Dai Fujikura: Diamond Dust

, composer


Dai Fujikura’s latest release on his Minabel label covers a wide range of instrumentation, from solo works for horn, Japanese shakuhachi, violin and trombone to two concertos: a piano concerto and a double bass concerto. Performers who appear on this album also vary widely: Viktoria Mullova, Nobuaki Fukukawa, Mei Yi Foo, William Lang, Yoji Sato, Reison Kuroda, with two conductors Kenichi Nakagawa and Norio Sato with Ensemble Nomad. All tracks are edited, mixed and mastered by the composer himself.



Korokoro is a Japanese onomatopoeia, but also the name of a traditional technique in shakuhachi playing.

While composing the piece, I researched all aspects of this instrument, from how to actually construct a shakuhachi from bamboo to the playing of the instrument, often working together with Dozan Fujiwara who commissioned this work.

When writing for a particular instrument, I always have to search for one sound which attracts me very strongly. In order to ‘meet’ the right sound I spend hours looking for it, sometimes with the musician. As soon as I discovered the sound of the korokoro playing technique, I knew this was the one. Also, Dozan told me that traditionally korokoro is only a decorative technique, and it would be quite unusual and even strange from a traditional point of view if I obsessively used it as the main sound of the piece. That’s when I knew what I had to do, which was to construct the whole piece based on korokoro, and even go as far as calling the piece Korokoro.

-Dai Fujikura (Edited by Alison Phillips)

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Diamond Dust

This is my 2nd piano concerto. My first piano concerto was called AMPERE, and was written for piano and symphony orchestra (with toy piano cadenza).

I wanted to make this 2nd piano concerto a complete contrast to the first one. Therefore Diamond Dust is written for ensemble and piano. In AMPERE, I treated the Orchestra as an extended sustain pedal of the piano. The result was as if the orchestra was the out of control resonance of the piano itself. For Diamond Dust I wanted to treat the ensemble as an uncontrollable harmonic field. I imagined that the harmonic series of the piano was alive and particularly mischievous. The work starts with an attack of the lowest key of most pianos, a very low A, and the ensemble quickly runs up the harmonic series. As it goes up the series it becomes distorted, and pitches float away. These loose notes start forming their own harmonic series of the low A, and make different textures until they start making lyrical phrases which are like swarming animals (a particular obsession of mine). These textures play very lyrically together, sometimes flying off as individual animals and then returning to the swarm together. As this happens the harmonic series gets more and more distorted, and finally returns to the piano as a completely transformed base note.

Since this is a piano concerto (and I LOVE writing concertos), the piano makes the musical material in the rest of the workflow. As this piece was commissioned by a Norwegian pianist and ensemble (and I LOVE Scandinavian cultures), I was often thinking of ice whilst writing the piece.

Light is shining on big blocks of ice and many small particles of ice. The light gets reflected and sparkles into new spaces.

As the piece progresses, the piano creates more and more material which is added to this fragmented diamantine labyrinth of distorted harmonic textures which constantly behave unpredictably yet slowly forms a crystal castle that imprisons the piano and vibraphone which then struggle to escape.

-Dai Fujikura (edited by Harry Ross)


This piece for trombone is like a sister piece to my solo horn piece Poyopoyo.

Deliquesce expresses something between vibrato and smooth glissandi, and is, like Poyopoyo, also to be played with a harmon mute throughout the piece. Unlike in Poyopoyo, however, the use of harmon mute in this piece is much more rhythmic.

The climax of the piece explores the combination of harmonic-glissandi and glissandi made by using the slide of the instrument, techniques explored during frequent sessions with several different trombone players.

-Dai Fujikura (edited by Alison Phillips)

Line by Line

I was at Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley's house where Matthew and I were rehearsing The Spirit of Beings which I had composed for him, and on my way out of the house, Viktoria asked me if I also want to write a piece for her. Of course I was delighted to do this! Line by Line is a piece which sounds as if there are 2 violins playing at the same time, with their lines intertwining with each other.

The end of the piece I changed many times, and the final version was decided at the Viktoria's house where we were trying several options. After Viktoria played one of them we looked at each other and said, "That's it!" I love this kind of moment when working with musicians.

-Dai Fujikura (Edited by Alison Phillips)

Double Bass Concerto

I have already written quite a few concerti for less familiar solo instruments, such as recorder, horn and trombone, in a desire to acquire more intimate knowledge about the mechanics and characteristic sounds of each instrument. I am familiar with Enno Senft's playing from a variety of concerts of different repertoire he has given with the London Sinfonietta, including some of my own compositions. It was partly as a result of his versatility and partly because of his humorous criticisms of the way I was writing for double bass that I decided to write a concerto for him and embrace the opportunity of working with such an outstanding player to better understand the instrument's character and even its limitations.

In advance of the concerto I had a chance to write a work for solo instrument in celebration of the London Sinfonietta's anniversary; naturally I chose Enno and his double bass. The piece entitled "es" was born. The bottom string of the instrument is detuned to E-flat which is "es" in German (and the other three strings are also detuned to B-flat, D-flat and A-flat). Enno Senft is German, and his initials E.S. are the same for E-flat in German. I spent many hours at his house during which he patiently illustrated just what the double bass is capable of and explained how it differs from the other stringed instruments. I like writing a small solo piece as a "seed" of the concerto, but normally don't use it directly in the final concerto. This time I had to promise Enno that I would, so it was a challenge for me to develop the concerto from the starting point of the 3-minute work, rather than starting from scratch.

For the concerto, I wanted to describe the journey of a human picking up the instrument for the first time, playing it with the palm/flesh of his/her hands, hits the double bass strings by hand to produce a gentle, gong-like sound (This is only effective because, despite its size, the double bass is so sensitive).

After this section, a human learning to play with his/her fingernails, here he/she plays percussively, playing harshly across the strings rapidly and strumming the strings between the left hand on the fingerboard and the scroll, as if playing a Spanish guitar on its side (unorthodox for the Double Bass).

And then by pizzicato, which is one of the essential characteristics of the double bass. At last picking up the bow playing lyrical phrases while the ensemble is playing energetic contrasting materials, then finding the natural harmonics (with tremolo) at the end. (Since all the strings are detuned, hopefully the natural harmonics also sound unique).

The ensemble reacts to what the double bass plays. The ensemble consists of higher pitched instruments and they act as the distorted harmonic series which flies into the ensemble from the notes the soloist plays.

-Dai Fujikura (edited by Miranda Jackson)

  • All tracks composed, edited, mixed and mastered by Dai Fujikura
  • Directed by Motoichi Sugita (SMJI)
  • Artwork & design by Mikhail Mihaylov
  • Korokoro commissioned by Dozan Fujiwara
  • Diamond Dust commissioned by Ellen Ugelvik with funding from Arts Council Norway, co-commissioned by Casa da Música
  • Deliquesce commissioned by Mayumi Shimizu
  • Line by Line commissioned by Viktoria Mullova
  • Double Bass Concerto commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with generous support from the London Sinfonietta Commissioning Circle and The RVW Trust

Dai Fujikura

Born in 1977 in Osaka Japan, Dai Fujikura was fifteen when he moved to the UK. The recipient of many composition prizes, he has received numerous international co-commissions from the Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, BBC Proms, Bamberg Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and more. He has been Composer-in-Residence of Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra since 2014 and held the same post at the Orchestre national d'Île-de-France in 2017/18. Dai’s first opera Solaris, co-commissioned by the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opéra de Lausanne and the Opéra de Lille, had its world premiere in Paris in 2015 and has since gained a worldwide reputation. A new production of Solaris was created and performed at the Theatre Augsburg in 2018, and the opera received a subsequent staging in 2020.

In 2017, Dai received the Silver Lion Award from the Venice Biennale. In the same year, he was named the Artistic Director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater’s Born Creative Festival.

In 2019, his Shamisen Concerto was premiered at Mostly Mozart festival in New York Lincoln Center and there have so far been 9 performances of this work by various orchestras.

In 2020, his fourth piano concerto Akiko’s Piano is to be premiered by Martha Argerich and Dai is currently composing his third opera, which will be revealed to the public in the same year.

His works are recorded by and released mainly on his own label Minabel Records in collaboration with SONY Music and his compositions are published by Ricordi Berlin.


William Lang

Originally from Long Island, trombonist William Lang is an active performer, improviser, and teacher based in New York City. He can be found playing in all settings and styles, from cutting edge new premieres to classical masterpieces with orchestras, as well as Broadway shows and world famous pop artists.

He has given his signature unaccompanied recitals throughout the United States, played concertos in both America and Europe, and has also recorded with such artists as Philip Glass, David Byrne, St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Jónsi (of Sigur Ros). Intensely passionate for chamber music, he is a founding member of the ground-breaking ensemble loadbang (an original and unique group of musicians interested in cutting edge music), as well as a member of groups such as the Lang/Rainwater Project, TILT Brass, SEM Ensemble, and the Argento Chamber Ensemble. The New York Times has called his playing “fiercely, virtuosic” and The Boston Globe has hailed him for his “superb performance” in past solo works. William teaches at the University of Oklahoma, as well as the Longy School of Music, and is a performing artist for Stephens Horns and Long Island Brass.



Percorsi Musicali

Non è un caso che Boulez fosse molto vicino al compositore giapponese Dai Fujikura: nel dover pensare ad una scala di successori, degni di mantenere viva una sostanza orchestrale di un certo tipo, Fujikura era materia viva, un uomo profondamente consapevole delle difficili propensioni del mondo della composizione; oggi le nuove generazioni sono spesso terrorizzate di non trovare nei propri moduli ispirativi le chiavi giuste per proporre novità, in un settore della musica in cui molti di loro subordinano l’innovazione ad un efficace continuazione delle proprie attività artistiche. Fujikura ha affrontato la composizione con le armi di chi non vuole guardare nella sfera di cristallo, ma tenendo ben a mente ciò che è disponibile per una creazione comunque di spessore. In queste pagine ho parlato di lui brevemente, dapprima per una citazione di Secret Forest, un pezzo bellissimo di 13 minuti per ensemble del 2008, che l’ha imposto all’attenzione nell’ambito di quel circolo di giovani compositori cresciuti in Inghilterra e poi, per una recensione di un cd alla Kairos del 2013 (dal titolo Ice, vedi qui), in cui Fujikura metteva assieme chitarra elettrica ed acustica, live electronics, tagli di frequenze e sviluppi su tensioni inarmoniche; ma, in questi anni, il compositore ha accelerato sulla quantità, sia sul versante orchestrale (con molta produzione concertistica) che su quello dei singoli strumenti (con una buona equivalenza di strumenti occidentali e di matrice orientale). Naturalmente, chi vi parla predilige il lato orchestrale, ma non c’è dubbio che pezzi per cantanti, cori, violoncelli, chitarre acustiche, sassofono, koto, shakuhachi, taikos, shamisen, etc. (la lista è piuttosto lunga!) abbiano anche un loro positivo comune denominatore, sebbene differente e meno incisivo di quello delle composizioni orchestrali.

Ai fini di una buona descrizione di quanto trasmette la musica di Fujikura, mi sembra molto appropriata la nota di programma che l’artista ha scritto durante la permanenza all’IRCAM nelle more compositive di Prism Spectra, riferendosi agli “amici” elettronici: “….Je les ai conçus pour qu’ils se comportent comme des poissons dans un océan tropical. Parfois, ils nagent en banc à travers la pièce, parfois, ils s’élancent au loin comme de petits rayons de lumière entrant et sortant d’un corail ombrageux…..”. La musica di Fujikura funziona proprio così: gli “amici”, per estensione, sono i materiali e il loro trattamento, che denota un retrogusto ben preciso, composto da scrittura celatamente discorsiva, alla ricerca di un disegno realistico, movimentato e senza fronzoli, un regno della consapevolezza che, nei suoi limiti, può risultare radioso. Qualche anno fa Fujkura ha fondato una propria etichetta discografica, la Minabel, con canali di distribuzione differenti tra l’Europa e il Giappone (ma in comune hanno la rete) e puntualmente ci presenta raccolte delle sue numerose composizioni: le ultime due pubblicazioni, ossia Diamond Dust e Zawazawa (rispettivamente 2018 e 2019), colgono moltissimo l’attuale divisione funzionale che la sua musica porta a compimento a seconda dell’oggetto trattato: nel primo lavoro ci sono un paio di perle come il Piano Concerto N.2 (da unire teoricamente al primo piano concerto) e il Double Bass Concerto, oltre a pezzi molto validi per singoli strumenti; mentre nel secondo trovate il Concerto per Tuba, un exploit vocale di Sara Kobayashi (Ki i te) e del Philarmonic Chorus di Tokyo, oltre alle recenti incursioni strumentali, fatte soprattutto sul contrabbasso.

-Ettore Garzia, 10.24.19, Percorsi Musicali

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