Isao Tomita R.I.P.

Synthesizer pioneer Isao Tomita, better known as just Tomita, has died at the age of 84. He was best known for his colorful electronic reworkings of classical masterworks by Debussy, Mussorgsky, Stravinsky, Holst, Ravel, and others. I always enjoyed his bizarre and imaginative synthesizer orchestrations, which often resembled human voices and whistling. For example…

I love Tomita’s reinventions of classical works. In the 1970s I had very little money to spare, but I bought every new Tomita LP as soon as it was available. My favorite was “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

He was a true groundbreaker in his field; his “Pictures at an Exhibition” and “The Planets” are legendary. RIP.

bummer. time for the planets.

I remember my introduction to him was through the short public television show, “The Star Hustler” with Jack Horkheimer. They used his music as the theme for the show. Later, my boss introduced me to some more of his work.

This is the year I truly understand I’m getting old. Every musician and actor who keels over, I knew and loved their work.

Time to break out, “Snowflakes Are Dancing.”

Used to love his Snowflakes are Dancing album, and several albums that followed it, up to Kosmos. Still got the original vinyl of that one in a very heavy sleeve and the folded up poster that came with it…
I remember recording a live concert from the radio back in the mid/late 70s (1976, iirc) onto a cassette but the quality was v. poor. But I was idly browsing and found it again on Youtube recently. Apart from that, I’ve not played him for years but I guess it’s time for that to change.

Little remembered now by the general public, I guess, but really quite influential.

Tomita had a recurring theme in his interpretation of Holtz’s The Planets Suite that made some of the more iconic music passages sound like they were astronaut communications, like from mission control. Each segue sounded like a space ship leaving one planet for another, and sometimes he’d have the music fade in and out like objects being passed in space. Made for excellent headphone time.