Takashi Yoshimatsu, one of the most prolific and popular of contemporary Japanese composers, talks about his "children"-musical compositions, about searching for individual way and why Professors of compositions would advice their students not to become composers.

What does music mean to you personally?

It is a “language” different from words, a “numerical formula” different from mathematics. And my works are what I gave birth to, meaning they are my “children.”

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

It is a kind of fantasy that sometimes seems more real than reality.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Originally I thought I would be a scholar or a doctor (or perhaps a writer or a manga(cartoon) artist). Becoming a musician was something completely unexpected.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

In the 1960s, when I got into the music field, I didn’t imagine that classical music and orchestras would survive into the 21st century. So even though I’m not really optimistic, I can’t say I’m pessimistic either. I feel like the same is true for both music and people.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favorite piece (written by you)? How did you start working on it?

The fact that music can be described in a “score,” making it possible to manage all formats from solos to huge ensembles performed on instruments from all times and places, and to program (and reproduce) “works”—I was interested in this and made “composition” my life’s work.

As a result, I’ve been able to make music with various musicians, orchestras and ensembles (from Western instruments to Japanese instruments and even jazz and rock). To me, the works born from these experiences are new personalities (children) combining the DNA of myself and the musicians. I think the same is true in the case of film and writing and painting as well.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

This is quite paradoxical, but I’d probably tell young people, “Don’t get absorbed in classical music.” The reason is that, like me, they’ll put everything they have into it and spend their whole lives on it. I heard that the first thing my teacher would tell students in his classes in the university composition department was, “Don’t think about becoming a composer.”

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it? Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

When I first aspired to be a composer, I never imagined a future other than one in which my works would never be performed or earn a single yen or have an audience, and I would die poor. A mother has children without thinking, “How much will this child cost?” or “How much can I earn by having this child?” It was like that. In the end (and very fortunately), I’ve been able to making a fair living without dying poor, but I didn’t go into music with a vision or plan for survival. That is why I have no answer in this regard.


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