In 2002-2004 Dai was a participant in the London Sinfonietta's innovative Blue Touch Paper project, an 18-month creative process with members of the ensemble and mentor Peter Eotvos that resulted in the work
Dai Fujikura interview: part 2
How do you feel your BTP project is going?
Fine, but it is an unusual way to compose for me. I would normally spend four to eight weeks writing only one work at a time, finish it, then move on to the next piece. For this piece, I started in January 2003, then stopped on 13 February (to start a piano/video piece for Sarah Nicolls, and also to write several other pieces). I came back to this BTP piece in August for 3 weeks and then I switched to writing another 2 pieces. I re-started in October for the last time, and I am now trying to finish the prototype for the workshop in December.
I have thrown away so many bits and sections every time I came back to this piece... which is very unusual for me. I am curious about what the outcome will be. If I like this piece a little more than I usually do with my own music, then I will try this way for future pieces.
Do you think the longer time scale is giving you more time to reflect on your material, and therefore be a bit more choosy about what stays in, what goes? I know you compose very quickly, usually – but perhaps in this case you are enjoying being an editor, too?
Maybe. I think and I hope that I am growing and improving with every piece I write. I was writing other pieces while I was halfway through this BTP piece, so when I came back to it after whatever piece I had to finish, I hope I am a tiny bit better composer than the last time I left the BTP piece. So I become more choosy... well, I would like to think so.
When we spoke last year, the primary focus of your project was exploring spatial effects. How would you say your aims have shifted, or focussed in, over the past 12 months?
It is still the same. This was something I always wanted to do. My first attempt was an orchestral piece called Calling Timbuktu. After I had the performance of this piece by the Tokyo Philharmonic last May, I learned a lot out of it, and it sounded cool! So I will do more in the future.
What will the spatial elements be in the new piece? I remember you talked about having soloists on stage, perhaps with other instruments around the hall.
Cello, trumpet and conductor will be on stage and the rest of the eight players will be around the hall. The conductor will be facing the audience.
Another focus was the presentation of the music – particularly lighting – all aimed to enhance the audience's experience, to put them inside the music. Is that still a key idea for you, and if so, how are those thoughts taking shape?
Well it is still a key idea. Although I must say it is not the most important thing. I want to make this lighting business an option, although when I am composing, I imagine it with those lightings.
What kinds of material have you already created?
The piece is sort of finishing... although I have been having a kind of new idea since a few days ago, which is alien to the previous section. (This happens to me a lot when I compose music.) So I expect a major 'editing' period after I put the double bar line in the end. 'Editing' in the sense of editing a film. Like the film Jaws, where you see just a small part of the shark, only bit by bit. That's how I'll be trying to introduce this 'new' material in the early section of the piece.
Have you had any workshops yet? What have you taken away from them, and what will you do differently next time round? What sort of advice or ideas have the players given you?
Not yet, in December.
How has talking to Peter Eötvös shaped your ideas about making this new piece? I know one of your concerns last time was how to coordinate the ensemble in near darkness, and perhaps without a conductor... What kind of things have you discussed, and how have his responses impacted on your work?
Without conductor? Did I say that? Well that's impossible now! The piece has becoming quite complicated (performance wise). I am trying to write it as simply as possible (less beams, shorter bars etc.) – but these are the sort of things I am looking forward to finding out in the workshop. Peter is very helpful. Especially with those more practical matters, since he conducts himself.
You are one of the BTP composers with a date in the diary for a premiere performance (14 February 2003). What can you tell us about the piece? How is it shaping up?
Yes, on Valentine's day! If I had known that when I started composing, I would have composed with much more sweetness and romantic phrases! (Probably not...) Although I am looking forward to writing a programme note for this!
The piece is coming on. It is almost done. I am in the last section, and I know how it is going to end. Just how I am going to get there is the question, but I am working on it every morning.
Is the piece going to be called Fifth Station? What is the significance of the title?
Come and ask me after the concert!
What have been the main challenges and benefits to you, thus far, from your BTP project?
I think I will know that after my December workshop. So far, to meet Peter Eötvös was a great opportunity to me. He has been a great mentor for the piece and also for my career. He is trying to get projects/commissions from Europe for me, which I am very grateful for.
From experience, I know you are inspired by a wide range of things in your composing, such as film, other kinds of music, theatre etc. What's fired up your imagination lately? Is it playing into BTP at all, or other pieces you are thinking about?
Hmm, for me it is impossible to compose without having visual imaginations. So the BTP piece also has strong images for me. I can almost direct a film based on it!
What kind of movie would it be, I wonder? A thriller? Film noir? Maybe a rom-com?(!)
Rom-com!? Hahaha. Especially for Valentine's day, maybe, with Meg Ryan (before she did In the cut, that is) in it! No, no, I don't think so. It would be an abstract film. More of a video-art work, I think – although, before I die, I would love to direct (and also to compose the soundtrack, of course!) a feature film.
What are you working on next?
My next project is to compose an orchestral piece commissioned by Lucerne Music Festival. It will be premiered in the same festival in 2005, directed by Pierre Boulez. I would like to take this 'spatial' matter further. I am dividing the orchestra into three sections and a group which includes instruments that must be played sitting down (such as tuba, cello, double bass, etc.). They are on-stage, the rest will be on balconies, offstage… all over the auditorium.
I have already spoken about my plan with Mr. Boulez (he told me that I must check the fire regulations!) and I will have a sort of trial session with a full orchestra in 2004 to see if it works or not.
Interview with Dai Fujikura conducted via e-mail in October/November 2003 by Nicholas Reyland