Who is Isao Tomita? That is a question I am asked when I bring up his work; Mostly because he was a 70’s experimental musician who’s heyday was during the mid 1970’s. And he is from Japan. Often regarded as the Japanese version of Wendy Carlos, Tomita’s output largely consisted of electronically reproduced classical music, something he did throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and all the way, until his 2016 death at the age of 84.
I got into his music through a combination of my Uncle, my Great Uncle, and my Mother. My great uncle, in particular, being an avid follower of Tomita. Through a combination of lending albums, getting them online via YouTube, and purchasing them from Japan at rather high prices; for CDs, I have all of his output from the 1970’s, and a couple of his 1980’s releases. The problem I ran into with these albums; however, is the lack of good album artwork.
When one goes on iTunes and buys an album, you get your songs and your album artwork. If you don’t, you can go to google, get the artwork and download it onto your album. Same with more modern CD’s…but not with Tomita’s albums. Many of these albums are rare, collector’s items, for a number of reasons; be it that they’re out of print, or cannot be sold anymore due to legal issues (The estate of Gustav Holst banning his reinterpretation of The Planets, due to the belief that the album was crap). All my albums were from Japan, or were lent from my Uncle’s collection. You cannot go to HMV for this stuff.
You’d think the artwork would be on Google; which it is, but many of the images are either vinyl scans, photos taken by fans, or are of pretty poor quality. I felt that this was a shame, and so I decided that I would make my own album covers. Starting with Tomita’s Planets album, I found artwork I liked by an independent artist, I downloaded some fonts, and made something I really liked:
On the left is a vinyl cover scan of the original album cover, while on the right is the cover I designed. The fonts I chose were meant to harken to 70’s sci-fi and early 80’s computer game typefaces. The font used for the Tomita portion is similar to the one on the albums. While I couldn’t find a logo for him, I felt that the font was a suitable replacement. The artwork used was found by searching for minimalist depictions of the solar system. I think the minimalist look gave it a cool, science fiction-esque look. I was really proud of it. I continued to make these covers for all the Tomita albums I have, a select few I will post as well:
All the album covers have the same logo and typeface layout. I have always felt that albums should have a cohesive look, and I wanted to realise that concept, and that is how I created the Tomita project. A bit of faffing with Powerpoint, Google, and Dafont.com. What have I achieved in the grand scheme of things? Very little. I made custom artwork for an obscure electronic musician who I discovered too late to appreciate his work. But I do hope that you; the reader, find Tomita. I hope someone finds him. Then this passion project will be a perfect tribute. Just one person would be enough.