Masao Ohki Hiroshima Symphony

5-Ghosts of Hiroshoma


In this episode we dive into one of Japan’s most iconic 20th century works, the Masao Ohki Hiroshima Symphony.

The United States ended WWII by dropping the world’s first Atomic Bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1946, respectively. The bomb ended the worst conflict in human history and saved the lives of countless US soldiers in the Pacific Theater, but at what cost?

Masao Ohki Hiroshima SymphonyIn the case of Hiroshima, it cost the lives of around 80,000 civilians in an instant. Over the next few decades, many thousands more civilians would die from radiation and injuries.

This episode isn’t about passing moral judgement though. It’s about the violence that kicked off the post-1946 artistic direction of Japan.

We found that while it’s easy to poke holes in the logic of anti-war and anti-bomb painters and musicians after WWII, it’s impossible to judge their stances without a proper understanding of the social climate they came from.

They experienced horrific pain. They saw unspeakable violence. And they weren’t personally responsible for the international hurt their government caused. Our goals for this episode were two-fold:

  1. We wanted our audience to join us as we explored once-confidential government documents related to the Atomic Bomb. Through that research, we wished for our listeners to form an individual and informed opinion on the happenings of August 1946. (You can read the declassified documents here)
  2. We desired to explore the back-drop of the Hiroshima Symphony. Was it written out of anger? Hurt? What other art inspired it?

Hopefully, “Ghosts of Hiroshima” will relate to the above questions.

You can listen to the Hiroshima Symphony on our website as well.

The Masao Ohki Hiroshima Symphony

Iri and Toshi Maruki started creating their famous “Hiroshima Panels” in 1950, and they gradually worked towards completion over the next 32 years. Masao Ohki was inspired to write his Symphony No. 5, or the “Hiroshima Symphony,” after seeing the first six panels.

Masao Ohki’s Hiroshima Symphony doesn’t follow conventional symphonic form, and it can best be described as a “programmatic” work. It tells the story of six of the Hiroshima Panels. It follows a “program,” if you will.

PerhapMasao Ohki Hiroshima Symphonys the most defining feature of the Masao Ohki Hiroshima Symphony is the sound of ghosts–eerie strings playing high pitched notes.

Those ghosts serve as the inspiration for Ep. 5, “Ghosts of Hiroshima.”

Do you have any questions or comments about this episode? We’re open to questions, and we welcome controversy (within reason). Send us an email and we’ll get in touch!

Also published on Medium.

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