Töru Takemitsu 'A Flock Descends'

  • Created by: soph198
  • Created on: 03-07-17 10:48


Was written in 1977 for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and was inspired by a dream in which the composer saw a flock of white birds led by a black bird descending into a pentagonal garden. The tempo is very slow, typical of Takemitsu, with value attached to individual gestures or silences.


  • Difficult to tonality to define
  • Starts off sounding atonal but there are clear moments of tonality such as passages that lead to unison C’s which gives a feeling of a tonal resolution.
  • Pentatonic scale reflects traditional Japanese music.
  • Aleatoric section is used at letter J of the score (left to determination of performers) where it is marked ‘own personal tempo’ with a number of seconds that the conductor should count before moving on. 
  • The vibraphone, tubular bells, marimba, celesta and two harps that have notated phrases which they are instructed to repeat many times but at their own tempo over sustained harmonics in divided desks of cellos and basses. 
  • Normal bar lines are abandoned and instead there are rotten lines which means there are sections which the conductor needs to count, so the music for this section varies with each performance. 
  • Tonality and harmonies in the piece are not simply ‘tonal’ or ‘atonal’ Takemitsu devised a scheme that used different musical elements and a fixed F# pitch to provide a harmonic framework for this piece. There are passages that can be considered tonal and devices like thematic repetition and resolutions of notes show this. 


  • Opening bars feature an oboe solo and the first chord consists of the five notes of the pentatonic scale, a sound that returns at various points in the score to give a mood of rest in between more active,


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