Performative Gestures
and the Performance of 
Takemitsu's 'Equinox for guitar'

by Fabricio Mattos

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Toru Takemitsu’s Equinox for guitar  (1994) is one of the most important pieces for guitar in 20th century, and Takemitsu’s artistic conceptions are strongly and maturely implied throughout the work. Takemitsu was a composer who went beyond the dividing line between Eastern and Western cultures: he adopted artistic concepts from both backgrounds in order to create a very personal and effective aesthetic, frontally contrasting both backgrounds rather than trying to artificially unite them. Some of Takemitsu’s compositional influences were nature; the Eastern Philosophy and Aesthetics, particularly its notions of time and space; Japanese performing arts, with their complex structure and well defined codes; compositional processes from European music; and the use of unusual instruments and sonorities to create concepts such as ‘stream of sounds’ and ‘sea of tonality’. The performance of Takemitsu’s multi-influenced style demands performative gestures in order to communicate specific artistic messages, and Equinox was chosen for presenting an overall balance of most elements that define Takemitsu’s music, combined with a demanding technical approach.

The objectives of the present work are to provide a definition and typology of performative gestures; to analyze the stage as a physical and psychological space, its importance on perception of performative gestures, and its history in Europe and Japan; and finally to improve the artistic communication in the performance of Takemitsu’s Equinox  through the conscious gestural preparation of the performer.

Much of recent research focuses on existing gestures from performers in order to establish patterns and categories, with none or little regard to the actual effectiveness of it. It is not the author’s objective to provide a final and unquestionable way of playing Equinox, but to draw attention to this matter of vital importance for the proper communication of any kind of music in the highest level, hopefully helping to put music performance under a different light in the 21st century.

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