Composers Festival spotlight: Takuma Itoh

As preparations continue for the official start of the Mizzou International Composers Festival on Monday, July 25, this will be the first of a series of brief profiles of the resident composers, distinguished guest composers, and musicians taking part in this year’s MICF, including (whenever possible) samples of their music.

Born in Japan, raised in Northern California, and now living in Hawaiʻi, where since 2012 he has been a faculty member at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, Takuma Itoh brings a well-traveled perspective to his turn as a resident composer at this year’s festival.

Educated at Cornell University, University of Michigan, and Rice University, Itoh (pictured) previously enjoyed wide public attention in 2011 as one of NPR Music and WQXR’s “100 Composers Under 40”.

He’s also been a fellow at the Cabrillo Composer Workshop, Wellesley Composers Conference, Copland House CULTIVATE, Pacific Music Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival, and in 2015 had a League of American Orchestras residency with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra that ended with the TSO presenting the world premiere of the orchestral version of his work “Ripple Effect.”

Described as “brashly youthful and fresh” by the New York Times, Itoh’s music has been performed by the Albany Symphony, the New York Youth Symphony, the Shanghai Quartet, the St. Lawrence Quartet, the Cassatt Quartet, and many others.

In addition to the Music Alive: New Partnerships grant that enabled his collaboration with the Tucson Symphony, Itoh has been the recipient of awards and commissions including the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the ASCAP/CBDNA Frederick Fennell Prize; six ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, including the Leo Kaplan Award; and numerous others. His works can be heard on Albany and Blue Griffin Records, and have been published by Theodore Presser, Resolute Music, and Murphy Music Press.

For the MICF, Itoh has composed a work called “Arrow of Time” that will one of eight world premieres from this year’s resident composers performed by Alarm Will Sound at the festival’s grand finale on Saturday, July 30 at the Missouri Theatre.

You can hear him talk about that new work, his approach to composing, and much more in an interview recently aired on the “Mizzou Music” program on KMUC-FM in Columbia. You also can hear (and see) performances of three of Takuma Itoh’s other compositions in the embedded video windows below.

“Conversations in the Garden” was written in 2015 for viola, guitar and piano to accompany an installation by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot.

“City of Imagination” was recorded on February 21, 2015 at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Orvis Auditorium, performed by Loo Sze Wang (sheng), Pan Ya Sze (yangqin), Yu Wing Ka (pipa), Wong Chi Chung (erhu), Frederick Lau (dizi), and Yi-Chieh Lai (zheng), and conducted by Thomas Osborne.

“Echolocation” was recorded in 2013 by Quanta Quartet, featuring Don-Paul Kahl (soprano saxophone), Matthew Hinchliffe (alto saxophone), Ali Fyffe (tenor saxophone), and Jacob Kopcienski (baritone saxophone).