• Atsuhiro Koizumi Interview

    • 2013/09/04
    • Kyoko Iwaki

    Kyoko Iwaki
    Ground and Floor is your second collaboration with chelfitsch following Current Location (2012). In a previous interview, you have mentioned that the aim of the last production was to produce ‘a music similar in position to lightings and sets.’ However, this time you have aimed to develop ‘a music that is more closely situated to actors.’ Could you elaborate on how the creative process developed differently compared to the last production?

    Atsuhiro Koizumi
    The two are fundamentally different from the basic compositional structure. The biggest difference is that, this time I did not intend to develop a piece of music to suit the sceneries or the story. But rather, composed, so to speak, a custom-made music to fit the respective actors. Since I have known several actors of the chelfitsch for quite a long time, I have used that personal information and composed music that accord with the actors’ individual personalities, and not to the given characters. To give you an example, when composing the music, I considered things such as; this person is someone who is very attentive to others, this person is emotionally quite flat, this person is very fond of music, and so on.

    Iwaki
    When I attended the performance in Bruxelles, I realized that distinct musical motifs were provided to the respective actors. However, from time to time, those motifs were not simply accommodating the actors, but were crashing and combating with the actors’ corporeality. How intimate or distant did you want the relation of the actors and the music to be?

    Koizumi
    Yes, as you have remarked, I did not want the music to be simply accommodating the actors. The desired proximity between the music and the actors differed from one to another: they were developed on a case-by-case basis. For example, for the first music where Izumi Aoyagi appears on stage, I envisioned a music that falls on her [like rain]. And within that precipitation of music, I wanted Aoyagi-san to stand on stage like she doesn’t care what is going on around. For the next music, where Mari Ando comes on stage, I wanted to allocate an air-like sound that pit against her distinctive presence. And as the thickness of that air-like sound increases, conversely, I wanted Ando-san’s existence to gradually become transparent. That was the image I had in my mind. So, again, to answer you question, the aimed proximity between the music and the actors differs from one to another.

    Iwaki
    The impression I got from Yukiko Sasaki’s two scenes was that the music and the words were in a combat-like situation: they were fighting against each other. What kind of bonds were you attempting to built between the music and the actor specifically for her scenes?

    Koizumi
    When you think about building a rapport between the music and the body, the most common strategy taken is to develop the relation by tapping into the momentum of the groove. I wanted to refrain from taking this easy step, but rethought later on that maybe it might be okay to use the strategy for just one scene. So, for the first Sasaki-san’s scene, I applied this theory and aimed to connect the actor’s body with the rhythm and the groove of the music. To be more precise, I wanted Sasaki-san to burble on about nothing and everything at breakneck speed while the rhythm of the drums are stumbling, regressing and starting all over again. I thought that this would be an interesting relation to materialize. For the latter scene, I’ve developed the music through, well, a kind of an excessively cerebral theory. I have enweaved significantly intricate patterns of rhythms to the applied two drums, and when the listener focuses to a certain point in that pattern, different images of music emerge. To explain visually, for instance, when the focal point is situated at one place of the music the image could emerge as a picture of a dog, and when the locus is shifted to another point the image could be perceived as a landscape full of clouds. And additionally, from time to time, Sasaki-san’s acting conjoins with the loci of the musical pattern. To summarize, I wanted to create a piece of music somewhat like a trompe l’oeil picture: different sonic images are perceived depending on where the actor and the music connects.

    Iwaki
    What about the music for the male actors? What kind of music did you intend to create?

    Koizumi
    In terms of Taichi Yamagata’s scenes, since he is quite knowledgeable about music, I thought that it would be quite risky if I provide him with something rhythmical, or moreover, something that is simply music-ish. So specifically for Taichi-san, I intended to put pressure on his body by the wave of the music, rather than trying to develop a good relationship with the sound and the acting. Frankly, I still don’t know if this experiment has succeeded. But in his scene, I am striving to reach a point where the sound and the body are trying to go half step further than an ordinary relation. As for Makoto Yazawa’s scene, to be honest, the music wasn’t decided until the very last minute. It was even totally replaced after the company started the last-minute rehearsals in Bruxelles. Anyway, for his scene, firstly, an air-like sound is mechanically inserted for certain amount of time, then, a moment of silence follows, and then again the subtle sound of air comes in, and so on. I kind of thought that it might be a bit sensual..., when Yazawa-san’s calm voice is placed alongside the airy sound. That is the sort of image I envisioned.

    Iwaki
    White noise in enormous volume is inserted at one moment of the play, which inevitably reminds the audience of a sound of a tsunami. Taking in consideration of the current post-catastrophe situation [The Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011] in Japan, did you discuss with the director Toshiki Okada that a sound representing certain imagery may be necessary?

    Koizumi
    No concrete orders of that sort were given by Okada-san. Furthermore, during the creative process, we never discussed to share the images that we both had towards the music. Of course, after the first draft of the music was composed, he gave me opinions by saying ‘this is okay’ or ‘this is wrong.’ But we never talked before the creative process. Maybe it’s because we are in the same generation. Maybe even without having a conversation we share a lot of similar aesthetic taste in the first place. Having said that, however, we did have things to talk together about the disaster. After the disaster, Okada-san has left Tokyo and, conversely, I am still residing and working in the city. Taking in consideration of this very different circumstance, we discussed about how we each think about the matter at the moment. Yet, I have to admit that I personally have no intention to directly express the effects of the disaster through my music. Surely, there should be some indirect influences that are unconsciously infiltrated into my composition, but I would not consciously create music that responds to the disaster...I mean, does that mean anything? I truly cannot think that it will be meaningful in any way.

    Iwaki
    Generally, in a theatre performance, the visual framework is already fixated. That is, for instance, the proscenium arch and the stage sets are already provided before; on top of that, the music is added. Where your imagination restricted by this fixation in any way?

    Koizumi
    I think your question has brought up the issue for the first time in me. What came up to my mind after listening to your question is that, actually, theatre might possess more freedom than music. That is because, for instance, when playing in a band, each member stays in the same place for the whole time, right? I mean they are playing their instruments without moving. However, in a theatre performance, the actors move around and exit from stage. As you have stated, yes, the picture of the stage set is fixed, but actors’ pictorial formation constantly shift within that frame. When I compose music, I tend to consider the pictorial formation of the band members like a graphic notation, and try to express that graphic image through the music. So when the graphical formation changes from one scene to the next, it feeds in good stimulation to my creativity.

    Iwaki
    In an open rehearsal in April, in Kanagawa, you were playing the music live on stage, but in Bruxelles you have decided to use a recorded sound instead. There may have been some opinions suggesting that ‘it was better if the music was played live every performance.’ What is your response to these opinions and why did you decide to go with the recorded material?

    Koizumi
    The crux of the argument regarding this matter is that, it depends on which parts you take and which parts you discard. As you have mentioned, the live music performance of the open rehearsal had really good reactions from the audience, and some openly said to me that they are ‘disappointed that music will be not played live in the actual performance.’ Yet, actually, those people are deceived to a certain extent by the live-ness of the music, because in live performances we are doing really pointless things also. But since it is played live, due to, for example, the presence of the music and the real-time relationship developed with actors, it kind of sounds nicer than usual. However, the drawback of a live performance is that it is impossible to present the sonic quality that I have managed to achieve in Bruxelles. The volume, the timing, and the sonic quality cannot be refined to that level. So, it is a matter of which of the advantages you prefer to take and discard. And specifically with this performance, I thought that the recorded music would achieve a much bigger impact. If, in the future, I were asked to compose music to an improvised play in which all of the actors speak different lines everyday, I think that the music should also be played in real-time. However this time, the script is fixed. Then, I simply think that it is also better for the music to be fixed.

    Kyoko Iwaki

    Kyoko Iwaki is a theatre journalist and researcher based in Tokyo and London. For over a decade, she has constantly contributed to major newspapers and journals. In 2011, her bilingual book Tokyo Theatre Today: Conversations with Eight Emerging Theatre Artists (Hublet Publishing, London / Tokyo) was published. In 2013, a biography Ushio Amagatsu:Des rivages d’enfance au bûto de Sankai juku was issued in France (Actes Sud, Paris). She currently works also as a freelance artistic advisor with organization such as Festival/Tokyo.

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