Yuriko Takakura

Analysis of the Compositional Processes in Toshiro Mayuzumi’s Nirvana Symphony (1958) and Mandala Symphony (1960) using the Campanology Documents

This study attempts to clarify the compositional processes of the main chords in Nirvana Symphony and Mandala Symphony, the representative compositions of Toshiro Mayuzumi(1929-1997). Mayuzumi is known for creating his works based on the analysis of temple bell sounds. When he composed these symphonies, he analyzed the sounds of temple bells and orchestrated them. The main chords of the Nirvana and Mandala Symphonies are repeatedly used in each piece and were presented in Mayuzumi’s own handwriting in the concert programs for works’ premieres.

Although these symphonies have been widely studied since they debuted, no research has clarified their compositional processes using primary resources. This study presents the compositional processes of these symphonies using the composer’s autograph sketches, the Campanology Documents. It is the first research effort to make use of these documents.

The Campanology Documents consist of seven of Mayuzumi’s handwritten sketches, plus a copy of a book to which he may have referred during his composition. These documents are numbered from no. 1 to no. 8 by the TOYAMA Kazuyuki Memorial Archives of Modern Japanese Music.

Documents no. 3, no.4, no. 5 and no. 8 are related to the Nirvana Symphony and Documents no. 3, no. 4, no. 5 and no. 7 are to the Mandala Symphony.

Document no. 3 contains, the overtone frequency data for the sounds of six different temple bells and three smaller bells, which were quoted from the paper “Experimental Acoustics (Jikken-Onkyo-Gaku)” (1948) by the Japanese physicist, Keiji Yamashita. Document no. 4 has a table titled ‘’EL[E]KTRONISCHE MUSIK SKALA” which contains the frequencies of each tone in chromatic scales over ten octaves. Document no. 5 shows that Mayuzumi transcribed overtone frequency data from Document no. 3 to a score as chords. Documents no. 7 and no. 8 include transpositions of chords from Document no. 5, and each has a table. The table in Document no. 7 shows the constituent tones of each chord, and the one in Document no. 8 is created with the pitch transformation of the chords from Document no. 5.

An analysis of these sketches shows that the main chords of the Nirvana and Mandala Symphonies are based on bell sound frequency data quoted from the paper by Yamashita, meaning that the two pieces are composed based on the same sound materials. However, the processes of creating the main chords for each of the symphonies are different. Mayuzumi created the main chords of the Nirvana Symphony by transposing the bell frequency data in Yamashita’s paper. On the other hand, a tone series in the Mandala Symphony is based on the regularities of the temple bell overtones, and the main chords are constructed with the tone series. It is possible to regard both the Nirvana Symphony and the Mandala Symphony as created in the process of studying the same bell sounds. Mayuzumi tried to expand his expression by analyzing the regularities of the bell sounds from multiple perspectives.


Keio University, Japan

She received her Master of Arts in Philosophy and Master of Engineering from Keio University in 2016 and 2017, respectively. She is currently a Ph.D. student of Graduate School of Science and Technology, Keio University and studied at IRCAM from August 2017 to February 2018. She is also a research assistant of the Program for Leading Graduate School for “Science for Development of Super Mature Society. ” Her research interests include music visualization, provenance visualization, and computer music. She is a member of the IPSJ and the Musicological Society of Japan.