A lot of bloggers or writers will have a certain kind of music on in the background while they work to inspire them. I personally find piano the music the best kind of writing music, so I was interested to learn that Japanese pianist Ayako Fujiki will shortly be releasing her first album – ‘brightwater’ – in the UK. I caught up with Ayako to ask about her work and upcoming album, and recommend you check out her discography on her website.
First question, please introduce yourself!
I was born in Tokyo, and feel attached to a number of cities where I have visited to study such as Vienna and Paris. And I am currently based in Barcelona, the city of my beloved maestra Alicia de Larrocha.
Where did your love for music come from? Were your parents a big inﬂuence on you?
Yes, my parents are big music fans. My father plays the guitar and he is an amateur singer, my mother used to play the traditional Japanese instrument, Koto. And my sister plays the clarinet and violin. In my kindergarten we sang and played music a lot.
I think music is an essential part of a Japanese cultural and educational background. I used to study hard and successfully but there was always something I wanted to do and that was playing the piano. I feel restless if I do not practise enough… I cannot go away on vacation, for example, if I have no access to a decent piano.
Do you play any instruments other than the piano?
When I was a child, I belonged to Junior Orchestra and I played percussion section and after played a bit of violin. I have some other instruments in my collection.
How many hours per day do you have to spend practising the piano? Does it still feel like you have lots to learn?
An average of 5-7 hours but depending on forthcoming concerts, I may do more. Practising is both a mental and a physical need for me. I get destabilized if I do not practise – I need my concentration time – it is rather like meditating. It feels like a never-ending learning curve – I aim at keeping an excellent ‘pianistic’ level but it is an endless game. I can always improve and I challenge myself to innovate. Besides, there is the physical part. Practising keeps me ﬁt for the job. You need the energy to do a good job. This is a bit like being an athlete…
Living in Barcelona must be exciting. How do you bring together Japanese and Mediterranean cultures in your music?
In these days, Barcelona is a melting pot, with in excess of 20% of its population being from countries other than Spain and it is a good base in southern Europe. Also, Barcelona is home to the so called ‘Spanish classical’ music which is what brought me there. In Barcelona, there is a long-standing classical music tradition, an open society where I felt really welcome. As an interpreter, I feel pretty much ‘Classical or Spanish classical’ but as a composer, I cannot help being Japanese. I would say it is like a kind of mixture of everything throughout all my music experience from baroque to very modern music – each aspect leverage each other and I like it like that.
When did you decide to record your ﬁrst album, ‘brightwater’? Were there any challenges in composing and recording?
Composing is pretty demanding and challenging if I have several performances in my pipeline. But with ‘brightwater’ I took it seriously. I took my challenge after Alicia passed away and the recording of Goyescas by Enrique Granados was in memory of her – a very difﬁcult but beautiful suite… During the lessons with Alicia, she encouraged me to compose more. I had some material already but I had to put in a lot of thinking and ﬁnishing works and practising. This album was my creation and production and felt like a good achievement… Recording is an art in itself. No wonder why there are so many experts in so many different aspects of recording. But the big difference from interpreting albums is that I gave the direction to be played and created the disc. I have learnt a lot from a number of people during this process.
What themes and emotions do you most want to convey in your music?
I want to capture emotions and transport the people mind to somewhere nice… and to help picture music, not just listening.
Who are your greatest musical inﬂuences? Do you prefer interpreting other musicians’ work or creating your own?
I have a lots of favourite classical music composers… Chopin, Granados, Debussy, Mompou, Schumann, Schubert…etc. And Japanese composers, Toru Takemitsu, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Joe Hisaishi… etc. But also I like Antony and Johnsons (Anoni), I like to listen to a large variety of music. Pop, electronic music etc.
Do you have any plans to go on tour, or have you already done so?
London has some fantastic music venues, for example… Even though I lived here years ago, I am not familiar with the London / English scene – I would love to tour and largely that is why I am here now doing this presentation. I hope this helps me to have a chance to play here. This is the world’s music capital and this is where I want to succeed.