Music for Nine Postcards, Hiroshi Yoshimura (Sound Process, 1982)

Notice the space around the sounds, how the composer is conscious of the way sound exists within an environment (a heard environment) drawing our attention back to the act of listening, being present with the music.

The stillness of this music is so affecting, but has a determination about it and confidence. All those ‘relaxation music’ CDs, with the tinkly sounds of waterfalls strike me as claustrophobic as with these constructed soundscapes everything is so manufactured and decided for you. Here, the music allows you to interpret it for yourself, rather than direct you somewhere: it has a kind of faith about it.

Information from the liner notes for the 1999 CD

'The first edition of this album was released in 1982 on LP. I composed "Music for Nine Post Cards" while catching the waves of scenery out of the window and feeling the sounds form. Images of the movement of clouds, the shade of a tree in summer time, the sound of rain, the snow in a town, with those rather quiet sound images, I sought to add the tone of ink painting to the pieces.

Differing from the minimal musical style in my former piece" Clouds for Alma- for two koto harps" (1978), in this music a short refrain is played over and over while it changes its form gradually just like clouds or waves, based on the sound fragments noted on the 9 postcards. I put the first fragment of the sound, a seed or a stone as it were, to seek the "prime number" of the sound.

One day when I was composing this piece, I visited the brand-new contemporary art museum in the North Shinagawa area I took to its snow-white Art-Deco style, but not only that, I was also deeply impressed and moved by the trees in the courtyard which can be seen through the museum's large window. At that moment, I imagined how it would sound if were to play my developing album there. Could it possibly be one of the best sounds that fit this environment? This idea developed into the strong desire to carry it out.

Finishing the mixing, recording it on cassette tape, I visited this museum again. They gladly accepted such an unknown composer's request and said "OK, let's try to put it on in the museum." That made me so happy and encouraged me. After a few weeks, 1 received a phone call from this museum, where staff were often asked by the visitors "Where can I get this music?" On hearing those words, my desire to publish a record with those sounds was getting stronger and stronger. I decided to consult with Mr. Ashikawa about this. He said that he would start up a record label to present this new sound. in this way, "Music for Nine Post Cards" was released as the first LP record of the "Music Notation for waves" series.

This was followed by Mr. Ashikawa's "Still Way". This label's first attempt to present environmental music in Japan was taken up in many magazines. Although this album was a small publication by a minor label, I am very happy that not a few people still remember it. Now this album is being reprinted. I'm looking forward to the reaction of the people who are going to listen to this music for the first time. The Nine Post Cards which were sent from outside of a window. I hope this sound scenery makes quiet ripples.'

Translated by Misako Matsuki  

Found on a very interesting website, ‘fromheretillnow’ based in Zurich, devoted to 'obscure and unconventional music since 2012'. The site description continues: 'in a world of abundance of things and choices, fromheretillnow offers guidance through its hand-picked musical selections and its carefully conceived podcasts. we let you discover obscure music and genres as no wave, experimental, avant garde, drone and lo-fi. get lifted by never-heard before pop-not-pop music: beautiful to listen to, yet miles away from the mainstream.'   

Here is an article on the work of Yoshimura (and two other Japanese composers) on a site called 20funkgreats (?) Yoshimura is considered to be a ‘pioneer of ambient music in Japan’ and one of the country’s great post-war composers. The article says how this music could have ‘perhaps been driven by a subconscious impulse to find refuge from nasty reality ....

Many of these records have natural or organic themes, which could well reflect the artists’ own search for spaces of serenity amidst the hyper-accelerated lanes of late-era capitalism. Today we bring you a selection of tracks with that vibe, hope that you find them as soothingly beautiful as we do, and also that when we get together this time next week we don’t have any more reasons to want to escape reality.

We cross our fingers, hard.

Related article: Cage