Isao Tomita, more commonly known just by his last name, was a pioneering electronic music, famous for his creative renderings of classical pieces using synthesizers in the 1970’s, and also for his spectacular concerts in the 1980’s.
Tomita was inspired by Robert Moog and Wendy Carlos, and purchased the Moog III, a monophonic, modular analogue synthesizer and built his studio around it. His first album Electric Samurai: Switched on Rock did not receive much notice. It was his second album, Snowflakes are Dancing, that propelled him into the spotlight, not just in his native Japan, but worldwide. Tomita synthesized each instrument on the monophonic Moog, overdubbing in the studio to create lush renderings of the compositions of Claude Debussy. The album was nominated for four Grammy Awards, including best classical album, and became an international bestseller.
Tomita’s groundbreaking achievement was the realization that the synthesizer could be used for more than just note for note re-creations, but could also be used to create new sonic textures and sounds, to set the pieces in a wholly unique atmosphere. Never was this more evident than on his 1976 masterpiece The Planets. It was an interpretation of Gustav Holst’s The Planets symphony. But Tomita turned it into a wholly unique universe of synthesized sci-fi and space music, creating a vivid, futuristic sound world.
In the 1980’s, he embraced the new digital technology and realized how it could be used to create complex live performances. His spectacular ‘Sound Cloud’ concerts featured speakers surrounding the entire audience. His legendary Mind of the Universe performance at the 1984 Ars Electronica festival in Austria featured the artist mixing tracks in a glass pyramid, suspended above an audience of 80 000!
Rest in Peace Mr. Tomita, and thank you for all the fascinating, wonderful and beautiful music you made.