Temporality, Tragedy, and Reversed Recapitulation in The Serial-Minimalist First Movement of Joe Hisaishi's East Land Symphony

Ruixue Hu, Eastman School of Music

Prioritizing temporal and thematic relations over harmonic polarity, the first movement of Joe Hisaishi's East Land Symphony (2011-16) is a musical tragedy constructed for the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Multiple congruous parameters such as tempo, meter, motives, and row realizations across this minimalist, serial movement indicate unambiguous sonata-thematic areas. This paper examines four ways Hisaishi invokes such a tragedy: reversed recapitulation, thematic negation, temporal and thematic significance of the coda, and unfulfilled serial potential. Hisaishi's movement exhibits a polychronic tragic temporality where the tragic present simultaneously invokes the past and the future unified by serial elements within the framework of sonata form. Unable to fulfill its dodecaphonic organic ideal, this movement represents and memorializes the Great Earthquake temporally through suppressed expectations and thematic negation in a reimagined sonata structure.