Placeholder Picture

Heike and Florian, let’s start by discussing your duo, tauchgold. What kind of projects have you worked on together interfacing radio and stage? As a radio broadcaster myself, I love hearing about different ways radio can permeate into other forms of performance and the arts.

H and F: When we started working together, we both brought different artistic and personal experiences to the table that complemented each other nicely. Whilst Heike as a director for radio drama had very successfully established the so-called "Hörtheater" in Berlin, an "audio theatre" where people would get together in nice, big locations to jointly listen to the latest radio drama productions of Deutschlandradio (German National Radio), Florian as a writer and performer had worked with music and poetry on stage as well as for different audio formats. Whilst Heike came from East Germany with a deep desire to make the most of the open society she now had the opportunity to live in, Florian, being born and raised in West Germany, had traveled India extensively searching for philosophical answers he felt western societies couldn’t provide. Somehow, we immediately clicked and started experimenting together, writing and producing radio dramas for different German-speaking broadcasters and combining the first broadcast of every new production with some live event. Over the years, we moved more and more towards formats where language and music are on equal terms. We got invited to conceive and direct "Mensch, Musik!", an interdisciplinary project with RSB - Berlin’s Radio Symphony Orchestra - where we have the extraordinary opportunity to explore the future of symphonic music with a full size orchestra of 120 musicians, combining the latter with electronic music, dance, poetry and philosophy.

I saw you have noted that specially composed music always plays a central role in your productions. Heike and Florian, how did you come to collaborate with Dai Fujikura? And Dai, what was your draw to the project?

H and F: When we started working on Borrowed Landscape we got acquainted with Masato Nakamura, a Berlin-based Japanese journalist who had just published a book on Akiko Kawamoto, the young female pianist who died in the Hiroshima blast whereas her piano survived. That was one of the stories we already had decided to include in our new play. At the same time, we were still looking for a composer to collaborate with for our play. Masato introduced us to Dai Fujikura who had written a piano concerto using the piano of Akiko. To our delight, Dai instantly agreed to work with us. The collaboration became an absolutely inspiring and delightful experience. Not only is Dai a fantastic composer whose work we cherish, he is also a great communicator, full of poetic ideas and really fun to be with as a person!

D: It was hilarious actually. Tauchgold had apparently been emailing my agent, but I didn't know because I was not CC-ed at this point. They were emailing my agent, saying that somehow they heard my Akiko's Piano and its story. They'd love to use the cadenza part of the piece. The cadenza was written specifically for the piano that belonged to Akiko, and it is a standalone solo piano piece, now called Akiko's Diary. My agent forwarded the email to me to ask if I was okay with them incorporating my piece into their play. When he forwarded me the email, I saw all of the past correspondence between him and tauchgold, and I saw that they were trying to find another composer who could compose music in “the style of Fujikura” (I didn’t know I had a style!) as they imagined I might be too busy (clearly, we didn’t know each other then!). So I directly wrote to tauchgold, additionally saying they could use Akiko’s Diary in their radio play, and asked them: “can that composer who would write music like me, be… me? Can I be the composer who writes like Fujikura?" They were delighted, and we became collaborators and good friends. Don't we all have a moment that "unnecessary" messages were accidentally attached to the forwarded email? This time, the accident was a good accident.

Can you tell us about the storyline of “Borrowed Landscape”? What did the origins and development of this narrative look like?

H and F: Many of our close friends are classical musicians. Over time we learned how each of them had a family background that somehow reflects the upheavals and tragedies of the 20th century - with people somehow being forced to flee one country to settle in another until, in quite some cases, they had to leave again, move somewhere else and start all over again. We comprised all these stories in a narratorio called "The Glassing Sea", taking a quote from philosopher Walter Benjamin as a starting point: "It is more difficult to honour the memory of the anonymous than that of the renowned. Historical construction is devoted to the memory of the anonymous." For Borrowed Landscape we took another approach, focusing more on the instruments. Other than today’s technological devices, musical instruments are made to last for a long time, not for years but rather for decades or even for centuries. They outlast not only one musician but generations of musicians. At the same time musicians form very intimate relationships with their instruments, often searching for years until they find the right match. That got us interested. We started collecting stories of many different instruments, most of them strings, since they last the longest - violins, cellos, violas - talking to musicians, collectors, violin makers etc.. The outcome was a plethora of highly interesting information. Finally, the greatest difficulty was to make a good choice about what to make of all that!

Some of the themes in this play include embodiment of memory in objects, as well as humanlike capabilities of instruments having personalities, or “remembering” who has played them - can you talk a bit more about these themes?

H and F: First of all, musical instruments do have very distinctive personalities. That’s not an idea but a fact. Ask any violinist - they will tell you how their violin can be moody, stubborn or generous at times! We just took that a little further, asking ourselves how the memory of generations of artists might be stored in them and how they might try to communicate their centuries-old experience. A Stradivarius, for example, built in the 17th century, has seen so much more than each one of us. Thus the question: What if rather than the musician choosing the appropriate instrument, the instrument chooses the appropriate player? That thought again brought us to the idea of "borrowed landscape" which is a Japanese gardening concept: the garden "borrows" the wider landscape in its background thus extending itself into the world and the universe. Likewise, the violin extends its player into eternity, metaphorically speaking. I somehow always think of such memories and emotions towards objects, hence this idea was extremely natural to me.

Dai, as the composer for the project, how did you think about sonically embodying these themes? What was your compositional process, and how does the musical form connect with the story?

D: The themes explore one of the most interesting and important aspects of music: you share the music you perform and create with the audience of that day, but often, you do so using these historic instruments which many people have played before. Imagine what kind of memories these instruments have? What kind of emotions were entered into these instruments by the musicians who touched or played them? I tried to imagine the memories these instruments held, the things they had experienced, and the stories their characters portray; from there, I just tried to let the music flow through them.

Originally broadcast as a radio play in 2022, this upcoming live premiere is conceived as a “narratorio”, or a dramatic play based on the musical structure of an oratorio. What made you choose this model, and how does it compare to the radio play version?

H and F: “Narratorio” is a term we as tauchgold came up with some time ago to define our approach to an audio work that gives, on the one hand, the same importance to word and music and, on the other hand, keeps the listening part central when moving our work from the ether to the stage. The term narratorio is derived from oratorio. While the latter involves a concert performance of sacred themes, the narratorio is devoted to secular philosophical issues. Music and spoken (not sung) language interact on an equal footing. They complement and enhance each other and put each other into perspective. For the performance at The Noguchi Museum, however, there is another extremely exciting aspect: the impressive, wonderful sculptures and their very special curation in this very special place. All this will be reflected in our production in one way or another. An interdisciplinary play between the different arts: music, poetry, sculpture, acting.

Between the story and the sound, what is the relationship between these elements and the audience?

D: While working on the radio play, I told tauchgold to feel free to have narrations on top of my music - whatever they wanted to do to make the radio play artistically successful. However, they had incredible respect for the music, and they chose not to have too much dialogue going on above it. It was truly a great collaboration; as you can imagine, the composer is often guarding their own compositions and scriptwriters sometimes treat the music as background. This was not the case at all!

(The interview was uploaded with kind permission from BlackBox Ensemble)