Isao Tomita Interview

Electronic music pioneer Isao Tomita is featured in a new interview with YMO’s Hideki Matsutake.

In the interview, Tomita talks about how he got interested in electronic music and synthesizers, his seminal classitronica albums, Moog modular synths and more.

Tomita notes that he was inspired by what he saw as both the strengths and weaknesses of the classic Walter Carlos album, Switched-On Bach:

In the ’70s, I discovered the Moog synthesizer, and came across Walter Carlos’ album Switched-On Bach. Rock bands like Emerson Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd and Yes would also use Minimoog in their music later on, but while they merely incorporated the Moog sound into their rock music, Walter Carlos built an entire album around the synthesizer. That idea totally blew my mind.

But the thing is, Bach’s music can be replayed on any instrument, as long as it’s in tune, and I felt that Switched-On Bach’s sound could have been better. If you’re gonna use something like a Moog synthesizer, you have to tweak the tone and put out something incredible.

Tomita also shares his philosophy about electronic instruments:

Back then, I was often criticized for using an electronic instrument, but the sound of thunder has been around since the dawn of time, and that’s electricity. The human heart has pulse. In fact, the right and left sides of the heart don’t pump blood on the same exact beat, there’s a slight delay effect.

He adds:

I hope young musicians would try analog synthesizers more. There are synths now that are way easier to handle than the Moog III-C.

See the full interview at Resident Advisor.

Image: Kohei Matsuda

2 thoughts on “Isao Tomita Interview

  1. Amazing interview, and some real gems of wisdom in there. Particularly apros po for new iOS music makers : “you have to know the basic structure of music to be able to craft the sounds you want to create.  [go] right into creating abstract music, often times, it turns out to be self-absorbed and not listener-friendly.”

    Legends, both of them

  2. “… self-absorbed and not listener-friendly.” Boy, does THAT sound like a lot of music I hear, sometimes even my own. That’s when I nut up and re-write or even delete what isn’t working, even entire pieces that turned into train wrecks. As Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards points out, “Honor thy mistake as a hidden intention.” Music SHOULD be created by feeling your way along and making abstracted, subjective decisions. Our mistakes help define us far more than things that went smoothly the first time. The tools today are so seductive, I hear some people letting the devices play THEM, which sounds cookie-cutter and derivative. Now that the synth field has basically matured technically, its all the more important that we keep a grip on the magical bit of chaos which can’t be step-sequenced alone.

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