Musical Narrative in Representing Hiroshima: A Case Study of Erkki Aaltonen’s Second Symphony Hiroshima (1949)

  • Yumi NotoharaEmail author
Part of the Numanities - Arts and Humanities in Progress book series (NAHP, volume 2)


The aim of this article is to examine how music can represent Hiroshima, the first city in the world to be attacked by an atomic bomb. The Finnish composer Erkki Aaltonen’s Second Symphony Hiroshima (henceforth Hiroshima Symphony) is focused on as a case study. Composed in 1949, only four years after the atomic bombing, this symphony seems to be the first pure instrumental composition among more than five hundred musical works representing Hiroshima. This article discusses the musical expression of this symphony to represent Hiroshima from the viewpoint of musical narrative. The first chapter defines, classifies, and points out the general trends of the musical works related to Hiroshima composed during the half century from 1945 to 1995. The second chapter overviews Hiroshima Symphony focusing for the most part on the structure of the composition explained by Aaltonen himself. The Chap. 3 consists of an analysis of the music from the perspective of musical narrative and reveals that the story of Hiroshima is narrated by the music itself not only by using the conventional programmatic techniques but also through thematic transformation throughout the work.


Programmatic Technique Atomic Bomb Private Tutor Musical Work Musical Structure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aaltonen, Erkki. 1966. Erkki Aaltonen. In Suomen Säveltäjiä [Finnish composers], ed. Einari Marvia: 344–349. Porvoo and Helsinki: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö.Google Scholar
  2. Aaltonen, Erkki. (ed.). 1981. Aineistoa säveltäjä Erkki Aaltosen toiminnasta yli kolmen vuosikymmenen ajalta. [Materials from a composer Erkki Aaltonen’s activities for more than thirty years]. Unpublished materials stored at the National Library of Finland with the reference number Coll. 728.35 (abbreviated as HY in this article).Google Scholar
  3. Aaltonen, Erkki. 1996. HIROSHIMA Sinfonia per Grande Orchestra No. 2 [Facsimiles of the handwritten music score]. Helsinki: Finnish Music Information Centre.Google Scholar
  4. Aho, Kalevi. 1996. Finnish Music in the Postwar Years. In Finnish music, eds. Kalevi Aho, Pekka Jalkanen, Erkki Salmenhaara, and Kijo Virtamo: 77–169. Keuruu: Otava Printing Works.Google Scholar
  5. Arnold, Ben. 1993. Music and war: A research and information guide. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Hiroshima to Ongaku Iinkai (ed.). 2006. Hiroshima to Ongaku [Hiroshima and music]. Tokyo: Chobunsya.Google Scholar
  7. Korhonen, Kimmo. 2003. Inventing finnish music. Helsinki: Finnish Music Information Centre.Google Scholar
  8. Notohara, Yumi. 2009. Aaltonen no Koukyoukyoku dainiban ‘Hiroshima’: Hibaku junengo no Hiroshima koen wo megutte [Aaltonen’s Second Symphony ‘Hiroshima’: On the public performance held in Hiroshima 10 years after the atomic bombing]. Geijutsu Kenkyu 21(22): 87–96.Google Scholar
  9. Notohara, Yumi. 2012. Musical Expressions of “Hiroshima” in Aaltonen’s Second Symphony “Hiroshima”. Ongakubunka Kyouikugaku Kenkyukiyo [Bulletin of music culture education] XXIV: 21–29. The Graduate School of Education, Hiroshima University.Google Scholar
  10. Notohara, Yumi. 2014. Aaltonen no Koukyoukyoku dainiban ‘Hiroshima’: Reisenki no touou jouen wo megutte [Aaltonen’s second symphony ‘Hiroshima’: Focusing on the performance in Eastern Europe during the cold war]. Geijutsu Kenkyu 27: 49–62.Google Scholar
  11. Salmenhaara, Erkki. 1996. Uuden Musiikin Kynnyksellä 1907–1958 [In the threshold of the new music 1907–1958]. Porvoo-Helsinki-Juva: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö.Google Scholar
  12. Shibata, Shingo. 1982. Hankaku, Nihon no Ongaku: No More Hiroshima Ongaku Dokuhon [Antinuclear, music in Japan: A reader of music of no more Hiroshima]. Tokyo: Chobunsya.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Osaka College of MusicOsakaJapan

Personalised recommendations