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London, 2021

During this interview, I change seats, place myself in front of another artist and ask him the questions I wish people asked me. Today, I speak to Japanese composer Akira Kosemura. The musician has just released 88 Keys on Piano Day 2021, and share some of his secrets with us. 


Akira, tell us a little more about you. What have been the highlights of your career so far?


I have been releasing music for quite some time now. Through my own projects; since 2007 I have been releasing my own music with international labels. Many good things happened during the past thirteen years. Recently 88 Keys has been added to some of the most popular piano playlists on Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer — that all feels very supportive from my listeners, and helps me to spread my music around the world. Since 2012, I have also been scoring for features, docs, short films, TV series, theaters, commercials and video games. In 2018, I was involved in the music of the American TV series Love Is__; Mara Brock Akil, who is the writer and director of this series, found me on Spotify and asked me to compose the music. It was great opportunity for me to work with world-top creators. I have also scored True Mothers which has been chosen for the Cannes 2020 official selection.


What about 88 Keys, your latest solo project?


88 Keys was very unplanned. I was working on different projects for a while but the pandemic made me stop them all of sudden. I spent some time in my home studio playing the playing just for myself, and the album came naturally; as soothing music. After the lockdown, I went back to my projects and scoring works, but there was a lot of music from these moments, so I though to compile all of them as a memory of this particular moment in life. 88 Keys is not an album that I wanted to do, but rather than time made me do, in a cyclic and natural way. 


Your last solo project was In The Dark Woods, in 2017. What have you been up to since then? A lot of music for film I presume?


After In The Dark Woods, many projects started showing up and I had a lot of requests for film scoring. The pandemic simply paused everything and gave me the time to compose and record 88 Keys. I still have two solo albums that I am working on at the moment… 


One cannot ignore the particular aesthetic of your music, which reflects perhaps the one of Japan and Eastern Asia. Is this something you agree or disagree with, and why? Would you like to develop?


I partially agree with that. I am a Japanese composer, based in Tokyo so my music is definitely influenced by Japan and Eastern Asia. I know the feeling of Asian traditional music, and I respect it. However, Japan is influenced by European and American culture a lot; I grew up watching more Hollywood movies than Japanese ones, and my inspirations are mostly Occidental. Where I stand today is complex and difficult to explain, and hard to categorise. Is there any meaning to making music anyway? I simply feel lucky to be able to work as a composer in this world. 


Tell us about your philosophy on music; how do you approach listening, learning, composing? Why do you create?


For me, making music is part of life; like breathing, eating, sleeping, chatting, thinking… Everything in my life influences music, and music influences everything in my life. When making music, one has to learn and listen. A composer is first and foremost a very good listener. One has to listen a lot in order to learn. When composing, for me it is often quite quick. I sometimes even forget how I did it. The process of making music is not only composing though: listening and learning are an essential part of it too. 


Now about your creative process? How do you compose? How do approach the translation of emotions into music?


Usually, I play the piano or some sort of instrument such as the synth. Or I might just sing in the bathroom and it comes up. The music is always around me, and sometimes I simply catch it. I always think the emotions in music are a little dangerous. At times the musician lets them lead him into making the music. For me it is too wild, and I do not enjoy listening to music this way. I think the essential beauty is out of inhibited emotions, and that is the most important thing in the quality of music. 


So after 88 Keys what’s next?


It is secret… But it will be very interesting, I promise!


Thanks very much Akira. Last one for the road — one book, one album, one film —, tell us about your latest cultural pearls?


Since my boy was born, I have not read much. Lately, I have been listening to Rival Consoles’s while doing office work, and it is great. Film-wise Ryutaro Nakagawa’s Tokyo Sunrise. I am currently working with him, and have enjoyed this one a lot!


Bouncing on Akira’s words — and to challenge the trend — I shall restate: “emotions in music are a little dangerous”. Read my review of 88 Keys.

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