Maestro Hiroyuki Namba(E)

Maestro Hiroyuki Namba(E)

The 39-th Annual Science Fiction Convention of Japan
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The 39th Japan Science Fiction Convention

5(Sat.)-6(Sun.) August 2000 AD

at Pacifico Yokohama, Yokohama JAPAN

Maestro Hiroyuki Namba:
His Science Fiction and Music
by Takayuki Tatsumi,Ph.D.
(Literary Critic; Professor of American Literature at Keio University)

I first came across the name of Hiroyuki Namba (born Sept. 9, 1953 in Tokyo) on the very day I entered junior high school; it appeared in the then-latest issue (No.23) of Karamatsu ([Japanese Larch]), a little magazine edited by the school literary club, which Namba served as manager.
A ninth grader at Gakushuin (a school system founded to educate members of the royal family), Namba had written an extensive, highly stimulating essay entitled "SF Carnival" for Karamatsu on the subject of Anglo-American and Japanese science fiction.
This far-ranging survey was at once so readable yet penetrating as to entice a novice science fiction fan like me deep into the central mysteries of the genre.
The enfant terrible himself I made it my business to meet in November of the same year, soon after he won the Nousei Abe Literary Award (named, incidentally, for the president of Gakushuin) for his short story "Seidouiro no Shi" (Death of a Bronze).
The story itself impressed me deeply; a proto-cyberpunkish narrative which explores the fate of a terminator-like, out-of-control cyborg soldier, it reflects the strong influence of first generation writers like Ryu Mitsuse and Yasutaka Tsutsui, despite Namba's obsession with Kobo Abe.
Furthermore, since the award competition was open to the entire school system (the Gakushuin system includes an elementary school, junior high, high school, university, and even a graduate school), it was unprecedented for a boy in his early teens to win.
Yet Hiroyuki Namba's story knocked aside the entries of the older candidates and took the prestigious award.
I made up my mind to visit the literary club.
In person, I found Namba to be a typical "acti-fan", pursuing SF and SF "fanacs" with great vigor and dedication (which offers some indication, I believe, of why he felt it necessary to write "Seishounen SF Fan Katsudou Shou-shi" ["A Short History of Juvenile SF Fan Activities"], which was published serially in Takumi Shibano's fanzine Uchujin [Cosmic Dust] from 1972 through 1973).
At the time of my visit, the club had just published a mimeographed SF fanzine called Taiyo no Kami (God Sol) which Namba had edited; Without the inspiration gained from this close encounter, I could not have launched my own fanzine, Kagaku-Makai (Techno-Apocalypse) in January 1970, and thus I would never have had the opportunity to publish Namba's first progressive rock fiction, "Hikousen no Ue no Shinsesaiza- Hiki" ("Synthesist on a Zeppelin").
Appearing in the 31st issue (June 1972) of Kagaku-Makai, this Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP)-dedicated story was no less than a science fiction version of "Fiddler on the Roof"; "Synthesist on a Zeppelin" proved a masterpiece, and lived on to be published as the title story of Namba's well-received 1982 collection of short fiction, as well as to inspire the release of Namba's progressive rock album of the same name.
Turning to music, I first attended a live Namba performance in November 1971, at the Gakushuin high school cultural festival.
Namba captivated us with his keyboard work in the jazz/fusion combo "Peaceful Band" (later known as La Vogue); this performance came as no great surprise, as I had learned that the mullet-talented Namba grew up in a musical family, with a classical vocalist mother and a jazz organist father.
As a junior in the Law Department of Gakushuin University, Namba joined the progressive rock trio "Ai no Sanshoku Sumire" (Lovely Pansy), which covered the tunes of ELP, PFM and Focus.
This trio, which was a forerunner of Namba's present unit "Sense of Wonder" (1981-), appealed to the famous fusion bassist Yoshihiro Naruse, who invited Namba to join Naruse's new band "Mari Kaneko & Bux Bunny" in 1975.
1979 saw the completion of Namba's first solo album, Sense of Wonder, which he dedicated to the Anglo-American science fiction masters -- Frederick Brown, Isaac Asimov, R. A. Heinlein, Alfred Bester, Larry Niven, and others.
Thus did Namba begin a professional career that paved the way for the rise of Japanese progressive rock.
Hiroyuki Namba composes and performs such a variety of music that his work defies easy categorization, yet one would not strike too wide of the mark in describing his original music as a marriage of the Western progressive rock of the 1970s and the Japanese pop of the 1960s.
In the former, Namba locates the science fictional potentiality of electronic musical instruments, in the latter, the science fiction lyrical sensibility that he has cultivated so fruitfully.
Hence has the happiest union of the European musical avant-garde and the Japanese musical mainstream proceeded, and herein lies the innovative greatness of Hiroyuki Namba, maestro of science fiction music, and of musical science fiction. (8/23/2000).

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