Archived: SYMPHONIC FURY! The Music of Japanese Monsters

SYMPHONIC FURY! The Music of Japanese Monsters

After the massive success of their groundbreaking first concert, a very encouraged John DeSentis and Chris Oglio began to think of how they could bring more live Japanese monster movie music to the United States. ¬†With their wheels again turning, John and Chris determined that Akira Ifukube’s music should once more be represented in a new concert but with added attention to his non-Godzilla science fiction film scores.

Wanting to diversify the potential program with the music of a second composer, the two producers’ thoughts went immediately to the music of Kow Otani, the dynamic musician behind the notable film scores to Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera: Attack of Legion (1996), Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) and Godzilla, Mothra King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters’ All-Out Attack (2001). Indeed, the idea to include Otani’s music was timely: since 2015 happened to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Gamera’s debut on the silver screen, Otani’s hugely popular Gamera music would be a perfect addition to the concert’s program.

John was able to contact Mr. Otani in Japan and propose the concert. Otani was thrilled by the idea; his kaiju music had never before been performed live – not even in Japan – and the prospect of giving these scores their concert hall debut was met with the composer’s vigorous enthusiasm. Otani personally provided Genesis 54 with the musical scores requested for performance. With the cues in hand, John created original concert suites for the three Gamera films and GMK. The GMK music posed a unique challenge: the majority of that film’s score is written for electronic instruments and those non-acoutic parts are not notated in the composer’s manuscripts. Therefore, John had to dip deeper than ever into his creativity to arrange the wide array GMK’s electronic instrumentation for standard orchestral instruments.

As for the music of Ifukube, it was decided that the best way to deliver a survey of that composer’s broader monster and science fiction scores was through his three Symphonic Fantasias. Written by Ifukube in 1983, the Symphonic Fantasias are comprehensive suites of music sourced not only from Godzilla films but a range of Japanese sci-fi classics such as Battle in Outer Space (1959), Varan the Unbelievable (1958), King Kong Escapes (1967), Frankenstein Conquers The World (1965), Atragon (1963) and The Mysterians (1957).

To add an extra special element to this proposed follow-up concert, Genesis 54 worked with Erik Homenick, the webmaster of AKIRAIFUKUBE.ORG, to secure a rare score from the Ifukube estate, the World War Two-era march Kishi Mai (1943). Only performed a handful of times in Japan since the 1940s, Kishi Mai is a rousing number that includes a famous marching tune that would later be closely linked to Godzilla. Therefore, Kishi Mai would offer both new and familiar music to American concertgoers.

Symphonic Fury! was staged at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, IL on July 10, 2015. Many of the Ifukube 100 orchestra members returned to participate in Symphonic Fury along with several newcomers, as well as a mixed choir, and John DeSentis conducting. Erik Homenick again played the role of Master of Ceremonies. Kow Otani was in attendance to hear his music performed live for the first time and took to the stage twice to personally thank the audience of over 600 attendees for their enthusiasm and support.

At the concert, each Ifukube selection received its Unites States debut. The Otani scores received their world premiere concert performances. As with Ifukube 100, a deluxe recording of the concert was subsequently produced by DeSentis and Oglio on their Montaro Records label and is available for purchase on website.

Symphonic Fury was dedicated to the memory of a much beloved G-fan, Joe Astalfa.