Akira Ifukube

Akira Ifukube

TOKYO--Japanese film composer Akira Ifukube, best remembered for his work on the Godzilla series, died Feb. 8 of multiple organ failure at a hospital here. He was 91. One of the original members of the Godzilla creative team at Toho Studios, he composed the memorable march that became the monster's theme music. In total, he composed the scores for 11 Godzilla movies.

Born in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Ifukube was self-taught in music and studied forestry and music at the University of Hokkaido. He became friends with fellow composer Fumio Hayasaka, who composed for Akira Kurosawa's early films. He wrote his first classical piece in 1933, and his first orchestral piece in 1935. The latter won a competiton held by Alexander Tcherepnine, and Ifukube studied under the Russian composer. He also composed military themes for Japan during World War II.

His first film score was 1947's "Snow Trail." He was the composer on many Toho sci-fi and monster films, including "Rodan," "The Mysterians," "Varan the Unbelievable," "Battle in Outer Space," "Atragon," "Frankenstein Conquers the World," "War of the Gargantuas," "King Kong Escapes," "Latitude Zero" and "Yog -- Monster from Space." Outside the giant monster genre, he also scored "Children of the Atom Bomb," "A Quiet Duel" (his one film for Kurosawa), "Hiroshima," "Saga of Anatahan," "The Burmese Harp," "Buddha," "The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon" (his sole anime film) and numerous "Zatochi" films.

Perhaps his biggest contribution, however, was his creation of Godzilla's trademark roar. He achieved this by rubbing a contrabass with a resin-coated leather glove and reverberating the sound in a recording studio. This roar was heard in episode 212- Godzilla vs. Megalon and episode 213- Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, as well as episode 502- Hercules (for the dinosaur guarding the Golden Fleece).

He was president of the Tokyo College of Music from 1976 to 1987, and was named a Person of Cultural Merit, one of Japan's highest civilian honors, in 2003.