for koto









Even though I was born in Japan and lived there until I was 15 years old, I grew up completely unaware of Japanese musical instruments. So, when LEO approached me about writing a new work for him, I decided I needed to study the instrument, koto, from scratch.

When I compose, I always think about how to create a new sound, but before writing for a Japanese instrument, how can this traditional Japanese instrument shine as an instrument?

I have written several works using koto, but this is my first solo work for koto. I wanted to figure out how not to spoil the beauty of koto sound. So this time, I had a long chat with LEO. I would write a little score and send it to him, and he would take a selfie video and send it back to me.

More than half of those sketches I wrote didn't sound great; hence I threw them away. However, gradually I started to find fragments from the sketches I sent to him in the videos of him playing. In going back and forth many times a day, there were moments such as, "This is it! What do you think of it LEO?" "Wow, It sounds so beautiful!" Those moments of encouragement led me to carry on composing this work.

Ryu has many traditional koto playing techniques, but not in the traditional style. It also has a very experimental section. Hence, I think this piece has both totally not traditional and also traditional koto sounds. I consulted with LEO about all the physical virtuosity and the new and unusual combinations of the traditional playing technique in a very fast tempo to see the most effective way to perform it.

Our solution has a groove, yet there's a part that feels like it's floating. In these feelings of physicality and rhythmic groove that open up space for a beautiful floating feeling, I found my own practice with this beautiful instrument. This space between resonates with what traditionally koto playing is all about.

Dai Fujikura (edited by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti)