Although Dai Fujikura was born in Osaka, he has now spent more than 20 years in the UK where he studied composition with Edwin Roxburgh, Daryl Runswick and George Benjamin. During the last decade he has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including Kazimierz Serocki International Composers’ Competition 1998 and a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in UK, Internationaler Wiener Composition Prize, the Paul Hindemith Prize in Austria and Germany respectively and both the OTAKA and Akutagawa awards in 2009.
A quick glance at his list of commissions and performances reveals he is fast becoming a truly international composer. His music is not only performed in the country of his birth or his adopted home, but is now performed in venues as geographically diverse as Caracas and Oslo, Venice and Schleswig-Holstein, Lucerne and Paris.
In his native Japan he has been accorded the special honour of a portrait concert in Suntory Hall in October 2012. In London where he chooses to live with his wife and family, he has now received two BBC Proms commissions, his Double Bass Concerto was recently premiered by the London Sinfonietta and in 2013 the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave the UK premiere of ‘Atom’ as part of the Total Immersion: Sounds from Japan.
The French music world too has taken him to its hearts with numerous commissions, culminating in his first opera – an artistic collaboration with Saburo Teshigawara, which will be co-produced by Theatre des Champs Elysées, Lausanne and Lille. In Germany the European premiere of ‘Tocar y Luchar,’ the world premiere of which was given in Venezuela by Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, was given at the Ultraschall Festival in Berlin. His next German commission is ‘Grasping’ for the Munich Chamber Orchestra which was premiered in Korea before being brought back to Munich. Switzerland has featured his music at the Lucerne Festival, Austria at the Salzburg Festival and Norway at the Punkt Festival and a commission in 2013 from the Oslo Sinfonietta.
Conductors with whom he has worked include Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös, Jonathan Nott, Gustavo Dudamel, the newly-appointed conductor of the Suisse Romande, Kazuki Yamada and Alexander Liebreich. His compositions are increasingly the product of international co-commissions. In 2012/13 the Seattle and Bamberg Symphony will each give continental premieres of ‘Mina’ for wind a percussion soloists and orchestra and the Asian premiere will be given by Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2011/12 the Arditti Quartet performed ‘flare’ in collaborating venues in London, Edinburgh and Tokyo. His opera, which is based on Stanislaw Lem’s novel, Solaris, will be co-produced in both France and Switzerland.
In 2012 NMC released "secret forest", the first disc devoted exclusively to his music, and in 2013 Commmons released "Mirrors", an album including four of his orchestral works. KAIROS has released "ice" an album including his chamber and electronics music. He also runs his own record label Minabel. Minabel has released six of his portrait albums, two of which are collaboration with SONY Japan.
He has also collaborated in the experimental pop/jazz/improvisation world. A co-composition with Ryuichi Sakamoto was premiered in Hakuju Hall in Japan, collaborative works with David Sylvian are on Sylvian's "died in the wool" album and also Dai's co-compositions with Jan Bang and Sidsel Endresen feature on Jan Bang's album, released from Jazzland records.
Dai Fujikura is published by G Ricordi & Co, Berlin – part of Universal Music Publishing Classical.
In the early 90’s Dai Fujikura moved almost six thousand miles from Osaka to Dover College, in the UK, to take up a music scholarship. He’s fifteen. He works his summer holidays as the floor manager for a fast food restaurant on the ferry between England and France. He mentions the five star service badge he received on those canicular crossings with fierce pride even now.
By the late 90’s Dai, still a student at Trinity College of Music, had already become the youngest ever winner of the KAZIMIERZ SEROCKI INTERNATIONAL COMPOSERS’ COMPETITION. Two decades later he’s returning to sea – but this time the sea on the planet Solaris - as he premières his first Opera at Theatre de Champs Elysées, Lille and Lausanne.
So what would compel one of Europe’s most significant voices to continually mention his two month long career in fast food service in the same breath as his extensive success as a composer?
As the horn player Saar Berger put it: “he can turn anything into music”. Every experience can be transformed and explored by his unique sound. With Dai even the mundane becomes transcendent and beautiful. This is an artist who hears beauty in everything – and sees his vocation as his metier – being no more special than anyone else’s job. A quick glance of his catalogue, and the variety of different titles demonstrates the Vast Ocean of inspirations for his works.
For instance, there is a whole period of works based on childbirth. Infinite String, which was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Resonanz is about the moment of his daughter Mina’s conception. The story continues with My Butterflies, an observation of his wife Milena during her early pregnancy. Rare Gravity, which has received thirteen performances from four orchestras in the year since its world première, leads us through the third trimester of pregnancy. Finally his Sinfonia Concertante Mina, brings us to an intimate encounter with the birth of a child.
Dai’s approach to music making is by no means solipsistic and drawn purely from his own observation of the world. He also thrives on collaboration with a diverse range of artists:
David Sylvian – with whom he made the album Died in the Wool – is a frequent collaborator; as is Ryuichi Sakamoto whose latest collaboration with Dai is the new book “Music of the 20th century 1945 to present”. Dai is also known as an improviser; regularly collaborating with Jan Bang, Erik Honore, Sidsel Endresen, Arve Henriksen at Kristiansand’s Punkt Festival.
Dancer Choreographer Saburo Teshigawara is another creative partner, Dai having first scored his latest dance film then worked with him on the opera Solaris to great acclaim. The libretto was translated by another long-term collaborator, poet Harry Ross with whom Dai has written words and music simultaneously for almost every piece for voice, often in the same room or studio for the majority of his career.
So we can see that Dai not only thrives on collaboration and exploration of many different art forms but also strives for consistency by building frank and open creative relationships.
This is a thread that also is evident in his works for the concert hall. There are soloists (Viktoria Mullova, Pascal Gallois, Claire Chase) conductors (Jonathan Nott, Kazuki Yamada, Martyn Brabbins, Susanna Mälkki) and ensembles and orchestras (International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Nagoya Philharmoic Orchestra) who return frequently to collaborate with Dai, both in the creation of new work and the interpretation of older pieces. Indeed Nagoya recently appointed Dai to be the first ever composer in residence of a Japanese symphony orchestra.
In Japan, he also is known for a host of diverse activities – in Fukushima, he holds composition workshops for children as part LOUIS VUITTON for Friends of El Sistema Japan; he’s often featured on TV and Radio, not just as a commentator on his own work, but also as the protagonist in a documentary about what it is to be a composer in the 21st century.
And I suppose it this, the 21st century, and Dai’s embracing of it that makes him a composer for today. If music is about communicating, music in the 21st century sometimes struggles to be heard. Dai ensures it is heard as widely as possible: Minabel, the record label he established in 2013 has already released five albums, with distribution deals with SONY and Sakamoto’s label Commmons; he has his own online store for his scores, so that he can directly communicate with whoever wants to play his music; and finally his social media presence is maintained so that he’s always able to talk directly with interpreters and listeners of his music.
Contemporary classical music is growing, travelling to new and different places across different oceans. And here is Dai, the musical floor manager of this ship, helping us on this journey - always striving for a five star performance.
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