Pregnant nothingness: An interview with Chikako Morishita

chikako This Friday, Kupka's Piano clarinetist Macarthur Clough gives the Australian premiere of Chikako Morishita's solo clarinet work Lizard (shadow). Chikako has kindly taken a moment of her time between composition deadlines and premieres at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to give us a quick intro to her life, music, and guilty pleasures.

Liam Flenady: Let's start at the start. Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your story?

Chikako Morishita: I’m a Japanese composer, occasionally a pianist. I was awarded a BA and an MA from Tokyo University of Arts, and an MA (research) with distinction from University of Huddersfield. I’ve been based in Berlin since 2011. At the same time I’m doing a PhD at Huddersfield under Liza Lim and Aaron Cassidy.

LF: You say in your program notes in fact that Lizard (shadow) is a work about silence. You mention that one of the ways of writing 'lizard' in Kanji is with the characters of 'shade' and 'gate'. How do you draw upon this compositionally?

CM: For me, silence is not just a soundingly absent space, it is a space fully filled by one’s imagination even if materially empty. We call it 'pregnant nothingness' in Japan and I wanted silence in my composition to be like that. As for the title... The score of lizard (shadow) contains various degrees of determinacy and indeterminacy -determinate musical materials function as a framework to illustrate something unstable or indeterminate as if the gate (a fixed object) lets shadows exist.

LF: Lizard (shadow) has something of a 'moment'-like structure, How did you come up with the different sections - were they planned in advance, or did you find the structure intuitively?

CM: Firstly I made variations of some original materials (all passages in this work were derived from a single starting material), and then I made fragmentary moments by combining them. I then shuffled the order, added and removed notes or fragments, and so on.

LF: You've dedicated this piece to the works original performer, Heather Roche, and say in your notes that the layered material 'frames the performer's own interpretative sensibilities'. What do you feel the role of the performer is in your music?

CM: I hope my music to be a device to frame performer’s heightened sense of presence, and also to reveal their unique being.

LF: In Kupka's, we have a running joke that we'll do a 'guilty pleasures' concert at some point, playing pieces or songs that each of us hate to admit that we love. My song is Toto's Africa, a sophisticated, but thoroughly corny piece of early 80s pop. What is your musical guilty pleasure?

CM: Easy. AKB48, the Japanese idol group.

LF: Well I look forward to your modernist arrangement of this classic hit: [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFf4AgBNR1E]