While I was already leaning into the classical and ambient arenas with the emerging progressive and ambient bands of the late ’60s (YES, Nektar, Gong, Tangerine Dream, and others too numerous to mention), it was Tomita that pushed me into the realm of classical music full force. His first immediately accessible album, Snowflakes Are Dancing reimagined the beauty of the Debussy compositions that include works from Children’s Corner (with “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk”, “The Snow Is Dancing”), Préludes (with “The Girl With The Flaxen Hair”), and other classics works like “Claire de Lune””Footprints In The Snow”, and “Arabesque”. After first hearing the hypnotic and haunting “Snowflakes Are Dancing” on a popular Chicago FM Station back when I was in my formative years, not only was I entranced with the Tomita album, I also had to go back to the source material. Therefore, my plunge into the Classical world, a place I have not left since.
For nearly every Tomita release thereafter, (Pictures At An Exhibition (Mussorgsky) – 1975, Firebird (Stravinsky) – 1976, Planets (Holst) – 1976, The Bermuda Triangle – 1978, Kosmos – 1978, Bolero (Ravel) – 1980, Grand Canyon Suite (Grofé) – 1982, et al.), I was enthralled to not only hear his electronic craftwork of a revered work, but to also learn of another composer – new source material! I was learning and excited about that. Tomita made that happen!
His electronic versions were not cheap reproductions. They were well thought out pieces that complemented the originals in nearly every way. You could easily hear his reverence in every chosen note. He was a consummate perfectionist that insisted on treating his source material with respect. In fact, he revisited The Planets Suite years later with updated insertions and replacements using the latest technology. It was not designed to replace his own original. It was designed to bring a different listen to the fans. (You can acquire an SACD of this work, maybe even a CD. The new Planets work is called The Ultimate Edition, released in 2003, and is often referred to as The Planets 2003. You can hear a rework of “Mars, The Bringer of War” here as well as a new track.)
He changed up “Star Wars”, “Close Encounter Of The Third Kind”, and other contemporary works of the time.
So, it’s easy to see why his passing is as noteworthy an event as the passing of Prince, Bowie, and the others of 2016 (or those that went before).
Tomita has recently released albums (Planet Zero – 2011, Symphony Ihatov – 2013, Space Fantasy – 2015), along with a finished one in the wings to be released (Dr Coppelius).
Rest In Peace, you master of sound!
“Art is Art when it is appreciated.”