2005 Lawrence Tuczynski

Title: KUSHIRO SHITSUGEN / DOZOKU NO RANJO
CD Label: Toshiba EMI Ltd.
CD Number: TYCY-5371
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Number of tracks: 26
Running time: 75:52
Number of discs: 1
Year of release/manufacture: January 19, 1994

REVIEW

September 18, 2005 (Courtesy of Sam Scali)

This disc is probably the rarest commercially released Akira Ifukube album to appear in the CD format. It was issued in January 1994, but was reportedly withdrawn from the market soon after for legal reasons. Because of this, the disc is extremely hard to find - when it does show up in Yahoo Japan auctions it usually commands a price of well over $500.

The CD features two of Ifukube's documentary movie scores. The first of these, KUSHIRO SHITSUGEN, was composed for a 1993 film about the Kushiro Marshland wildlife sanctuary in Hokkaido, Japan. Designated as a National Park in 1987, it is the country's largest wetland and habitat to many endangered birds, particularly the Japanese Crane. The film's score is divided into four movements, one for each season. The music evokes feelings of both tranquility and sadness, echoing some of Ifukube's more introspective film music moments. The main recurring theme is an extremely slowed down version of one of the maestros' more familiar motifs, previously heard as a frenetic march in such films as DOGORA, THE SPACE MONSTER and THE ADVENTURES OF TAKLA MAKAN. Another ethnically flavored melody can be traced back to Ifukube's 1956 vocal work, "Eclogues After Epos Among Ainu Races". Taken as a whole, the score seems to set just the right mood for a film about endangered wildlife, but also stands on its own as a hauntingly beautiful listening experience.

The second score, DOZOKU NO RANJO, is from a 1991 documentary about North Korea and its ties with Japan, narrated by Toho actor Akira Kubo. Unlike Ifukube's sci-fi efforts, this score more closely resembles the work he has done for period films such as Toho's THE BIRTH OF JAPAN, Daiei's MAJIN trilogy and the ZATOICHI series. The music is mostly downbeat and solemn, at times almost dirge-like. There are cues with sweeping, traditional-sounding themes that unfold at a slow, processional pace, as well as sad, wistful passages of longing beauty. There are also several selections that feature ethnic percussion and other traditional instruments. And while there is nothing that resembles the bracing military marches or menacing signature themes of Ifukube's kaiju scores, some tracks do bring to mind the more sentimental "End Titles" of those films.

Despite the CD's early cancellation, both recordings made a return appearance in the digital format. The score from KUSHIRO SHITSUGEN resurfaced just a few months later on the Fontec label (FOCD-9057), and despite the work's short length (just over 30 minutes), it didn't share space on that release with any other composition. DOZOKU NO RANJO turned up again nearly two years later on another Futureland disc (TYCY-5473), this time paired with an entirely different documentary score, HAN GEINOU MANDALA (composed by Shigeyuki Imai). Unfortunately both of these CDs are also out of print, with the more recent Futureland release now almost as scarce as the withdrawn edition. Hopefully all three of these scores will be made available again at some point, so fans as well as casual listeners can experience them at an affordable price.

KUSHIRO SHITSUGEN / DOZOKU NO RANJO

    Kushiro Marshland

  1. Summer
  2. Autumn
  3. Winter
  4. Spring
  5. Dozoku No Ranjo

  6. Main Title
  7. Seed Family's Cow-Killing Rite
  8. Spring: South Korea
  9. Stone Statue
  10. Autumn: South Korea
  11. Mudan & Sacrifice
  12. To Okinawa
  13. Ancient Remains of Japan
  14. Koryuji Cow Festival
    (Koryuji is a famous temple)
  15. Grand Shrine at Ise
  16. Floating Stone Temple History
    (A temple name? Fuishi/Fuseki?)
  17. Conservation of the Lucky Chinese Forest
  18. North Dragon Faith
    ('Dragon' as in the astrological sign; may be read as 'North Star')
  19. Spirit Sending
  20. Big Dipper and The Sign of the 7th Star (ie the star Vega)
  21. Crossing the Sea
  22. 7th Star Sword
  23. Wondrous Sight of Bodhisattva
  24. Sounds of the Chaos of Local Customs
  25. Bird Pole: South Korea
  26. Bird Pole: Ancient Japan
  27. Rolling Titles