Hiroshi Yoshimura’s “Ambience of Sound, Sound of Ambience”
              Sam Thorne
              While the artist and pioneering ambient composer Hiroshi Yoshimura was recording his debut album, in 1982, he visited the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, which had opened a few years before. Struck by how this curving Art Deco building framed a series of views onto tree-lined gardens, he approached a curator about the possibility of playing his record in the galleries. They agreed, and so Yoshimura’s first album—titled Music for Nine Post Cards—also became his first public commission. Made in a home studio on a Fender Rhodes electric piano, this collection of glistening vignettes is one of my favorite albums, nine sketches of a museum informed not by its artworks but by glimpses through its windows. The track titles—“Clouds,” “Blink,” “Dream”—read like a list of the motifs and compositional approaches that would preoccupy Yoshimura for the rest of his life. Over the course of the next three decades, he produced dozens of acoustic soundscapes, meditative site-specific compositions for locations all over Japan: shopping malls; a subway line; even a funicular, the written score climbing at the same twenty-two-degree incline as the actual mountainside. Yoshimura’s was an unusual mode of public art. Small-scale but also spacious, it had nothing in …

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