Rest in Peace, Mr. Takahashi

Yesterday, I learned for the first time the premature passing of Tohgo Takahashi, a Japanese composer, in January, 2012.  I am really saddened to learn this; … too young.  I am writing this post to pay a humble tribute to him, as I was very fortunate to catch the glimpse of his warm personality and deep intellect.

It was in July, 2011 when I came across Mr. Takahashi’s official website.  Mr. Takahashi’s name rang me a bell because I remembered his orchestral work “Recollection” for orchestra back in the late 1990’s.  On his website, he had written a column in Japanese, on the topic of: “How to prepare sheet music (for entering/winning competitions).”  While he prefaced by saying that the column was meant for young composers who have yet to enter/win a competition, I felt that what he wrote in it was equally relevant to those who are experienced composers who had already won competitions.  In fact, I had an impression that one should disregard the “competition” part; instead, one should read the entire document as though it was the bible for how to prepare sheet music that would best represent him-/herself.

I was moved by the column because I know that so many “experienced” composers overlook these fundamental processes in preparing the sheet music, which would then be read by someone else.  Perhaps for many of them, it is the publisher’s or the engraver’s job.  But for many of the self-publishing composers, it is simply not something that could be ignored.  The point he conveys in the column is: “Prepare your music with your utmost attention; otherwise other readers would not have any idea about the ideas you put in the music, however brilliant they may be.” The message conveyed within the column moved me because it was a big reminder for someone like me.

In it, there was a paragraph explaining how important it is to take care of the score/parts when sending them by post.  He advised the use of “plastic sheet that has a lot of bubbles on it.”  But he didn’t seem to know the correct term for it. So I thought to email him and kindly advise that it is called “bubble wrap” in English.  I also added that I remembered his orchestral work, and that I recorded the radio broadcast and listen to it a lot on the minidisc.

Then to my surprise, he wrote me back a very kind email, thanking me for letting him know of the name of the “plastic with bubbles,” but also for mentioning about the orchestral work.  We exchanged one more round-trip of the email conversation, asking each other how the weather is like in each other’s place, how hot and humid it was, etc..  He also reflected the change to his column, kindly crediting me in the change.  He ended the email by saying, “Now I have to write a guitar solo piece.  I need to write at least 15 seconds worth of music every day in order to meet the deadline.  It’s always a problem that I can be productive only right before the deadline…”

Rest in Peace, Mr. Takahashi.