Hiroshi Yoshimura (1940â€“2004) was one of Japanâ€™s most influential composers and record producers, known for his work in ambient music and the early days of New Age music. He achieved international success throughout his career for his dreamy, synth-filled music filled with lush samples and textures.
Hiroshi Yoshimura was born in Tokyo in 1940. His father was a composer and a teacher and encouraged his sonâ€™s interest in music, taking him to classical music concerts regularly. Yoshimura started playing piano around age seven and also learned other instruments including the shamisen and harmonica. In the late 1950s, he saw the early Japanese rockers performing from street corners around the cities they visited and was struck by their enthusiasm and energy. He was inspired to try to compose music on the same kind of synthesizers they were using.
Yoshimura enrolled in the Art College of Tokyoâ€™s design program in 1959, and continued to pursue his interest in music independently by composing and performing. He would often accompany his compositions with recordings of streams, birds, water droplets, and other environmental sounds, and many of these sounds had been pre-recorded by folk singers during their performances. He released his first album, Solar Wave, in 1976, while he was still enrolled at the university.
Throughout the late 1970s, Yoshimura successfully established his career as a composer and started absorbing music from different cultures into his work, adopting a style born out of the influences of Eastern and Western cultures. His career reached a peak in the early 1980s when his music was featured in numerous television commercials and film soundtracks. He released numerous solo works, collaborations, and compilations, in genres from ambient new age to pop and alternative rock, with labels such as Go! Discs and Victor Japan.
In the mid-1980s, Yoshimura began to perform with ensembles both in Japan and abroad. He was a pioneer in the integration of synthesizers into classical music performances, performing his first full-length performance with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1988. He then joined the electronic duo Cradle, as an artist-producer in 1989.
Yoshimuraâ€™s works were embraced by experimental and digital musicians including Brian Eno, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Haruomi Hosono. His albums continued to remain widely popular among fans of ambient music worldwide throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and in 2004 he won the Japan Music Pen Award.
In 2004, Yoshimura passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 64. His legacy lives on, as his distinctive sound continues to influence musicians around the world, with his influence strongly preserved in New Age music today. His works are described as peaceful yet dynamic, with pianos and organic samples creating a unique atmosphere in his soundscapes. From Tokyo's Shibuya district to the stadiums of international superstars, Yoshimura lives on as one of modern music's most forward-thinking and culturally open-minded artists.