Musicologist from Japan Revived Forgotten Musical Piece by Čiurlionis

Important | 2017-10-02

“Although I stayed in Kaunas for six days, I managed to visit Čiurlionis Museum three times”, says Yumiko Nunokawa. The Japanese researcher has just defended her PhD thesis on Lithuanian genial artist Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU). Her work on Čiurlionis included not only three years of thorough research, 12 exhausting flights from Tokyo to Vilnius, but also visits to the places Čiurlionis had lived, and an immediate connection with the creative works of the artist by reviving the forgotten piece of his music.

The young musicologist knows many interesting facts about the Lithuanian artist, often unnoticed by local researchers.

“I can represent the outsider’s point of view, and to take interest in things that are usually left out by the traditional researchers of Čiurlionis art”, says Yumiko Nunokawa, whose research focused on contextuality of Čiurlionis art placing Lithuanian composer and painter in the context of other artists of that time.

Trying to get closer to Čiurlionis personality and creative life she visited all the places connected to him, not only in Lithuania, but also in Warsaw, Poland and St Petersburg, Russia.

Researched long-forgotten Čiurlionis’ works

The greatest discovery made by Yumiko, and the one she is proudest of is a revival of an almost forgotten piece of music created by Čiurlionis in the last years of his life.

“During my research I came across the manuscript of symphonic poem Dies Irae. Created a year before the composer’s death this musical piece was virtually forgotten. Maybe it was being considered not interesting, as at that time Čiurlionis was already suffering from psychiatric condition. So, I went to Čiurlionis museum and researched all the documents, connected to this work. I went through every page”, says Nunokawa.

Together with her PhD thesis supervisor Professor Darius Kučinskas, the Japanese musicologist explored all the musical motives of Dies Irae, trying to connect them to the previous works of the composer.

Finally, the symphonic poem was recreated for the orchestra by Lithuanian composer Giedrius Kuprevičius.

“Dies Irae was performed in Kaunas Philharmonic in 2015, after I had already left Kaunas. I am really proud of this work – we have resurrected Čiurlionis music for new life”, says Yumiko.

PhD in musicology – only in KTU

The Japanese musicologist became fascinated by Čiurlionis more than 10 years ago. After starting to communicate with the experts of Čiurlionis art, she assisted in organising musical concerts and other events of the famous Lithuanian composer and painter in Japan, wrote numerous publications on Čiurlionis’ art and its connections to Japanese culture. The independent studies finally brought Yumiko Nunokawa to Kaunas, KTU.

“We are extremely happy and proud that the dissertation on Čiurlionis was defended at KTU, which is the only university in Lithuania possessing the right to prepare the doctors of science in musicology”, says Professor Darius Kučinskas, Nunokawa’s PhD supervisor.

He is convinced that the scientific work on Lithuanian artist carried on by the Japanese musicologist is an exceptional event for Lithuanian science and beyond.

KTU is welcoming more and more doctoral students from different countries. “Our doctoral studies become more and more international, more open for people from other countries and different cultures”, says Jolita Steponkevičiūtė, project manager at KTU International Doctoral School.

Misses Kaunas and Čiurlionis

At the moment, Yumiko Nunokawa is teaching English in one of the business colleges in Tokyo. Although she left Kaunas in 2015, the Japanese researcher is always happy to visit Lithuania. Now, after the studies have ended, she is thinking about other possibilities to continue research.

Yumiko’s ideas for further research include studying connections between music of Čiurlionis and Russian composer Alexander Skryabin, also researching Lithuanian folk music.

Kaunas, according to Japanese musicologist, who has spent two years living here, has changed a lot in the last years.

“There are much more cafés in the city than it was two years ago, and the renovated Laisves alėja is really more comfortable for walking. In general, the city was calmer, now it seems that there are much more things going on”, says Yumiko.

She admits that she would gladly come back to live in Kaunas. Asked, what she misses the most, Yumiko sighs: “Čiurlionis…”

Please read the summary of Yumiko Nunokawa’s dissertation Contextuality of the artistic language of M. K. Čiurlionis: links and influence of cultures online.

KTU International Doctoral School reminds: the admission to PhD studies at state-funded and self-funded places at KTU is open until 13 October 2017. For more information please write

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