IN MEMORIAM: Tomita – Electronic Music Pioneer, and Candye Kane – Super Woman
Isao Tomita or Tomita Isao, 22 April 1932 – 5 May 2016), often known simply as Tomita, was a Japanese music composer, regarded as one of the pioneers of electronic music and space music, and as one of the most famous producers of analog synthesizer arrangements. In addition to creating note-by-note realizations, Tomita made extensive use of the sound design capabilities of his instrument, using synthesizers to create new sounds to accompany and enhance his electronic realizations of acoustic instruments. He also made effective use of analog music sequencers and the Mellotron and featured futuristic science fiction themes, while laying the foundations for synth-pop music and trance-like rhythms. Many of his albums are electronic versions and adaptations of famous classical music pieces and he received four Grammy Award nominations for his 1974 album Snowflakes Are Dancing.
1932-68: Early life and composing career
Tomita was born in Tokyo and spent his early childhood with his father in China. After returning to Japan, he took private lessons in orchestration and composition while an art history student at Keio University, Tokyo. He graduated in 1955 and became a full-time composer for television, film and theatre. He composed the theme music for the Japanese Olympic gymnastics team for the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1965, he composed the theme song and incidental music for Osamu Tezuka’s television animated series Jangaru Taitei (Jungle Emperor), released in the United States as Kimba the White Lion (with a different theme by Bernie Baum, Bill Giant and Florence Kaye). In 1966 he wrote a tone poem based on this music with an original video animation synchronized to the tone poem released in 1991. Isao Tomita and Kunio Miyauchi also created the music for the tokusatsu science fiction/espionage/action television series Mighty Jack, which aired in 1968. The same year, he co-founded Group TAC.
1969-1979: Electronic music
By the late 1960s, Isao turned to electronic music with the impetus of Wendy Carlos and Robert Moog’s work with synthesizers. Isao acquired a Moog III synthesizer and began building his home studio. He eventually realized that synthesizers could be used to create entirely new sounds in addition to mimicking other instruments. His first electronic album was Electric Samurai: Switched on Rock, released in Japan in 1972 and in the United States in 1974. The album featured electronic renditions of contemporary rock and pop songs, while utilizing speech synthesis in place of a human voice. He then started arranging Claude Debussy’s impressionist pieces for synthesizer and, in 1974, the album Snowflakes are Dancing was released; it became a worldwide success and was responsible for popularizing several aspects of synthesizer programming. The album’s contents included ambience, realistic string simulations; an early attempt to synthesize the sound of a symphony orchestra; whistles, and abstract bell-like sounds, as well as a number of processing effects including: reverberation, phase shifting, flanging, and ring modulation. Quadrophonic versions of the album provided a spatial audio effect using four speakers. A particularly significant achievement was its polyphonic sound, created prior to the era of polyphonic synthesizers. Tomita created the album’s polyphony as Carlos had done before him, with the use of multitrack recording, recording each voice of a piece one at a time, on a separate tape track, and then mixing the result to stereo or quad. It took 14 months to produce the album. In his early albums, he also made effective use of analog music sequencers, which he used for repeated pitch, filter or effects changes. Tomita’s modular human whistle sounds would also be copied in the presets of later electronic instruments. His version of “Arabesque No. 1” was later used as the theme to the astronomy television series Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer (originally titled Star Hustler) seen on most PBS stations; in Japan, parts of his version of “Rêverie” were used for the opening and closing of Fuji TV’s transmissions; in Spain, “Arabesque No. 1” was also used for the intro and the outro for the children TV program “Planeta Imaginario” (imaginary planet).
Following the success of Snowflakes Are Dancing, Tomita released a number of “classically” themed albums, including arrangements of: Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Holst: The Planets introduced a science fiction “space theme”. This album sparked controversy on its release, as Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst, refused permission for her father’s work to be interpreted in this way. The album was withdrawn, and is, consequently, rare in its original vinyl form.
While working on his classical synthesizer albums, Tomita also composed numerous scores for Japanese television and films, including the Zatoichi television series, two Zatoichi feature films, the Oshi Samurai (Mute Samurai) television series and the Toho science fiction disaster film, Catastrophe 1999, The Prophesies of Nostradamus (U.S. title: Last Days of Planet Earth) in 1974. The latter blends synthesizer performances with pop-rock and orchestral instruments. It and a few other partial and complete scores of the period have been released on LP and later CD over the years in Japan. While not bootlegs, at least some of these releases were issued by film and television production companies without Tomita’s artistic approval.
1980-2000: Sound Cloud concerts
In 1984, Tomita released Canon of the Three Stars, which featured classical pieces renamed for astronomical objects. For example, the title piece is his version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. He credits himself with “The Plasma Symphony Orchestra”, which was a computer synthesizer process using the wave forms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonic textures of this album.
Tomita has performed a number of outdoor “Sound Cloud” concerts, with speakers surrounding the audience in a “cloud of sound”. He gave a big concert in 1984 at the annual contemporary music Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria called “Mind of the Universe”, mixing tracks live in a glass pyramid suspended over an audience of 80,000 people. He performed another concert in New York two years later to celebrate the Statue of Liberty centennial (“Back to the Earth”) as well as one in Sydney in 1988 for Australia’s bicentennial. The Australian performance was part of a A$7 million gift from Japan to New South Wales, which included the largest fireworks display up to that time, six fixed sound and lighting systems — one of those on a moored barge in the centre of a bay, the other flown in by Chinook helicopter — for the relevant parts of the show. A fleet of barges with Japanese cultural performances, including kabuki fire drumming, passed by at various times. His most recent Sound Cloud event was in Nagoya, Japan in 1997 featuring guest performances by The Manhattan Transfer, Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, and Rick Wakeman.
In the late 1990s, he composed a symphonic fantasy for orchestra and synthesizer titled The Tale of Genji, inspired by the eponymous old Japanese story. It was performed by symphony orchestras in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and London. A live concert CD version was released in 1999 followed by a studio version in 2000.
2001-present: Later years
In 2001, Tomita collaborated with Walt Disney Company to compose the background atmosphere music for the AquaSphere entrance at the Tokyo DisneySea theme park outside Tokyo. Tomita followed this with a synthesizer score featuring acoustic soloists for the 2002 film The Twilight Samurai (? Tasogare Seibei), which won the 2003 Japanese Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.
The advent of the DVD-Audio format allowed Tomita to further pursue his interests in multichannel audio with reworked releases of The Tale of Genji Symphonic Fantasy and The Tomita Planets 2003. He also performed a version of Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune for the soundtrack of Ocean’s 13 in 2007.
In 2015 a number of tracks from Snowflakes are Dancing were featured on the soundtrack to Heaven Knows What, an American film directed by the Safdie Brothers.
In 2015, in recognition of his long career and global influence on electronic music, Tomita won the Japan Foundation Award, an award was launched “to honor individuals or organizations who have made a significant contribution to promoting understanding and friendship between Japan and the rest of the world through academic, artistic and other cultural pursuits”.
Tomita died on May 5, 2016 of cardiac failure at 2:51 p.m. at Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital.
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Candye Kane (November 13, 1961 – May 6, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter and performer best known in the blues and jazz genre. She was included in the books Rolling Stone Guide to Jazz and Blues, Elwood’s Blues by Dan Aykroyd, The Blueshound Guide to Blues, Allmusic, and other blues books and periodicals. She also had a career as a pornographic actress during porn’s golden age.
Kane was born Candace Hogan in Ventura, California. She was raised in Highland Park, a Los Angeles suburb.
Candye was accepted into the USC’s music conservatory’s junior opera program in 1976, but she disliked opera and dropped out. She became part of the punk rock music scene of the early 1980s. She started country punk bands and befriended and shared the stage with musicians as diverse as Black Flag, Social Distortion, James Harman, The Circle Jerks, Los Lobos, The Blasters and Lone Justice. In 1985, she caught the attention of CBS/Epic A&R Head, Larry Hanby. She was signed to a developmental deal and recorded her first demo with Grammy winner Val Garay. Kane was initially marketed as a country singer, but CBS dropped her upon learning of her controversial past.
At seventeen, Kane became pregnant with her first son. When she turned eighteen, she turned to adult modeling and stripping to make some cash, appearing in videos and over 150 magazines from 1983 to 1985. Eventually she worked as a columnist for Gent magazine as well. In 1986, she moved from Los Angeles to San Diego. She married bass player Thomas Yearsley (of rockabilly power trio The Paladins), with whom she had another son.
Kane majored in women’s studies at Palomar Community College. She continued to write songs and discovered the brash blues stylings of Big Maybelle, Ruth Brown, Big Mama Thornton, Etta James and Bessie Smith. In 1991, she self-released Burlesque Swing, her first recording since A Town South of Bakersfield. In 1992, she was signed by Clifford Antone to a record deal with Antones Records. Her first CD, Home Cookin’, was produced by Yearsley, Cesar Rosas (of Los Lobos), and Dave Gonzales. It was released in 1992 followed by Knock Out. She then signed with Discovery Records, releasing Diva La Grande, produced by Dave Alvin and Derek O’Brien. Next, she was signed by record mogul Seymour Stein to Sire Records during the height of the swing revival.
Candye released Swango, which was produced by Mike Vernon for Sire/London Records; it was her only major label release. This was followed by her Rounder/Bullseye release, The Toughest Girl Alive, produced by Scott Billington. Next she released four CDs on the German Label Ruf Records. Subsequent titles included Whole Lotta Love, produced by Val Garay, and White Trash Girl, produced in Austin by Ruf Records and Mark Kazanoff. In 2007, she released Guitar’d and Feathered on the RUF records label. The CD was produced by former Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin. In 2009, she signed to Delta Groove records and released Superhero in June 2009.
A stage play about Kane’s life debuted at San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre in January 2009, directed by Javier Velasco. The play, called The Toughest Girl Alive, was based on Kane’s memoir about her turbulent life.
She was included on the 30 Essential Women of the Blues CD set released by the House of Blues record label and the Rock for Choice compilation. She appeared with Lucinda Williams and Dwight Yoakam on Town South of Bakersfield on Enigma Records.
Among the songs that Kane wrote were “The Toughest Girl Alive” (used on the Hidden Palms series for the CW network); “Who Do You Love” (nominated for an OUT music award); “200 Pounds of Fun” (featured in the motion picture, The Girl Next Door); “For Your Love” (included on an episode of The Chris Isaak Show); “Please Tell Me a Lie” (used in the motion picture Heavy, starring Deborah Harry); “You Need a Great Big Woman” (used on the Oxygen Network series Strong Medicine); and “The Lord was a Woman” (recorded by comedian Judy Tenuta).
Later career and touring
At the time of her death, Kane was signed to Los Angeles’s Delta Groove records. She toured worldwide more than 250 days a year, and appeared in many prestigious festivals, including the Ascona Jazz Festival, Midem, Paléo Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Dubai International Jazz Festival, Waterfront Blues Festival, and Notodden Blues Festival. She played for the President of Italy at the French Embassy in Rome and at the Cannes Film Festival, and her music was often featured on B. B. King’s Bluesville on XM radio.
In 2011, Kane was nominated for two Blues Music Awards by the Blues Foundation, BB King Entertainer of the Year, and Best Contemporary Blues Female.
Kane was nominated for four Blues Music Awards, for the BB King Entertainer of the Year Award, Best Contemporary Blues CD for Superhero, and Best Contemporary Blues Female of 2010. She has won numerous awards, including the Best Blues Band award at the San Diego Music Awards seven times.
Her other recent honors included Best Blues CD of 2005 at the San Diego Music Awards; the Trophees France International Award 2004 for Best International Blues Chanteuse and Artist of the Year. She unseated Jewel for Artist of the Year at the San Diego Music Awards and won the California Music Award for Best Swing-Cabaret Artist. In May 2007, Kane won an award for Best Original Blues composition by the West Coast Songwriters Association for her song, “I’m My Own Worst Enemy.” In 2012, Miss Kane received a special Courage in Music Award at the San Diego Music Awards ceremonies.
In 2014, Kane was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the ‘Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year’ category.
Kane’s known survivors were two grown sons, one of whom, Evan Caleb, played drums in her road band. She appeared often at gay pride festivals worldwide and identified openly as a bisexual. Kane had become an activist and philanthropist in recent years. In August 2009, she appeared in Dublin, Ireland for the World Congress for Down Syndrome with her United by Music charity.
Health and death
In March 2008, Kane had revealed on her website that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was undergoing treatment. The tumor was found to be a neuroendocrine tumor and was successfully resected on April 18, 2008 at UCSD Medical Center/Thornton Hospital.
Kane died from the disease at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 6, 2016, aged 54.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
11: Peter Behrens, 68, German musician (Trio), multiple organ failure.
9: Jimmy Manolides, 76, American art curator and musician, complications from a stroke; Riki Sorsa, 63, Finnish singer (“Reggae OK”), cancer.
7: John Stabb, 54, American punk singer (Government Issue), stomach cancer.
6: Hannes Bauer, 61, German trombonist; Paul Brown, American jazz bassist; Candye Kane, 54, American blues singer-songwriter and pornographic actress, pancreatic cancer; Rickey Smith, 36, American singer and talent show contestant (American Idol), traffic collision.
5: Romali Perihan, 74, Turkish actress and singer; Isao Tomita, 84, Japanese synthesizer musician, composer and arranger (Snowflakes Are Dancing), heart failure.
4: Olle Ljungström, 54, Swedish singer and guitarist; Ursula Mamlok, 93, German-born American composer.