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by Carl Bergstroem-Nielsen

Makoto Nomura was born 1968 in Japan. He is an autodidact composer, has held several university music teaching positions in Asia and makes now his living from freelance composition activity. He composes for a broad range of musicians: chamber music, symphony orchestra, children, amateur people and often employs elements of improvisation and innovative notations. These notes are from a visit to his home in Kyoto, July 2005.


This is a principle of composition employed to several pieces since 1999. Shogi means "chess". Each player should have his own colour. Participants can create the score by their own ideas. When indicated in the score, this player starts to play the element and keeps on until this player and the next number is again indicated. Thus, an element once started goes on "automatically" when playing. This also has the practical consequence that the piece may be played from one copy which is simply handed over to the next player after reading the element to play next.. In the score, a sequence of different elements with their starts and new elements is indicated. The notations need not be understandable to everyone - it is enough that each player can remember its meaning and correctly reproduce it later. Read more about Shogi composition here.

The example below is from an amateur orchestra piece "SHOGI SYMPHONY NO. 3 "OUVERTURE"". See also about “Improvised music by autistic people” below.


The piece is performed by two groups. First each group makes a discussion, by music only, which ends with agreeing on a musical phrase. Also, they must choose a leader (no words here either). After this, each leader comes to the middle of the stage. A game performed with the hands decides who is winner and loser. The winner shows his/her musical phrase. The loser imitates it and brings it to his/her group. Finally, everybody plays it together.


for gamelan orchestra and children's choir

Beginning and end were notated in a exact and traditional way. The middle of the composition was to be realized freely by the performers - however, they all had to prepare something in collaboration with other players.


The words in the score are to be "written" or "painted" on the 14 strings. Tuning is up to the performer.

104 MELODIONS (2003)

This piece was conducted by playing, in a "follow me" - way. This could be

1) a motif to be copied

2) one note, pointing at the instrument and players trying to hit it just by observing from a distance the position of the finger on the keyboard.

In both cases, results would be approximate and lie within a varied spectrum from the original material. This was intended so.


piano concerto with symphony orchestra.

1. movement: a game in which musicians must stop playing when the soloist stops. The conductor can indicate that those who are too late must leave the scene. The movement thus ends when no one is left to play.

2. movement features a number of soli as part of a dramatic process. They are performed by free transformations into music of poetic-rhythmic sentences. Here is an example from the illustration of the notation of these soli which are in frames in the illustration:

Oboe "Now, at the moment, the conductor, the conductor, Mr. Hohna, with, with, with"

Clarinet: "On, on, on the telephone, talking, talking, king, king"

Cello: "something, interesting piece, something, something, something"

Timpani: "So"

Flute: "Mr. Nomura to compose, compose, compose, compose".


Must be memorized by participants - only the composer has the score. Instructions include a given sequence of events of variable durations, also players are to imitate each other at some points.


for violin, clarinet, violoncello, percussion and piano.

This work was inspired by working with autistic people and by the way they would stick to their own ideas. It was, however, written for and performed by, "normal", professional classical musicians. Both Japanese and English versions exist.

The score is mainly written with words. The numbers after instruments refer to the section number for the instrument in question - see above about this "Shogi"-notation. This page (number 2) reads:

Cl (1) With Vn(1) the clarinet player plays long tones ...[see illustration] ... in various pitches of B major scale (read score is in A major). And sometimes play a note 10 times quickly with staccato or without staccato. Keep this process, for example ... [see illustration] ...

Perc (1) soon after the clarinet player starts playing, start talking with percussions. You may use any kinds of percussions to make the atmosphere of talking. Play as if you talk to somebody tenderly. Don't play like a politicians' speech. Sometimes keep silent because you and the cellist makes a musical dialogue ['percussionist' in the illustration is an error].

Vc (1) Imitate and follow the percussion's musical talk with pizzicati. You stand for the percussionist [= look at the percussionist]. Sometimes you may add glissandi with arco.


An article dealing with Makoto Nomura:
TOFU Magazine 3rd issue Fall/Winter 2000/01 The Collision Issue, ISBN 962-85491-3-8

Shiba Tetsu Game pieces at IIMA.  Also about composition in an open form.

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