One year after Ymene, Japanese Hyogo-based pianist and filmmaker Takagi Masakatsu released a new album in 2018. Marginalia is out now via Milan Records and includes 13 intimate piano compositions. As the press release reports, The tracks stand as beautiful reflections on man’s relationship with the environment. We have a talk with artist about his latest releases, the relationship with his country and his instrument. Check it below.
Let’s start from your latest album “Marginalia”. What about it and the creative process?
When I traveled in Solomon islands 2 years ago, I stayed at a small cottage in a very tiny island where no other houses. I can hear only the sound from the nature, beautiful ocean. No human sounds at all. At night, under the thousands stars, I slept with the sound of gentle tide. However some heavy bass rhythmic beat sound coming into my head! Don don don don! I waked up and went outside to see what happened. Over 15 miles across the ocean, I could see very small light at town side on main island, they might have a dancing party. I got shocked how the human sound was behaving in such a quiet night, and feel sorry to so many beautiful creatures in the ocean. Somehow I started to think, I might want to do something I can collaborate with nature.
After coming back to my home in Japan, I started the project “Marginalia” which I kept recording my Piano playing and surrounded nature as like a private diary. I’m living in a small village in mountains far from the cities, so once opening all the windows of my studio, it’s like playing the piano in mountains. I carefully listen to the sound from the nature and become to know which note, rhythm or tempo I should play. I feel the nature also listing to my piano. For recording the relationship between me and the nature, I record my piano and the surrounded nature at the same time. It’s really fun.
You also scored the animated film Mirai. How change your works when your music has to be connected to a movie? How much important is the visual part related to your way to think music (considering you are also a filmmaker)?
Actually my career started as a video creator by myself. I created many video works and showed them in galleries or museums. Sometimes collaborated with musicians, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Cornelius and David Sylvian, making music video or projecting for their concerts.
For my own video work, I composed music by myself.
Nowadays directors of TV commercial or filmmakers like Mamoru Hosoda who directed ‘Mirai’ became to ask me to make music for their visuals, but this exact same things, making music for visuals, I’d kept doing alone by myself for 20 years. So for me It’s always natural to make music related to visuals.
You relocated to a small village in Hyogo to learn how to live a more traditional Japanese life, and created these new works in a private studio surrounded by the mountains and the sounds of adjacent nature from the studio’s open windows. Tell us more about it and you relationship with nature and how it affects your music.
Now it took almost 2 years doing project ‘Marginalia’. Sometimes it’s really amazing to collaborate with the nature, non-human livings. Like birds or insects, they are singing because they want to approach females to having a relationship and have new babies together. When we hear many beautiful singing from the nature, that means we are in the middle of love. So I should carefully enough to listen to their sound, and play the piano with their sensitiveness. If I play the piano as I like without care for them, they will stop singing. When I can play with their mood, their feeling, their tempo, they will sing more and more. I feel really happy when I can be in the nice space-time we create together. I think I’m learning many things from this collaboration with the nature.
Considering your relationship with the instrument and your music, what is your way to give new shape to the sound and what is your idea of experimentation in art?
My beloved instrument is piano. From my childhood, when I hear the new sound, some interesting sound from nature or the other instrument or whatever, I always think how I can play that sound with my piano. Piano has somehow very strict aspect, for example, we can’t play intermediate note between a key and a key. However sometimes we find a new way to show up new feeling, new sound from this old piano. I like that limitation, and discovery. It’s like a pencil, somehow very primitive.
I hope I try to play something like nursery sound which cure the basic balance inside or outside of us. Nowadays we tend to stay inside closed room and connect to outside-world through the display of computers. I hope I could go out of only human world, and learn more things from the nature. How all the livings are reacting each other, how they are making this beautiful world.
You are from Japan. I have interest to know more about the relationship between artists and their places and how they affected their art. What about your connection with your birthplace, music and local scene?
My grand father is a buddhist-monk, living at a temple. At the time of ceremony, many monks gathering and chanting together. That sounds like insects in summer time here in Japan. When you go to see traditional Noh at theatre, you can listen to their playing taiko drumming or interesting simple singing. They are playing sounds like insects or birds in the nature. They playing sound one by one individually without synchronizing. But not random or chaotic at all. They sound perfect in harmony. This way to create sounding is not like bar-counting on score or synchronizing with BPM tempo. It’s like imitation of the nature or more like conversation with the nature.
Ryuichi Sakamoto recently released his album called ‘Async’, that title well represents what Japanese have tried or have feel of joy. Myriad independent livings but in the harmony.
Are you planning live dates? What kind of places do you like more for your live gigs and what do you like most of the live part compared to studio recordings?
I want to go any places if there is a piano. Somehow I have longing to play at hotel’s lobby or restaurant where people don’t care about music so much. Then I can try to make atmosphere together with their feeling. Actually I love to play at the concert hall. It’s like meditation time or mind massage time deep into sounds together with audiences.
What are the best releases you recently appreciated?
Usually I listen often to old recordings from all over the world especially nature side, small villages, traditional.
For recent releases (might not so new though), Japanse traditional folk music recording – ‘Awa no Yugyo by V.A.’, strange computer sounding like small creatures – ’Sonne=Black Box’ by Ursula Bogner, beautiful harmony like Toru Takemitsu – ‘A Fantastic Woman -OST’ by Matthew Herbert.