Musical Time in Tōru Takemitsu’s November Steps
Keywords: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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