Musical Time in Tōru Takemitsu’s November Steps




November Steps, Takemitsu, Japanese New Music, Japanese tradicional instruments, musical time


This article offers a formal analysis of Tōru Takemitsu’s composition November Steps and discusses the composer’s statements that the piece has eleven variations (that he calls “Steps”) and is an equivalent of a Western Theme and Variations form as well as of a Japanese traditional form called danmono. There is a discrepancy between these statements and the music’s temporal organization.  Not too much has been written about November Steps, and musicologists that have done it have avoided the “perplexing task” of  double checking what is true about them and what is not. Therefore, this article’s goal is to unveil the mysteries about November Steps’ form, which is thoroughly considered here as musical time.  The work displays a unique conception of temporality, identified here as circular, at one level, and cyclic, at another. The article explains the notion of circularity as applied to musical time, and also discusses the relationship between this specific work and the Japanese and Western traditional concepts of time that are reflected in the music.


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Author Biography

Luigi Antonio Irlandini, Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina

Composer, pianist, shakuhachi player, and Music Professor at UDESC in Florianópolis, Brazil, researches musical temporalities and the presence of non-modern contents in contemporary composition. His writings have been published in Perspectives of New Music (U.S.A.), Gaudeamus MuziekWeek (Netherlands), Per Musi, Opus and Vórtex (Brazil) among other venues. Significant recent performances of his music are Axis Mundi, for strings orchestra, Bienal de Música Brasileira Contemporânea, Rio de Janeiro, 2021, and Ākāśa, for shakuhachi and fixed media (CD Ākāśa and digital platforms in 2019). Irlandini studied composition with H. J. Koellreutter, Franco Donatoni and Brian Ferneyhough


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How to Cite

Irlandini, Luigi Antonio. 2022. “Musical Time in Tōru Takemitsu’s November Steps”. Per Musi, no. 42 (November):1-28.