Composer In the Land of the Rising Yen
Greetings from Tokyo! I’m really tickled that Molly and the good folks here at NewMusicBox have asked me to start “chattering.”
A few words of self-introduction. I’m a composer working mostly in the area of live computer music, which I’ve been doing since 1986. I was on the board of the American Music Center from 1986 until 2002, and served as board president for three of those years during which time we laid the groundwork for what has become—due to fantastic work by Frank Oteri and the rest of the Center’s staff—what is in my opinion one of the AMC’s most important and excellent services: NewMusicBox, the site you are currently inside.
I’m a native Californian, having spent the first forty years of my life in Los Angeles before moving to San Francisco in 1993. Aside from stints as the music director of KPFK-FM in Los Angeles and as the director of Meet The Composer/California, I had been an otherwise completely freelance composer since graduating from the California Institute of the Arts in 1975. Living off a combination of grants, commissions, performances, odd jobs, and miscellany, I basically enjoyed the life, however difficult financially it often was. But in 2001, while I was in Japan for a six-month stint as artist-in-residence at IAMAS, a media art center in Japan, I was offered a professorship at Chukyo University. While I truly love Japan and had visited and worked there many times since the mid-’80s, I never imagined pulling up my US stakes and moving there lock, stock, and barrel. Plus, having never seriously considered a life in academia—and, in fact, taking some pride in the fact that I had been surviving without having to teach—I was further ambivalent about the offer and put off giving my answer for quite a while.
In the midst of my dithering, the events of September 11, 2001, took place. I watched the mood in the country turn from good-will and mutual support to a sort of pseudo-patriotic jingoism. The passage of the Patriot Act, and the numerous alarming provisions it contained, disturbed me greatly. I now felt I wanted to put some distance between myself and a country that seemed to be going badly astray. The offer of a full professorship and a lifetime appointment abroad suddenly had a different meaning, and finally I accepted.
Still, I have not left the US completely. I maintain a place in the US and visit a few times a year, both for family and professional musical reasons. My school is pretty supportive of my travel around the world to perform, a fact that weighed in my decision to take the job. But I’m glad to be based in Tokyo, a city which is, to put it bluntly, a total blast to live and work in and one of the most amazing urban soundscapes in the world.
NMBx has asked for my perspective both as a composer of computer music (however outside the mainstream of that world I happen to be) and as a musical ex-pat, and in both cases I’m glad to oblige. I’d love to know any particular things that would be of interest to you to hear about, and I welcome your comments or emails. Douzo enryou naku yoroshiku onegai itashimasu!