London-based Dai Fujikura talks about his relationship to Japan and his new orchestra piece Rare Gravity, which will be premiered in Tokyo by Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under the baton of Kazuki Yamada on July 10.
How did you get involved with classical music? Why did you decide to move to the UK when you were 15 years old?
When I was growing up in Japan, my mother was reading to me the biographies of historic composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Schumann and Schubert. At that time I was 10 years old or so, and I immediately knew that I wanted to become a composer. I also realized that all of these composers were German, so I simply thought that Germany is the place to go. However, my parents believed that the English language is more familiar to us Japanese people than German. Even though I spoke neither of these languages at that time, I decided to go to the UK on my own and to see what happens. In the end I liked it so much that I stayed. I never made it to Germany.
What influence does Japanese culture have on your music?
For me composing means creating another world where borders do not exist at all. Therefore I would prefer my music to be neutral, and that is why the influence of my homeland’s culture is not that important to me. I am looking for a utopia, where I can be free from everything; and performing my music to the public means that I am inviting you in, into this world, just for some minutes...
In general, what role does contemporary music play in Japan?
What I always enjoy about Japan is that I get to meet a great variety of people: people that are not associated with contemporary classical music but with other genres such as experimental pop or avant-garde improvisation.
In my other life, in my side projects, I collaborate with experimental Pop and Jazz musicians such as David Sylvian, Jan Bang and Ryuichi Sakamoto. These collaborations are like an “oasis” from my daily life as a composer of contemporary classical music. Through these projects I keep learning a lot on so many levels, like how to really “listen” to certain music. And then it is great to see that there are people who find out about my contemporary music through my collaboration with non-classical musicians – this closes the circle.
Please give our readers some advice: which Japanese books, composers and movies do you recommend?
I recommend the movies Tokyo Story by Yasujiro Ozu and Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, the animated fantasy film Ponyo by Hayao Miyazaki and the novel Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
On July 10 your new orchestra work Rare Gravity will have its world premiere in Toyko. Please tell us more about this!
My daughter was born two years ago. Since then I have written several pieces that were inspired by her. Rare Gravity is about how an embryo is growing inside the womb of her mother. The embryo is floating in a very peaceful way, and the water around it is protecting the unborn child. All of this is reflected in the music. I am hoping that the audience gets this impression of being surrounded by water and that they feel this wonderful state of levitation.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished my first full length opera Solaris, now I am checking the last details. The world premiere is coming up at Paris, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in March 2015. After that the opera can be seen in Lille and Lausanne. Additionally I am working on a piece for two pianos for Bahar and Ufuk Dördüncü. I am also mastering an album that features music of my collaboration with the Peruvian-Japanese guitarist Shin Sasakubo. The album will be released in September on Sony Music. Furthermore, I already started thinking about my next project: a flute concerto for Claire Chase.