hunting nation, this contribution was a political statement. In writing about this composition, Takemitsu said that his interest was in the sea as a "spiritual domain" and cited a passage in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick: "Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries...and he will infallibly lead you to water.... Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded together." Melville's novel also provided the form of the work, which is an 11-minute composition in three movements named "The Night," "Moby Dick," and "Cape Cod." Its tone, overall, is calm and meditative.
It is based on the motive E flat, E natural, A. In German notation these notes are "Es, E, A," spelling the English word "SEA." The original version of the composition Toward the Sea I is for alto flute and guitar. The music is often written in free, non-measured notation, although there are frequently passages in 3/16 in the more rhythmic final movement.
Takemitsu often uses unusual instrumental techniques in the alto flute part. He has devised non-traditional fingerings to produce a more "hollow sound" on the instrument. By specifying two different ways of fingering to produce the same note, then writing a "trill" using these two fingerings, he gets a fluttering effect that alternates not between different notes but by two subtly different tone colors on the same note.
After completing the first version, Takemitsu produced Toward the Sea II, for alto flute, harp, and string orchestra. This version retains exactly the same flute part, while the harp takes substantially the guitar part (at least where the guitar is playing figurations) and the strings make audible the harmonies outlined by the guitar part. This results in a smoother, more meditative flow of the music. In order to keep the string orchestra coordinated by a conductor's beat, Takemitsu added bar-lines throughout the piece. This makes orchestral interpretation tricky in that the conductor should strive to create the free-rhythm effect of the original.
The 1989 version, Toward the Sea III is for alto flute and harp. Once again Takemitsu did not change the alto flute part. The harp part here is not a transcription of the original guitar part, but is a rewriting of the guitar part to make it into an idiomatic harp part. Here Takemitsu returns to the original unmeasured notation.