DAI FUJIKURA – Biography

Dai Fujikura was born in 1977 in Osaka, Japan. He was fifteen when he moved to UK to complete his secondary education. His studies continued in college, where, during his sophomore year, he won the Serocki International Composers Competition. Since then, he has been awarded many other important prices including the Royal Philharmonic Society Award, Otaka Prize, Akutagawa Composition Award, WIRED Audi Innovation Award, the Paul Hindemith Prize, and The Silver Lion Award from Venice Biennale 2017. His works include operas, orchestral pieces, ensemble works, chamber music, and film scores.

Having received numerous international co-commissions, Dai Fujikura’s music has been performed in Europe, Asia, and North and South America. He recently held the composer-in-residence position at Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. He has received two BBC Proms commissions, his “Double Bass Concerto” was premiered by the London Sinfonietta, and in 2013 the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave the UK premiere of his "Atom". Suntory Hall hosted a portrait concert of his orchestral music in 2012. Fujikura’s "Tocar y Luchar" was premiered under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in Venezuela in 2011.

Fujikura has also received performances and commissions from Bamberg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, among many others. He has collaborated with Ensemble Modern, Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Oslo Sinfonietta, Asko Ensemble, Klangforum Wien, and Bit20 Ensemble. Ultraschall Berlin, Lucerne Festival, Salzburg Festival, Punkt Festival, Spoleto Festival, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and Tanglewood Festival have all programmed his music, and his works have been conducted by many conductors including Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös, Jonathan Nott, Kazuki Yamada, Martyn Brabbins, Peter Rundel, and Alexander Liebreich.

Dai Fujikura’s first opera Solaris, a co-commission by Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opéra de Lille, Opéra de Lausanne, Ircam-Centre Pompidou, and Ensemble Intercontemporain, had its world premiere in Paris 2015. The multimedia production which included dance, electronics, and 3D film was directed by Saburo Teshigawara who also wrote the libretto. The opera is based Stanisław Lem’s famous science fiction novel of the same name. Theatre Augusburg will present a new production of Solaris for the German premiere in May 2018.

Fujikura’s debut solo album, Secret Forest was produced by NMC Recordings in 2012. Since then, he’s had numerous albums produced including Mirrors which features four of his orchestral works, Ice, on the Kairos label, and most recently, my letter to the world, named for his song cycle, which he produced on his own label, Minabel in collaboration with SONY Japan. For a complete list of his recordings, visit http://www.daifujikura.com/un/discography.html.

Fujikura also has strong connections to the experimental pop/jazz/improvisation world. His co-composition with Ryuichi Sakamoto, peripheral movement for electronics, premiered in Hakuju Hall in Japan in 2013, and his collaborative works with David Sylvian were recorded for Sylvian's album Died in the Wool. Jan Bang released an album on Jazzland records, which featured Fujikura’s collaborations with Jan Bang and Sidsel Endresen.

Recently, Dai has been named the artistic director of the Born Creative Festival in Tokyo Metropolitan Theater for 2017. He will take the positions of composer-in-residence at the Orchestre national d'Île-de-France, and artist-in-residence at The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo beginning in 2017. He is currently​ preparing for his second opera, The Gold-Bug, which will premiere in March 2018 in Basel. His orchestra work, Glorious Clouds which was co-commissioned by Nagoya Philharmonic, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, and Orchestre national d'Île-de-France, will be premiered in Japan in 2017, followed performances France and Germany.

Dai Fujikura is published by Ricordi Berlin.


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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.

Harry Ross

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