"Welcome... Learn about the life, music, work and biography of Shuko Mizuno the Composer "
A prolific and experimental Japanese composer
Shuko Mizuno was born on February 24th, 1934...
in the prefecture of Tokushima, Japan. He launched his musical studies in 1958 at Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku (Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music) and completed his studies with a master's degree in music in 1963.
From the beginning of his university studies, Mizuno expressed a deep interest in musical improvisation, focusing on jazz elements popularized in Western music. Encouraged by the tutelage of Shibata and Hasegawa, Mizuno's compositions embraced improvisational techniques. While at the university, he co-founded its first improvisational ensemble.
In the supportive culture of Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, Mizuno created pivotal relationships with fellow students, such as Yasunao Tone and Takehisa Kosugi, which culminated in ground-breaking musical experimentation. Mizuno and Kosugi spent numerous hours improvising on violin and cello. When Tone joined them on the saxophone, the avant-garde musical collaboration Group Ongaku was born. Other improvisational contemporaries, including female singer and pianist Chieko Shiomi, rounded out Group Ongaku and the experimental partnership produced several notable recordings, including: "Automatism," "Object," and "Metaplasm 9-15." Their willingness to push the boundaries of Japanese musical composition led to their place in musical history as "essential to the fabric" of mid-20th century Japanese music, according to Japanese music archivist Julian Cope.
Upon completing his studies, Mizuno taught at Chiba University from 1968 to 1971 and also conducted the Chiba University Orchestra. He then returned for a period of time to the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music as a lecturer, followed by a stint in the United States from 1973 to 1974, supported generously by the Rockefeller Foundation to study improvisational music. Mizuno's time in New York and San Francisco allowed him to benefit from Western musical advances in jazz, musical theater, and rock and roll, which have woven their way into his compositions throughout his career.
When Mizuno returned to Japan, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, or in English, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation) commissioned him to create an opera from the novelist Kyoka Izumi's 19th-century gothic play "Tenshu Monogatari" or "The Tale of Himeji Castle." Mizuno successfully transformed the tragic love story of a princess and her forbidden warrior lover into an opera that blends traditional musical elements--orchestral composition and Japanese folk music--with modern elements of Western jazz and rock, as well as popular Japanese music. This compositional feat launched Mizuno's prolific career in Japan, a career which boasts an impressive range of musical composition.
An inspection of Shuko Mizuno's works into the early 2000s reveals the compositional breadth of his ability. The genres span a continuum from orchestral works to music for modern dance. His discography list includes over 100 separate works, with the majority of the pieces falling into instrumental chamber music, choral works, and percussion ensemble pieces. Not surprisingly, Mizuno has consistently composed music from his first year at Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music through the early 2000s; five decades of labor.
Mizuno's collection of work also reflects his equally impressive ability to move freely among genres. For example, Mizuno wrote an opera in the 70s, one in the 80s, and another in the 90s. While he tackled the complexities of opera, he also created his electronic improvisations, orchestral symphonies, cultural and school songs, and music for television and radio. His production likewise reveals his evolution as a composer. His orchestral and instrumental pieces cross every decade, but his jazz and electronic improvisations are concentrated in the 60s and 70s. The 80s pieces focus on choral work and percussion ensemble pieces. Later, Mizuno responded willingly to the emerging musical demands of TV and film, writing music for the 1995 TV production of the Academy Award Winner "On Golden Pond."
In his native Japan, Mizuno is undoubtedly respected for his elaborate classical work. When asked how a non-Japanese opera lover should familiarize himself with Japanese opera, Hiroshi Oga, the General Director of the Japan Opera Association and Managing Director of the Japan Opera Foundation, cited Shuko Mizuno's "Tenshu Monogatari" as one of the operas most representative of his country's work. Mizuno completed the first part of his four-part orchestral masterpiece," Symphonic Metamorphose," in 1978 and the final part in 1987. What took Mizuno over a decade to create also required a massive supporting cast of 700 instrumentalists and choral singers.
Mizuno's most recent work includes a musical for children and several symphonies, two diverse musical styles, and further testament to his versatile compositional talent. His proclivity for improvisational experimentation has earned him multiple commissions from the Japan Opera Foundation. The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra regularly performs his instrumental works at their concerts. Mizuno is considered integral to the Japanese contribution to improvisational music and is a member of the Japan Federation of Composers, Inc. Clearly, Shuko Mizuno's body of work over the last fifty years signifies him as one of Japan's greatest 20th-century composers.
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