Midori Hirano has been playing music since from the disconcertingly young age of 5 when she used a piano to flesh out her earliest compositions. While this led her to major in classical piano at university, it was the less traditional aspects of electronica that would ultimately prove her major inspiration. A native to Kyoto, Japan but making the creative pilgrimage to Berlin in 2008, her productions are based around the use of traditional instrumentation – piano, strings, voice – and augmented with often subtle electronic processing and digital samples creating a rich, rolling sound that is at once warm and melodic while tracing unexpected musical trajectories.
Her first album, LushRush, was released on Nobel records in 2006 and was primarily a collaborative affair, seeing her work with a number of guest musicians to create one of those beautiful, sprawling debuts that radiates a hazy blissfulness upon first listen. Her second, Klo:Yuri, saw her further develop her sound, garnering critical acclaim from those in the know. She is also in demand as a composer of soundtracks for European and Asian films, with 2008 seeing her become the only Japanese composer to invited to take part in the Berlinale Talent Campus, hosted by the Berlin International Film Festival.
Listen: Alpha-podcast presents Midori Hirano
We caught up with Midori to get her to tell us a bit about the podcast, her own background and what inspires her to make music.
Tell us a bit about yourself…When did you start making music?
“I started creating music when I was 10 years old, maybe. I started learning piano at 5 years old and I became interested in composing later, and that led me to do recordings of my own music. I was only using a piano at the time of course, I couldn’t use any computers or synthesizers, so the piano was my inspiration. Sometimes I wrote down a note because I wanted to memorise it, and that was the beginning of my composing.”
What inspires you?
“What inspires me is everything around me in my daily life, so I can’t focus on one thing. But basically the people I meet or the other music in the world.”
“What inspires me is everything around me in my daily life.”
Do you have any influences in your music? What are they?
“Many classical composers, also Cocorosie and Sigur Ros. In addition to those, I really also like the artists who release from a German electronic music label called Raster-Noton, like Alva-Noto and Frank Bretschneider because those artists always give me a lot of imagination for music, or just about creation.”
Tell us about the podcast you’ve made – why did you choose the records you did?
“Because I’ve known and liked the artists’ works for some years and I got to think it would be a good idea to let people hear the music via this podcast since the concept of Alpha-ville is to focus on emerging electronic artists, and I thought the artists I’ve picked fit.
“In this podcast, there are really subtle and delicate electronic sounds mixed with organic feelings like the music of El Fog and mine, or crazily cut-up experimental music like Kyoka’s, and also more danceable and advanced but still experimental feeling of music like Kashiwa Daisuke’s. So I think people can find and enjoy the differences between them, and of course the music itself.”
What is the biggest challenge for emerging artists in music?
“There are a lot of different types of music already so I just want to try and find new things that can make people notice something that they have never noticed before.”
Do you have a favourite instrument or piece of equipment?
“One thing is the piano of course, which I have played for a long time. Now I really like the toy instruments like the melodica, they’re nice and cute!”
What got you interested in electronic music?
“After I graduated from university I was working at a company in Tokyo that makes new music for commercial works, so I needed to use computers, synthesisers and other studio equipment. From there I started making music with electronic sounds and later I became more interested in making my own music with these sounds.”
Academically speaking, you have a classical background, how much does this feed into your electronic productions?
“I think this helps me to construct each sound in a practical way, especially when making harmonies which is the one of the important things on my music.”
“I use elements from traditional and acoustic instruments as well as electronic sounds since I still believe there are some more possibilities among them…”
The podcast sees you blending traditional instrumentation and acoustic sounds with electronica which is something that is common in your work – what is it about the use of both of these elements that interests you?
“Nowadays, there are already lots of kinds of music which were made by people in the past, and also the globalization of the world is going on because of the internet. Those environments always make me want to create something new and I want to make people notice something new. I come to use these elements from traditional and acoustic instruments as well as electronic sounds since I still believe there are some more possibilities among them for music.”
How do you see electronic music developing in the future?
“I am not sure! Now is the time of the crash of the music industry but also there’s the possibility of the internet to expose these types of music for free so I just hope that the people in the world get to know the different kinds of music as much as possible. I don’t know how electronic music will develop in the future, I also want to see how it goes!”
Can you tell us a bit about the soundtrack work you do / other projects?
“Now I’m composing for a film and working on a new album, of course. The film is from an English director called Ether Johnson, she filmed it in Japan, focusing on the Cherry Blossoms. It’s very beautiful.”
What do you have planned for 2010?
“This year I hope I can visit London to play a show at some time. I also hope I can finish my new album this year, there’s no name yet, but it’s more electronic sounds.”