Tomita – Snowflakes are Dancing

Tomita’s 1974 album features synthesized realizations of Debussy classics. The recording is a tour de force of modular synthesizer orchestration. It features lively performances that served as a contrast to the drier arrangements of Tomita’s contemporary, Wendy Carlos.

This is Tomita’s first album of synthesizer arrangements of classical music, and it’s one of his best. It demonstrates the lush aural possibilities that synthesizers allow. It also displays a minimum of Tomita’s “spacy” tendencies, which listeners love or hate.

Tomita created a lush synthetic orchestra on Snowflakes are Dancing, and his orchestration was further advanced than anyone else was at the time. The colors of his arrangements are often stunning. He uses contrasts in volume and tone colors to bring out the various lines in the music.

He did his work nearly entirely on a Moog modular synthesizer. He put together a fairly extensive system, giving him the flexibility to create lush effects that were unusual for the time.

The arrangements are of some of Debussy’s most popular piano works, including “Reverie”, “Clair de Lune”, and “Arabesque No. 1”. Because they are piano works, Tomita created orchestrations that were tailored to the synthesizer. His orchestrations are fairly conservative through most of the album, but amazingly colorful. Occasionally, Tomita is a little too colorful and it sounds like he was aiming for popular tastes. Overall, though, the pieces and the arrangements work very well together.

This album was a big success when it was released, and led to many more works by Tomita in a similar vein. Today, it occasionally sounds dated, but it remains a beautiful example of lush synthesized orchestration of classical works.

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