Today marks the 99th anniversary of the birth of the late Akira Ifukube. For those unaware, he was a classical composer in Japan, though his works that are best known in the west are for Tokusatsu Eiga and Kaiju Eiga from Toho. Literally, that means Special Effects Films and Giant Monster Films, respectively. He was the man who wrote the now famous Godzilla theme, that he composed for Ishiro Honda’s GOJIRA (1954). In fact, it was Ifukube who created Godzilla’s roar, by rubbing a resin covered leather glove over the lowest string of a contrabass, as opposed to having an effects team edit the sounds from actual animals together. He also did the same for several other monsters, utilizing various musical instruments, as opposed to traditional sound effects methods.
As I sit here late at night, typing this missive, I am -rather appropriately- watching/listening to GODZILLA FANTASIA. This is a collection of pieces that Ifukube collected and arranged himself, from his various Toho scores and then combined with footage from the movies/monsters they were connected with. He composed scores for all genres, be it monster movies, like GOJIRA, space operas like Honda’s UCHÛ DAISENSÔ (1959) aka BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1960) or fantasy films like Hiroshi Inagaki’s NIPPON TANJÔ (1959) (The Birth of Japan) aka THE THREE TREASURES. He also wrote the scores for Daiei Films’ popular DAI MAJIN trilogy of movies. His final score was in 1995 for Takao Okawara’s GOJIRA TAI DESUTROIA (GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH), the final film of the Godzilla Heisei Era.
Akira Ifukube passed away on February 8, 2006.
As next year marks his 100th birthday, I am very hopeful that we will see some manner of tribute here in the west, as there will no doubt be many tributes in his native land.