When you follow the feeling only you know through and through, you'll find a narrow road that leads to universality.
Masakatsu Takagi is a musician and video creator. He has been a pioneering artist that represents new generations. Takagi Masakatsu's album "Private/Public," which was recorded at a concert in Tokyo after an interval of three years, will be released on May 3, 2007. Takagi mixed sound from the elegant and powerful show that was performed by ten musicians. We asked Takagi about this precious work, which is very different from a live album, and also about himself.
First of all, I would like to hear your thoughts about the album title "Private/Public." I think a lot of writers work by trial and error, not showing the private aspects in their writing, but keeping its originality in their pieces. I have sympathy for this notion and express it straightforwardly in the title.
Did such a theme exist in your earlier work or is this something new?
Like many writers, I had a desire to produce something universal. Over seven years, I have been living while creating my work. After that much time there was a moment when I felt that I got close to that "universal thing." This is the moment "God fell into you." I can make a piece or play music as if I'm moved by a power that I can't control. It's like you made something well without noticing it.
I had been more interested in those moments than the work itself. Generally, people think creating work equals self-expression, but that has nothing to do with my intention if I created a piece that was nice. I felt more like something made me create it more than creating it myself...I have been thinking a long time about this feeling.
When I create something where I want everyone to understand or share it only shows my artificial self; and worthlessness is born. On the contrary, when I drop myself and move my consciousness and physical body freely it generates a feeling others and I can understand.
For me, "Private" is a personal sense or a personal history and "Public" is a universal thing. You can't touch a universal thing in front of you with any effort; however, when you follow the feeling, When you follow the feeling only you know through and through, you'll find a narrow road which leads to universality.
I think creators who carry out great activities have done such a thing naturally; and after aging, I have finally begun to think that I need to face what I believe in seriously. It's better to not hang around.
You've released the live album. Were you originally planning on releasing the sound source or did you decide to do it after being inspired at the live performance?
I intended to release it if it went well. I was also thinking to release a video for DVD but decided to concentrate on sound this time. It was hard just mixing for the CD... It felt like making a whole new original CD than making a live CD. It closed a chapter in my activities until now by releasing this tenth album.
What is the difference between playing instruments performed by more than one person and performed by just one of you?
There wasn't much difference between playing after a rehearsal and performing in front of an audience. I think this is because the musicians understood my music well. It was during the preparations when it was different. To explain the necessary elements by writing a music score or to use words to tell the image was harder work than I expected. Preparation took half a year, but I think towards the middle about ten musicians really got the contents properly.
Your live show is considered to be the style of performing that appeals to people who are into computer music. What do you think?
I think that it's the same to use either a computer or instruments. It becomes hard when we needed to think about the sound systems and space. I feel I need to have professional knowledge regarding sound systems because I use speakers to project the sounds that change how people feel and how it sounds in space. Many have done it already and I want to try to use it for more general expression.
Is there any improvised elements by individual musicians for this live performance?
I made four stringed instrument performers play roughly in what was in the score just because it is so easy to break up the stringed instruments. However, I let others play as they liked with minimum melody, lyrics, and chord progressions. Because there is simple structured music, I think that they have done it freely...comparatively. However, even if we set rules to play, all the elements can be "ad-libbed" when we actually play - same notes can sound different. It is hard because it's not always related to the note or the difference in playing it well or not. It was alright to perform freely, but I made sure to be conscious of the image of my work being represented. I didn't think it would be a big problem if the performance aroused the image.
Do you have any stories about musicians and performers in this project? Or, is there any stories about the music?
This was my first time to play with musicians who play classical stringed instruments. I was so surprised that they play exactly what was in the score perfectly by just looking at it! This might be a strange impression, but I thought "they are professional!" They would put it together immediately even when I explained any changes. On the contrary, it took more time to put our senses together with artists who perform their own music because they would play it in their way even if I explained how I wanted it done.
Please tell us about any roots particular to you or transparent feelings and colors that are not only in your music but in your video as well.
I don't think it comes from anywhere special...but I liked to go behind this hill with my friends in my youth, so I think I would get ideas from a place like that. Even now I find some commonalities with my pieces in there.
Which comes first when creating your work, video or sound? In addition, please talk about you and your relation to music and video.
I make them separately so I can't specify which comes first. When I make a video I finish it first, then put music to it. I can't really tell if there is music playing in my head while I'm making it. When I'm making music, I don't think about the video, but I still have certain images and feelings like a feeling of air. I usually make music depending on the image, so the image might come first. To be honest, I don't think my music needs video and my video doesn't really need music, but sometimes music brings strength to a video so I try to put music in as much as possible. It is difficult because when I put music that is not related to the video it will sometimes make it a stronger piece.
In all your activity is there anything that affected you? Like a creator, a piece of artwork, an object, or a place?
My inspiration to start making videos was Pipilotti Rista, a swiss video creator. I'd only know some videos from Commercials in movies or TV or Music Videos. I felt that I could create a video freely in an art world through her work. I often go to foreign countries for my shoots, and the stimulation I get from these places influences my work the most.
What is your plan? Do you have any ongoing projects?
I joined in on UA's new album playing the piano and was also in charge of a piece of music for a movie called "Sonotokiwakareniyoroshiku." Right now, I'm finishing up this new video. Last year, I was up to my ears in preparation for the live show, so I would like to go on a leisurely shooting trip and make a new piece this year.
Lastly, do you have any comments for listeners and readers?
Thank you always. In my favorite words, there is "random intention" and I would like to understand the world as being in that state. Recently, my main computer broke and I have been depressed, just as if I lost a partner...I have trouble concentrating. That computer was very close to me...more than I ever expected. Back-up yours ASAP.
Masakatsu Takagi "Private/Public"
Recorded at LaForet Harajuku Museum in October 27th - 29th, 2006
Release Date: May 3rd, 2007
Recorded Tracks: Total 16 (73min)
Price: 2,625 yen (including tax)
Produced by: Epiphany Works + BOOK
Released by: Blues Interactions, Inc.
Masakatsu Takagi (piano, video, others), Haruka Taguchi (vocal), Miho Ota (vocal), UA (vocal) Jadranka (vocal, saz), OLAibi (a percussion), Ren Takada (pedal steel, guitar), Ise Mikiko (the first violin), Miho Shimokawa (the second violin), Shoko Miki (viola), Kana Moriya (cello), Nobuyuki Nakajima (strings, arrangement)