Hiroshi Yoshimura – Pioneer of ambience
In this third thread I want to bring to light works of Hiroshi Yoshimura. A person that’s considered by many to be a pioneer in the field of ambient music in Japan. Also due to being almost a generation ahead of earlier mentioned composers. Information about his works Is even more scarce. This thread won’t be a full summary by any means. Amount of mentions without a reference (smth I should’ve been also doing kek) makes most online resources a copypaste. Hopefully it won’t be so apparent here.
Hiroshi Yoshimura was born in 1940. At the age of 24 he finished literature and art faculty at Waseda university in Tokyo. His 20’s were filled with Fluxus. A movement of artists that focused on experimental art and emphasizing the artistic process over the finished product. Unfortunately it’s really hard to find any recordings of his music from this time. Best shot is an album Soft Wave For Automatic Music Box. Released in 2005 it showcases his early works in the field of ambient / minimalistic music. Quality leaves a lot to be desired. Afterall 2/3 tracks are recorded from music box. Tracks from this album were made in the span of 1973 – 1976 and are mostly attempts at understanding ambience. Despite the fact that they were not supposed to be released, there’s a certain charm of being early in the field.
A lot of Yoshimura’s works are commissions made by companies. As ambience was booming in Japan, many companies were hiring composers to create tracks that they can associate with their products. Here is a list of couple of such works.
Created for Shinsedo – A・I・R (Air In Resort) 1984 – Sound Designer + Composer
Promotion album created to go alongside a perfume created by Shinsedo. It was bundled with said perfume. In a green sleeve with a handle that resembled a shopping bag. Whole bag was also generously sprayed with said perfume. Catching even more attention despite simple appearance.
Created for Misawa Home – Soundscape 1: Surround 1986 – Main Composer
Played in newly built houses created by Misawa company. Sounds from this album were meant to be treated like “hum of an air conditioner, or the clanging of a spoon inside a coffee cup.” With suggestion from Yoshimura himself to listen to it with addition of city noise to hear it blend with everyday sounds of a big city.
Couple of his tracks were used in promo compilation by Pioneer 1986 – Track Sheep and Feel
This compilation was meant to promote LaserDisc – first commercially available optical disk. Developed by Pioneer.
Created for Shu Uemura Make up school – Face Music 1994 – Main Composer
Again promotion for company in the beauty field, this time cosmetics. It can be easily considered an ambient techno album. With vocals by Lei Abe they create album that’s clearly different from Yoshimura’s earlier works. Despite this faster pace, both singer and composer get hang of the BPM change and create something as abstract and stunning as it can get.
Created for Prem Promotions – Quiet Forest 1996 – Main Composer
Back to calm ambient, maybe even a little bit too calm. Commissioned by Prem Promotions, unfortunately I wasn’t able to find what for exactly. However. I found that music from this album Is sometimes played on 111ch gaia voice. Japanese ambient FM radio station. With most recent play being just a week ago (24.10.2023) with track Lullaby Of Leaves
From obvious brands like Denon and Pioneer, to a house construction company ending on a perfumes and make up. Of course, those are not all of his works in this field. I want to bring up few most popular examples. As those nicely show that boom on commissions wasn’t limited to brands that we usually associate with music industry.
Besides commissions, Hiroshi Yoshimura was also working fully independently on his own music. Sources claim that he released 15 albums, however many of them are earlier mentioned commissions. I want to focus on music that did not have any corporate backing
His first and second independent album both come within a year. It’s Music for Nine Post cards and Pier & Loft. Both albums use calm synthesized sounds to bring that peace of mind that many people back then and now are looking for in their busy lives. Fortunately for us, both are available on YouTube in full length, with really good quality for a recording from early 80’s.
Green – His third composed and second in popularity album. Despite being 5 years earlier, for someone not paying attention those tracks may sound similar to music from Takashi Kokubo’s ION series. With sounds of nature mixing with digital. However there are plenty of differences. With biggest one being the track length. At 5 minutes on average for green versus 12-15 minutes for albums from ION series.
Before we move to his most recognizable album, it’s time for a small obscurity.
Hidden behind Japanese letters Is an album that presents recordings of an urban landscape. Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Ears “Sound Island” is pretty much an experiment in capturing daily noise and finding vivid music in it. At 29 minutes long It’s an interesting listen to get a groove and check out this forgotten piece.
Ok, we’re getting to the soaked soil.
My bad, it’s Wet land. Yoshimura’s most recognizable album. With a bit over 3 million views on YouTube this 38 minutes long album takes us on the most recognizable ambient journey from Yoshimura albums. It’s a varied mix from lively spring tracks to rainy slow pieces. As if made for everyone, so we all can find something comforting in this album.
Last on the list is Four Post cards. Released in 2004. A year after Hiroshi Yoshimura passed away. A final sendoff to his works. It continues the Wet land’s mix of digital and natural sounds. Created to make us feel like we’re right there. On the blissful beach next to the “breathing” ocean. Despite being only 31 minutes long, not a single second feels like it’s wasted.
Hiroshi Yoshimura died in 2003. He lost his battle with skin cancer. Despite this sad ending to his 63 year old life, his music kept on coming. With first post death release in 2005 being earlier brought up Soft Wave For Automatic Music Box. His post death discography also includes one more album for Prem Promotions – Flora 1987 . After that thought next mention comes 13 years later. When in 2019 Label Light in The Attic releases a 2 CD compilation of Japanese ambient and environmental music Kankyō Ongaku. I think this compilation is an awesome resource for anyone that wants to dig deep into this genre. With so many names you can lose yourself for weeks in discographies of those composers.
I consider inclusion of Yoshimura’s Blink to be best possible send off to his music. With a spot on compilation that ended up with a grammy nomination in 2020 for “Best historical album”.
This thread concludes my small series about Japanese ambient composers. If you want to dig some more, I have few trails that might be useful
It doesn’t matter if it’s sounds of forest or sound of synthesizers. I hope that you found this small series interesting and were able to expand your music library by an album or two.
Once again thank you for reading, it’s been hella fun to come back to writing and hopefully I will come back to it once I will have some free time.
Originally posted on the Mariana Bay forum by Bibr on 31/10/2023.
Bibr’s website: https://birb-site.neocities.org/