Hiroshi Yoshimura was a Japanese composer and sound designer. He is considered a pioneer in ambient, environmental, and new age music. Born in Yokohama in 1940, he studied music as a child -- beginning piano studies at age five during the final year of the Second World War. He fell under the influence of various sound artists during the late '50s, including composers Toru Takemitsu and John Cage. In 1964 he graduated from Waseda School of Letters, Arts and Sciences II under the creative spell of the Fluxus movement and the work of Harry Partch and Erik Satie.
Yoshimura worked on integrating environmental music that combined graphic and sound design. He performed visual poetry, and worked on sound design construction for TOA, the storied Japanese manufacturer of amplifiers, signal processors, mixers, microphones, and speakers while working on his own art in his spare time. In 1972 he started the computer music group Anonyme. He fell under the spell of Brian Eno's ambient music during the 1970s, because it mirrored his own core sonic and atmospheric discoveries. His iconic debut album, Music for Nine Postcards, was released in 1982 on Sound Process. It was originally recorded at home on Fender Rhodes and an analog synthesizer as a demo to be played in the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. Produced by Satoshi Ashikawa, it was later subtitled Wave Notations 1 and released as the first of the historic but short-lived series -- the producer's Still Way (Wave Notation 2) was the other one.
Yoshimura composed and designed sound for several independent cinema projects as well. Pier & Loft, released on Fukusei Gijutsu Kohboh in 1983, offered more contrasting sounds from experimental classical, ambient, and new age music. Arriving in 1984, A-I-R (Air In Resort) worked across both minimalist and new age genres, before Yoshimura gave way to the latter with Green in 1986. Later the same year he released Soundscape 1: Surround, a work of complete but gentle abstraction and precise sonic design. Yoshimura shifted to new classical music for 1988's Static, with assistance from pianist Satuki Shibano.
During his recording career, the composer joined the the engineering faculty at Chiba University, and also taught part-time in the industrial design department. He also served as an adjunct professor at Kunitachi College of Music Design. His focus was universal access to sound design; he convinced the school to sponsor public participation in workshops and sonic experiments at museums and galleries nationally. He would often use his students in his performances. He resumed recording with 1993's Wet Land, which walked the line between ambient, classical, and new age musics. A year later he released Face Music, an album commissioned by Shu Uemura Make Up School that mixed his own modern classical compositions in seamless beat-driven juxtaposition with works by Vivaldi, Scarlatti, and Caccini.
Yoshimura had become fascinated by global club culture, especially the downtempo music created for chillout rooms. Arriving in 1998, Quiet Forest, the final album released during his lifetime, employed everything from field recordings of nature and city streets to downtempo beats, ambient soundscapes, left-field abstraction, and classical schemas. Yoshimura continued to teach and accept commissions, making environmental music for runway shows, train stations, and prefab houses. He was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1999 and battled with the disease until it claimed his life in 2003. He continued working until the very end.
Four Postcards, recorded during the final year of his life, was issued by Nuvola. In 2005, the label issued Soft Wave for Automatic Music Box, comprising three late but completed long-form works. In 2006, Prem Promotion issued Flora - 1987, a complete album recorded between Green and Static but unreleased at the time. Music for Nine Postcards was reissued in North America for the first time as the debut release by Empire of Signs, a label run by Spencer Doran of Visible Cloaks and Maxwell August Croy of the Root Strata label. They worked with Yoshimura's widow, Yoko Yoshimura, on the reissue; it featured reproductions of the original art and liner notes, as well as new writings from the producers and Ms. Yoshimura. Distributed by Light in the Attic, the album was marketed as a stand-alone or bundled with a reissue of Pier & Loft.