Akira Ifukube

The Maestro

Written by Barney Buckley

Email Address – bbuckley@triad.rr.com


When it comes to musical composers no one is more recognize a well connected to the Godzilla franchise then Akira Ifukube. He does in fact have a signatory monster musical and military marches that are characterized by early Eastern instrumentation. Akira Ifukube is one of the founding forefathers of Godzilla with the other three being Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda, Eiji Tsuburaya and yes the man himself Akira Ifukube these are the four fathers of Godzilla and technical terms. Because without these four particular individuals Godzilla would not be what he is today? If you are not a true fan you will not know who he is but you will recognize the music if you have ever seen a Godzilla film.

This is a composer who was doing music for over 60 years. He has done musical scores for well over 200 feature films and yes that includes the majority of Godzilla films out there as well. Now Akira Ifukube is a self-described country boy he was born on May 31, 1914 in the tiny village of Kushiro on the northernmost island in the Japanese archipelago of Hokkaido. He was raised in the rural district of Tokatsu Plain this is a heavily populated area by the Ainu and aboriginal people racially and distinctly different from the Japanese people. In Akira Ifukube’s use he wasn’t influenced by Ainu folklore, especially improvisational style and spirit of their music and dance, which freed him all the restrictions of music theory and made composition easy for him. Akira Ifukube is self-taught and music as his aptitude for it and then he became a concertmaster in high school and by the time he reached the University of all kind of Hokkaido where he did major and for street and studied music.

A man and a friend of Akira Ifukube who is a pianist whose name is Fumio Hayasaka from 1914 to 1955 would later become the director Akira Kurosawa’s primary composer in the 1940s and 1950s Akira Ifukube wrote his first classical piece “piano composition,” in 1933 by the age of 19 and two years later his first orchestral piece “Japanese Rhapsody,” one a competition held by renowned Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnine this was a major boost for the young Akira. This particular composer did in fact took Akira Ifukube under his wing and trained him and despite his early musical success Akira Ifukube still considered for three more practical career choice. Japanese musicians were thought to be less than the man according to Ifukube this is taken out of the magazine G-Fan in 1995 and one of the interviews.

Ifukube would go on to graduate from the University however he would work for the Hokkaido municipal Forest in the rural countryside and composed in his free time is music. By the late 1940s he did in fact relocate to Sapporo the capital city of Hokkaido to become more active in music. It is during World War II the Imperial government recruited Ifukube just like Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya they all seem to join in the war. When the war they used Ifukube’s knowledge of what he had written a thesis at the University on the vibrations of wooden musical instruments to help study a wooden British warplane that the Japanese had captured and using his musical talents to compose marching hymns for the Japanese Army and Navy. Ifukube studies on the plane left him bedridden with radiation sickness from exposure of x-rays while he was hospitalized he was listen to the radio one day he was studying here that his navel marsh performed at a ceremony for Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s arrival in Japan to begin the postwar occupation.

By hearing this Ifukube did switch to music full-time truly inspired him and he began teaching composition at Tokyo Art University and established himself as a concert composer. According to historians Japanese film composes are grossly underpaid as being Hayasaka was classified as an A-list film composer was considered “handsomely compensated” with the equivalent of about $1000 in 1954 US funds for writing the music to the movie The Seven Samurai which came out in 1954 the same year that Godzilla came out. It is safe to say that Ifukube was obviously paid much less in his earlier film career by 1947 Ifukube would write his first musical score for the movie snow trail that was produced by the Toho Company and this movie came out with his musical score and since 1954 he has gone on to produce scores for 60 films this includes the anti-bomb movies Children of the Atom Bomb and Hiroshima as well as many other movies.

Even in today’s standards Ifukube is considered the original Godzilla’s finest film score yet. According to music historian Randall Larson he did document in his book Musique Fantastique it was in fact the Godzilla that Ifukube introduced the traditional March, the harder theme and the Requiem these three particular motifs form the foundation of his genre movie music. The Jietai (self-defense force) March which plays over the opening credits in the Japanese version of the film and examine the military retaliates against the monster has become so synonymous with Godzilla over the years that even Ifukube refers to it as “Godzilla’s theme.” And you do hear many different renditions all the way through the Godzilla movie franchise they have many different versions of it. If cuvée would go on to create more increasingly complex nationalistic marches the best of which are heard on “War of the Gargantua’s” as well as “Destroy All Monsters.”

The actual harvesting of the original Godzilla is a slow-moving piece played by low brass, piano, and strings that conveys the monster’s incredible size and invincibility, her door in the final, annihilating rampage through Tokyo. This is a great piece as well and quite recognizable to say the least! The music that is most commonly associated with Godzilla being on the loose however was now fully realize until 1964 when Ifukube wrote “Gojira No Kyofu” this is called Horror of Godzilla. This particular piece you be here when Godzilla first appears in the movie Godzilla versus the thing or as most people would like to call it Mothra versus Godzilla which came out in 1964 there is an earlier slightly different version of this theme song and it can be heard in the Japanese version of King Kong versus Godzilla.

There is a particular musical piece that I would like to call “The Requiem” this particular piece is a slow mournfully melodicous theme is probably Ifukube’s most profound statement and film music because it represents a tragic ending and we’re talking about the actual ending theme song and Godzilla 1954 Godzilla King of the monster’s 1954. Not the Requiem from Godzilla versus destroyer 1995 that is another classic piece. The Requiem represents in the line of people as a prayer for the future of mankind and it endures as the finest piece Ifukube has written in this type of movie.

The music of a cure Ifukube was lent to Ishiro Honda and Tsuburaya Productions in filming the sense of continuity and commonality it is no coincidence that this creative trio was responsible for the Vegas box office success of Toho’s Golden age of genre pictures. You can recognize his music pretty much an average or all or most of the Toho companies film archive without Akira Ifukube’s ingenuity in the creation of the monster’s war and footsteps Godzilla’s thundering power and awesome horror the very essence of the character might not have been fully realized.

By the 1970s as the Kaiju Eiga went into a serious decline Ifukube’s epic music lost luster in the films that clearly lack the epic scale of the original days movies like Yog Monster From Space, Godzilla on monster Island these particular films they have what is called library tapes of his old scores are incorporated into these movies. Now in my opinion I think when it comes to the movie Terror of Mechagodzilla’s scores are absolutely amazing in this but that’s just my opinion on that however it does seem according to some people Ifukube’s music seems bombastic and ill at ease when paired with a giant squid or a flea bitten King Ghidorah or how about a punchdrunk Godzilla.

As we know Godzilla were going to hiatus by 1975 and it would be by 1991 that the Toho Company we coax Akira Ifukube out of retirement to score yet another four of the last five Godzilla films he would compose for these films. By this time Akira Ifukube is pushing 80 years old and he hasn’t lost his magic. In the movie Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla which came out in 1993 proves to be one of the finest science-fiction scores of his career and the Requiem accompanied in Godzilla’s death from the movie Godzilla versus destroyer which came out in 1995 was truly amazing as well as very emotional.

Is like the director Ishiro Honda and many other artisans and craftsmen’s were associated with the Godzilla genre always classify Akira Ifukube as a perfectionist and they also felt that he was compromised by the tight scheduling and small barges as well as other demands of working in the Japanese film industry however never shied away from his association with the monster and this is what he had to say “I’m not satisfied with my film music because of the lot of the limitations,” he told this to “Soundtrack!” Magazine in 1994 interview he did in fact say something else “so I try to express my ideals and concert music. What my music is popular with people, while my concert works are not so well done.”


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