Arts & Culture

Concert showcases electronic forms of musical expression

Akiko Hatakeyama’s compositions convey past reflections and momentary inspirations of thought

Contributing Writer
Friday, March 15, 2013

Over the last 10 years, the world has rapidly digitized, making the incorporation of multimedia natural everywhere ­— from classrooms equipped with iPads to children playing tennis on Nintendo Wii. Akiko Hatakeyama, a Ph.D. in the Multimedia Electronics Music Experiments program who performed four pieces at a concert March 7, shows that this can be the case in music as well.

Hatakeyama held a concert, “BLIND: The world where I can’t be but you live in,” at the Grant Recital Hall March 7, where she performed four of her pieces, Kemuri, Aida, Michi ni Niji and Higure.

A native of Yokohama, Japan, she said she names her pieces after Japanese words and intentionally does not provide translations, “because the translations sometimes don’t carry the whole meaning of the word,” she said. “I also don’t want my audience to have preconceptions before actually experiencing my work,” she added.

Though she aims to communicate her thoughts and get her ideas out when creating music, she said she is a minimalist when it comes to providing background information about her work. She said she focuses on what she is both “aware of” and “subconsciously aware of,” rather than on conveying a specific message. While she often reflects on her childhood and family when working, she said even her own interpretations of her music change each time she listens to it.

“I feel happiest when someone tells me that my work has made him remember something from (his) past, and that has actually happened in last time’s concert,” Hatakeyama said. “After the concert, someone actually told me he almost cried.”

Hatakeyama said she is not influenced by the work of particular musicians or visual artists — “whenever I’m stuck, I like to read novels,” she said.

“My main inspiration in creating a piece comes from what I feel and want to express at the moment of composing,” she added.

Using electronic devices for recording and processing audio and images “allows (her) to freely explore with (her) expressive outcomes,” she said.

Jim Moses, technical director and lecturer of the University’s music department and MEME program said he considers Hatakeyama a “fabulous” and “terrific” artist. But Moses said it is the combination of her strong voice and her “technical competency” that sets her apart.

“She has a strong original voice and style and clear point of view, and strong sense of her own aesthetics,” Moses said. “You can tell that she has a lot to say about many things.”

“People have different interests and styles in various disciplines, and there are a number of ways to combine the disciplines,” Hatakeyama said. “Some people are more interested in developing new technologies for making art, and others are interested in using the new technologies to express themselves.”

“The elements of newness and oldness can and often coexist in multimedia art,” she added.

Pointing to her own work, “Higure,” as an example of this integration of old and new, Hatakeyama said she uses a string of thread to control the lighting of the space and volume of the sound in the piece.

“There’s electronic music also, but the thread spread on the floor, the screen and the lighting are (the) visual aspect here,” said Hatakeyama, explaining the more old-fashioned aspect of her works.

Hatakeyama noted that space also matters — hearing music in a lounge or classroom is “different from hearing it in a concert hall.” The selection of the space in which the piece will be performed is part of the art work, “so I actually calculate the factors that can affect the resonance of the piece,” she said.

For Hatakeyama, the MEME program was an obvious choice. She was “born into and grew up in the period of recording technology,” so merging improvisation, electronics and visual components with more traditional forms of written music came naturally, Hatakeyama said.

MEME “is one of the rare graduate programs that students can pursue in multidisciplinary studies in both creative practice and writing and research,” Hatakeyama said.

Degrees in Multimedia Electronic Music have become common at other universities, Moses said, but Hatakeyama noted “the support we receive in the program is incredible — “the knowledge and inspirations that we receive from the professors and fellow graduate students, and access to the facilities and equipment.”

“I cannot think of any other programs that I would choose over MEME at Brown,” she added.

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