• Denholm Hewlett

[Music/Science] Hiroshi Yoshimura (1940-2003)

The influential and beloved pioneer of Japanese ambient environmental music. A highly accomplished yet obscure musical figure whose catalog of work is currently experiencing a posthumous resurgence in the digital age.



Hiroshi Yoshimura was an innovative and prolific Japanese composer and sound designer. He is considered a pioneer of minimalist ambient music, kankyō ongaku, known as 'environmental music' - soft electronic melodies infused with the soothing sounds and fragile textures of nature: field recordings of morning birds, steady rain, running water, ocean waves and buzzing insects all blend into his calming and mindful soundscapes. The peace and tranquility of natural chaos is the sweetest sound on earth.



Yoshimura's meticulous and exceptional style of new-age composition is characterised with deeply relaxing and otherworldly sounds, to unify and transport the listener into an abstract world of dreams and introspection. Each song is subtly alive, almost breathing, a calming harmony of everything around you, a warm sonic journey centred around nature and mindfulness. If you allow his gentle, unassuming music to wash over you, it can help reduce stress and anxiety and bring you back to a more peaceful state of being.



Yoshimura, born in Yokohama in 1940, began studying the piano at age five, in the final year of WW2. During the 1950's he fell under the influence of various experimental composers and sound designers, including John Cage and Toru Takemitsu - the legendary Japanese film score composer behind Kwaidan (1964), The Face of Another (1966) and Ran (1985). As a creative arts student in the 1960's, Yoshimura became infatuated with the work of Erik Satie, Harry Partch and the Fluxus movement. After graduating in 1964, Yoshimura began playing solo improvisational performances while experimenting with integrating environmental music that combined graphics and sound design, something Yoshimura described as "visual poetry".



At the dawn of the 1970's, Yoshimura became obsessed with the ambient work of Brian Eno, he felt a real kinship with Eno's music because it mirrored his own core sonic sensibilities and atmospheric discoveries of the last few decades. This was around the same time that Yoshimura founded his own computer-based music group in 1972, called Anonyme. A decade later, Hiroshi Yoshimura released his iconic debut ambient album "Music for Nine Post Cards" (1982), which was recorded at the artist's home studio on an Analog Synthesiser and Fender Rhodes and was originally intended to be played as the backdrop in the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. After huge demand Hiroshi launched a record label, Sound Process, to release his album. He would go on to release eleven albums between 1982 and 2004.



In 2017, the intoxicating environmental new-age music of Hiroshi Yoshimura experienced an enormous digital renaissance on the Youtube algorithm. The artist's popularity grew to such an extent that Light in the Attic Records reissued several of his ambient records, most notably they re-released Yoshimura's seminal masterpiece "GREEN", which is easily one of the most widely recognised and celebrated albums in the artist's discography.



First released in 1986, GREEN is among Hiroshi Yoshimura’s most beloved projects and a favourite of the artist himself. Recorded over the winter of 1985-86 at Yoshimura’s home studio, the immersive compositions unfold at an unhurried, contemplative and mellow pace, a stark contrast to the busy metropolis city life of Tokyo. As Yoshimura later explained in the original liner notes, the album's title in the context of this body of work is not meant to represent or be seen as a colour, but is instead used in to convey “the comfortable scenery of the natural cycle known as GREEN” - which perfectly encapsulates the harmonious and warming sounds contained on the album.


"I will be happy if, when you enjoy this album, the surrounding scenery can be seen in a slightly different light" ~ Yoshimura


Yoshimura was best known for his sound design work at the forefront of environmental music, he worked on a number of commissions following the release of his debut album in 1982, including works for museums, galleries, public spaces, TV shows, video art, fashion shows, independent cinema projects and even a cosmetics company. During his lifetime, Yoshimura was almost entirely unknown outside of his Japanese homeland, but now the artist's back catalog is finally getting the recognition it deserves.



Although Yoshimura didn't live long enough to witness the 21st century resurgence in the popularity of his music, he did have an impressive and fulfilling career, he produced dozens of wonderful ambient records and environmental music that we can all now experience in the present day. We are extremely lucky to inhabit this modern digital world, where we can now easily access and experience all these rich pockets of obscure music from across the world that were once considered to be relics of the bygone.


Please enjoy some of Hiroshi's most sublime ambient projects ~




~ Psychic Garden

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