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Akira Ifukube 1914 – 2006

Posted by on Apr 20th, 2009 and filed under For One Night Only, Sounds. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

All right, enough messing about with B movies and scat singers who may or may not exist, it’s time to spread some musical quality around these parts and treat your abused lug holes to a bit of Akira Ifukube.

This frighteningly prolific Japanese composer scored over two hundred and fifty films before he died, but will mainly be remembered for his work on Godzilla. Ifukube san gave the city stomping goliath a musical identity, and the films a dramatic, sometimes sinister atmosphere. He was there at the very beginning, scoring the first Godzilla film back in 1954 – a surprisingly dark and serious affair with the King of the monsters basically depicted as a walking nuclear holocaust only a few years after Japan had experienced the real thing. The film was a huge box office success and, though the sequels became sillier, due to Godzilla being popular with kids, Akira’s music remained consistently excellent. A uniquely Japanese mix of thumping drums,  deep brass, military beats, flutes, gongs and gentle choirs.

Here’s a few bits of biography from the self taught maestro’s wikipedia page:

“Towards the end of the Second World War Akira was appointed by the Japanese Imperial Army to study the elasticity and vibratory strength of wood. He suffered radiation exposure after carrying out x-rays without protection, a consequence of the wartime lead shortage. Thus, he had to abandon forestry work and became a professional composer and teacher.

From 1946 to 1953, he taught at the Nihon University College of Art, during which period he composed his first film score for The End of the Silver Mountains, released in 1947. Over the next fifty years, he would compose more than 250 film scores, the high point of which was his 1954 music for Ishiro Honda’s Toho movie, Godzilla. Ifukube also created Godzilla’s trademark roar – produced by rubbing a resin-covered leather glove along the loosened strings of a double bass – and its footsteps, created by striking an amplifier box.

Despite his financial success as a film composer, Ifukube’s first love had always been his general classical work as a composer.”

Godzilla’s roar is a glove! You live and learn. Anyway, classical schmassical, because the Godziila music Ifukube composed is genius. It’s impossible to do him justice with just one track, so I’ve picked a few to give you better idea of what I’m blabbing on about, though I still think I’m selling him short.

They run as follows:

Godzilla 1954 (Main title)
Godzilla Vs Mothra (1992)
Prayer for Peace (Godzilla end credits, 1954)
Frankenstien Conquers The World (Main title 1965)

and as an added bonus!

ROAR! (Cloverfield Overture), written by Michael Giacchino. The movie itself has no music, but they commissioned Giacchino to come up with this Ifukube pastiche/tribute for the end credits. Giacchino has also just scored the new Star Trek film and on the strength of this, that’s a soundtrack to watch out for. Also, if you ever get a chance to see “Frankenstein Conquers The World ” do it. That film is bonkers even by man in a rubber suit standards!

I really love Akira Ifukube’s work; the Toho Studio’s logo and this music at the start of a Godzilla film makes me one happy geek.


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7 Responses for “Akira Ifukube 1914 – 2006”

  1. roomybonce says:

    There’s obviously a very Japanese classicism to the gentleman’s music that’s mesmerising in its sheer foreignness. As film pieces they don’t really have many Western equivalent, particularly the choral sections.

    I must admit to never having watched a Godzilla movie, but I did watch the cartoon as a kid and definitely remember hating ‘Godzuki’ with a passion. Watching the title sequence again now – you can find it here @ – renews that hatred all over again.

    Goddamn them for ‘Scrappy-Dooing’ Godzilla.

  2. roomybonce says:

    Actually, perhaps I do remember a Godzilla movie. Vague images of a baby Godzilla – not ‘Godzuki’, damn his eyes – blowing a small smoke ring come to mind. Awwwwwwwww.

  3. roomybonce says:

    Looking at this abominable mid-eighties cartoon again I’ve just noticed those Hanna-Barbera bastards have just dubbed Scooby-Doo’s voice over Godzuki’s. Lazy mothers.

  4. roomybonce says:

    God this cartoon is awful. The f*cktards have just killed Godzilla. Doooohhhhhh.

  5. Head Chef says:

    I think you may have seen “Son Of Godzilla” with the smoke rings. Not one of the best, though it does have a decent giant spider in it.

    The Hanna Barbera cartoons have a certain nostalgic charm, (they couldn’t use the roar outside of Japan for copyright reasons) I did my own re-edit of a episode here:
    The comments are a laugh and I must confess to owning an original, Godzuki, Hanna-Barbera animation cell, but yeah, there not really any good.

    What? It’s on my son’s bedroom wall. I bought it for him…leave me alone!

  6. roomybonce says:

    I thangyow.

  7. preview night » Blog Archive » Biollante says:

    [...] Akira Ifukube 1914 – 2006 [...]


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