Workshop ワークショップ


On 24 June 2023, my “sketch” Shigeru’s War was performed at the Workshop “Creating New Music” Vol. 2 during the Chofu International Music Festival (CIMF). Three composers were selected to compose an original piece for the event via an open audition held in February and March. We had to submit a piece proposal and a sample of our previous work. I heard that my proposal had been accepted in early April and then had two months to complete it. Last year the participants were composition students at Toho Gakuen School of Music, whose campus is in Chofu. This year the three participants all had established records as composers. The other two were Mitani Hoshow, a composer, violinist, and artist with numerous composition-for-television credits, and Deai Yuki, a composer and sho (笙, traditional Japanese instrument) performer.


1) Mitani Hoshow: 35.7℃ (16:00~ )

2) Philip Seaton: Shigeru’s War (17:00~ )

3) Deai Yuki: SEIGAIHA2023 (18:00~ )

With fellow composers Deai Yuki (left) and Mitani Hoshow (middle)

The three composers each had about 45 minutes in the spotlight. After their piece (4 minutes) was played, they gave a 5-minute presentation about it. A distinguished panel – comprising Hosokawa Toshio (composer), Fujikura Dai(composer) and Kaneko Hitomi (composer, professor at Toho Gakuen School of Music), and chaired by CIMF executive producer Suzuki Masato – then discussed the piece. The three musicians who performed the pieces – Ueno Yoshie (flute), Narita Hiroshi (viola), and Fukukawa Nobuaki (horn) – also gave technical advice about writing for their instruments and other performance issues. Finally, the piece was played again to finish that composer’s section.

The event format was designed to create a learning opportunity for aspiring composers. First, there was a limited time to write a piece of specific length and instrumentation. Adhering to such specifications is a common aspect of any form of professional writing. Second, the combination of instruments was unusual: flute, horn, viola. This forced participants to think of original instrumentation and turned the piece into an exercise in scoring. And third, the immediate feedback from the seven panelists/performers helped the composers to learn from their “mistakes” and take the piece to the next level.

So, how did I do? Before answering that question, here is a brief description of my piece. Shigeru’s War was inspired by scenes from celebrated manga artist Mizuki Shigeru’s (1922-2015) Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, which was based on his experiences as a soldier in New Guinea during the Asia-Pacific War. People who know my academic work will immediately spot the connection (here is an article I co-authored about Mizuki). I chose Mizuki’s manga not only to connect the piece to my research, but also because Mizuki was a long-time resident of Chofu.

The performance of the piece went well. As a violinist I know viola technique, so I was most keen to learn from the horn player and flautist about idiomatic writing for their instruments. Both said there were no technical issues to resolve, about which I was very relieved. However, my slightly experimental writing for horn worked well in a couple of places, but not so in another. I will reuse and drop those ideas respectively! Hearing the performances close up was a priceless opportunity to get a better sense of how the instruments blend and/or penetrate in particular note and dynamic ranges. In that sense it was an immensely valuable learning experience for me. I now feel much more confident about writing for these two instruments.

The comments from the composer panel focused on two main issues. The first was whether Shigeru’s War is effective as a stand-alone piece without the introduction to Mizuki’s war experiences that I gave in my presentation. This was a pertinent and valid observation. I wrote the piece as something to be discussed at a workshop, but I recognize that it should be very different if I want it to be listened to at a concert.

For programmatic pieces telling a story there are four main approaches:

  1. have the words within the music like in an opera or a cantata, for example Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle,
  2. have images and/or the storyline projected on a screen behind the performers (a technique often used in concerts of film music),
  3. intersperse the music with narration in the manner of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale, and
  4. write an instrumental tone poem in the manner of Richard Strauss or Sibelius, with only section titles and programme notes to explain the meaning.

One of the performers said they were not keen on option 2, projected images, because it distracts audience attention from the performance and reduces the performance to a soundtrack – I really empathized with that sentiment! Personally, I think option 3, narration, works fine in live performance, but is not ideal for recorded music playing in the background at home. Plus, I have already used the narration device in A Christmas Carol. Doing it as a sung work, option 1, would be complicated from the point of view of copyrights for the lyrics. Plus, it is better to have a custom-written libretto appropriate for setting to music. All such considerations lead me to think, therefore, that the tone poem idea, option 4, is best. Indeed, even before the workshop I was thinking that my “sketch” is some preliminary ideas for conversion into a much larger work, probably for orchestra.

The second discussion point related to the type of music that can or should be composed about war. Actually, I hoped this point would be raised. In August I will present at an academic conference on the topic of “Hiroshima in music” as part of a broader project I have started on war memories and classical music (see my War Memory Tourism website). Both Hosokawa Toshio and Fujikura Dai have written pieces about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, so I was interested to hear their thoughts on the difficulties and sensitivities of such pieces. However, war as seen through classical music is not limited to victimhood, horror, and overcoming adversity – the staple themes of music about Hiroshima. In this sense, music based on Mizuki’s manga is challenging and provocative. The manga is unflinching in its depiction of war as violent and wasteful of human life. It also tackles thorny issues of war responsibility. Even so, Mizuki never loses his sense of humour, particularly in his more general history of the war, A History of Showa. Episodes about his ineptitude as a bugler provide moments of light relief, and his narrator Rat Man (Nezumi Otoko, a character from Mizuki’s manga about yokai, or Japanese ghosts/monsters) is a device for sly and often cynical commentary. As such, I suggested during the discussion that the piece was more about Mizuki than war per se.

Mizuki’s work offers a wide range of emotions with which the composer, performers and audience may engage, which is why I find it a compelling text to inspire music. Ultimately, however, the problem with my sketch is that four minutes allows only the briefest time to explore each different idea. Suzuki Masato called it a “miniature”, which I was delighted about because this word had also been running around my ahead before the event.

But calling it a miniature implies the need to have a full-size version, too. The question now is, “What to do with the sketch?” Whereas it is listed as Opus 18 in my catalogue, I am not going to make the sheet music available for the foreseeable future. The sketch does not work as a stand-alone piece of music outside the workshop context, and it is unlikely that a piece for flute, horn and viola will get any performances. It is my hope, therefore, that when I have completed the full version of Shigeru’s War, this miniature might be revisited as a bonus track on the CD of the full tone poem.

I even wonder if this large-scale work might be written in tandem with a monograph about war and classical music, with the composition process not only being informed by my research into war-related classical music but also helping me to shape the arguments in the book. In my heart of hearts I am a writer. I write academic books as a university professor and publish them as part of my career. I write classical music as an independent composer and try to get them performed and released on CD. Shigeru’s War is a tantalizing opportunity to intertwine the two forms of writing. However, this would be a multi-year project – assuming that I could even manage to do it at all! So, for now I am just deeply grateful for the opportunity to take part in the workshop, the learning process it involved, and the chance to meet some eminent people in the world of professional music.

25 June 2023

With Maestro Suzuki Masato マエストロ鈴木優人氏と共に




1)三谷 峰生:35.7℃
3)出会 ユキ:SEIGAIHA2023


参加した3名の作曲家には、約45分間の持ち時間が与えられました。それぞれ、自身の4分間の作品(スケッチ)が演奏された後、作品についての5分間のプレゼンテーションを行いました。その後、細川俊夫氏(作曲家)、藤倉 氏(作曲家)、金子仁美氏(作曲家、桐朋学園大学教授)、そしてCIMFエグゼクティブ・プロデューサーであり座長の鈴木優人氏、といういう錚々たる講師陣が、作品について議論を行います。作品を演奏した上野由恵(フルート)、成田 (ヴィオラ)、福川伸陽(ホルン)の3名からも、それぞれの楽器の特性を踏まえた作曲方法といった、演奏に関する技術的なアドバイスがありました。そして最後にもう一度作品が演奏され、参加者の持ち時間は終わります。






  1. オペラやカンタータのような形で、音楽の中に言葉を入れる(例:バルトークの「青ひげ公の城」)。
  2. 演奏者の背後に置いたスクリーンに、映像やストーリーを投影する(映画音楽のコンサートでよく使われる手法)。
  3. ストラヴィンスキーの「兵士の物語」のように、音楽のところどころにナレーションを挿入する。
  4. リヒャルト・シュトラウスやシベリウスのように、楽器による音詩を書き、セクションタイトルとプログラムノートだけでその意味を説明する。


講師陣から指摘された2つ目の点は、戦争について、どのような音楽が作曲できるのか、或いは作曲すべきなのかということでした。実は、私はこの問題が提起されるのを願っていました。戦争の記憶とクラシック音楽に関して私が取り組み始めた広範な研究の一環として、私は来る8月に「音楽におけるヒロシマ」というテーマで学会発表を行う予定です(War Memory Tourismのウェブサイトをご覧ください)。細川俊夫氏と藤倉大氏は、広島の原爆を題材にした作品を書かれているため、こうした作品が孕む難しさやセンセティブさについて、お二人の考えを伺いたいと思っていました。クラシック音楽を通して見る戦争は、ヒロシマを題材にした音楽の中心テーマである被害者意識、恐怖、逆境の克服に留まるものではないと思います。この意味で、水木氏の漫画に基づく音楽は挑戦的且つ大胆だと言えるでしょう。この漫画は、戦争が暴力的で人命を無駄にするものであることを断固とした筆致で描いています。また、争点の多い問題である、戦争責任についても向き合っています。それでも、水木氏は常に持ち前のユーモアを失うことはなく、とくに、『昭和史』という、より一般的な戦争史の中で遺憾なく発揮しています。ラッパ手としての水木氏の無能さを描いたエピソードには、少しばかりほっとしますし、物語の語り手である、ねずみ男(「ゲゲゲの鬼太郎」に登場する妖怪)は、ひょうきんでシニカルな合いの手を入れる存在です。こうしたことから、私は講師陣との話し合いにおいては、「Shigeruの戦争」は、戦争そのものというよりも、水木しげる氏についての作品という性質をもっていると述べました。