photo by Aleksandra Mleczko


“Chant for Sleep” is a piece of 225 bars, which represent 225 days from 14th February, the first day of covid-19 death in Japan, to 25th September 2020. It is a piece of 1539 notes, which represent 1539 people in Japan who died of covid-19 during 225 days. It is intended as a requiem for the peaceful eternal sleep of covid-19 victims as well as a lullaby to make coronavirus sleep.  For the composition I used the “death_total” data by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.


The rule I set for this piece was very simple. In each bar, which represents each day, I put the same number of notes as the death toll. One person’s death became a single tone. 2 persons’ death became 2 notes. Similarly the 3-note chord represents 3 persons’ death.  During the first 50 bars, which mean the first 50 days before 4th April, the number of notes in each bar, or deaths in each day, was limited within 5. So the pianist plays the first 50 bars only with one hand.  The bar 63 has a tone cluster of 17 notes, for which the pianist has to use arm.


Although I studied mathematics at Kyoto University and I followed numbers for this composition, I did not want to compose it only mathematically. In order to create music dedicated to 1539 people and their last days, I struggled within the rule and tried to compose music with all my heart and soul. The score is totally hand-written in pencil and intended for piano with slight voice accompaniment in the end. This voice part is a quotation from folk sumo ritual called Nettei Sumo, whose stomping is believed to have a special power to make evil spirits calm down. I put this voice with the hope of protection against pandemic. This music is open to collaborate with other forms of arts, for example dance, visual art, etc.  


You are encouraged to perform this score and share your realisation with me through

Makoto Nomura

Makoto Nomura, composer, pianist, melodica player and improviser, often makes a bridge between music with something else. His “Music with Pets”(2004) at Ikon Gallery (UK) enabled the audience to bring their pets to the concert.  In 2008 he formed the “Japan Association of Composers for Sumo Hearing Arts” with Tomoko Momiyama and Sachiyo Tsurumi to create new music through field research of traditional sumo wrestling. “Root Music”(2012) is an installation and graphic notation by roots of wild plants. In 2014 in Tokyo he composed a huge ensemble piece performed by 1010 people, which involved not only so-called musicians but also baseball players, rope-jumping kids, actors and 2 dancers, kite-flying, etc. In 2018 he did a concert on a tram in Hong Kong, for which he and people with learning disabilities improvised music towards town.  He has been the director of creative participation for Japan Century Symphony Orchestra since 2014.




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