Izumi Kimura: Listening, trusting and not being attached to the outcome

Marta Jundziłł
Autor zdjęcia: 
mat. promocyjne

Izumi Kimura is a japanese pianist and composer, strongely connected with improvised scene. Her last release „Illuminated Silence” is recorded with Barry Guy and Gerry Hemingway. Izumi told me about the recording, her strong intuition and musical approach.

After your childhood in Japan, You’ve decided to move to Ireland. Why have you chosen this particular place?

I grew up in Japan in the 80’s and 90’s, in an extremely materialistic society when Japan’s economy was bubbling. There was this excessive desire for money, comfort, and success all around us, day after day. It was difficult for me to see what was wrong clearly as a young person, but I was getting seriously unwell from all of that, although I knew, how lucky I was to be living there. I kept feeling ‘this can’t be it’ and subconsciously kept working towards escaping in the direction of fresh air. I longed for a space, simplicity and real communication between people I interacted with. I felt there was so much falseness.

Ireland was an unknown and mysterious place, its music was introduced to me by a close friend at the time, and I was somehow attracted to its culture, land and people. I was a tired young person with a desire to express, and I felt there was something in Ireland that would give me the key to freedom. I thought ‘OK, I am going there. I know there is something for me there’. It sounds vague, I always have a difficulty explaining this. It was very intuitive, strong, maybe crazy. I came here alone with a suitcase, found lots of (freezing) fresh air and started a completely different life. This is my home now, which I am very grateful for. I can say I did find that ‘something’ in Ireland, although I still have a difficulty explaining. I know lots of people who came in from elsewhere and made home here, would understand what I’m talking about.

Recently you’ve recorded an album „Illuminated Silence”, on which you’re in charge of trio with two elder and more experienced musicians, who do not cooperate with women very often. How does it feel to play with them? Why have you decided to record an album with Gerry Hemingway and Barry Guy?

It is like the impulse that made me come to Ireland. When I saw Barry and Gerry play live, a few years ago respectively, I just felt very strongly ‘OK, this is a long shot. But I have to somehow play music with them’. I felt there was that key to freedom, musically. I knew I would learn so much from them. I was shocked to realize what I was looking for, which they showed to me by their music. I was ready to accept the challenge. In 2017, I asked them to play with me as duo, respectively, and did three concerts in Ireland. It was amazingly inspiring experience for me. As Barry and Gerry have a history of collaboration, the trio felt a very natural evolution from that. Working with them was surprisingly calm and playful, they were wonderfully positive and supportive all the way.

“Illuminated Silence” is rather improvised music, but we can hear some strong themes and motives in there. Mostly on piano. At the beginning of your cooperation with Barry and Gerry, have you told  them about your ideas and showed them some notes/chords, on which later you’ve based your improvisation, or you just start to play together and during playing you gain some themes and motives from collective improvisation with them? In which order you three have created your music?

Before we started to rehearse, I sent Barry and Gerry some ideas, but not notes or chords, rather words and concepts. I wasn’t going to ask them what notes to play in what order. I just wanted to create ‘a space’ where we can meet and play music from. But yes, while improvising, I always do try to find melodies that carries through rhythm and harmony of the moment, and any of them has potential to become a theme.

Barry brought his music which have melodies and chords as structure for improvisation. So, we worked on both written and conceptual materials and created the programme. Some pieces are merged together or enclosed within another.

On “Illuminated Silence” there is one piece composed by Augustin Fernandez, performed on his record with Burry Guy. Why have you decided to play that piece?

It was introduced to us by Barry in the rehearsal. We played it and immediately included it in our programme. It is very beautiful piece. 

I can hear some vocal during this piece. Do you sing some improvisation during “How To Go Into A Room You Are Already In”? 

It is Gerry singing. When we played the piece for the first time in the rehearsal, he started to sing, as he didn’t know the piece his voice collided or blended with the notes which magnified the beauty of the piece. He also used a wind-up music box, and let some magical things happen naturally. Very simple and beautiful example of feeling dissonances and consonances.

Why have you decided to record “Illuminated Silence” in the church? Have you needed some special acoustic or spiritual atmosphere during playing?

It’s simply a very special experience to play in church. And St. Ann’s Church is a beautiful church in the heart of the city. It also has a somewhat friendly atmosphere. It was amazing to be able to record and film the concert there.

On the CD there is quote by Sekito Kisen – 8th century Buddhist teacher. Are you inspired by Buddhism philosophy?

I think I am, though I don’t call myself Buddhist, I am inspired by the way at a personal level.

I really like your solo albums, on which you have very wide opportunity to express yourself. What do you like most: playing solo or playing with the group? What you gain from collective improvisation and from solo playing?

Thank you. I am preparing for a solo set now, and it is challenging also very nourishing process. I think the balance is important, I can’t say which I like more. Solo work is an inward excursion and negotiation with myself to find the patterns that can travel out into the world. Playing with other musicians is more active and more information to take into account for at any moment, inward and outward simultaneously. It can be more challenging in a way, but things can happen more unexpectedly and unexplainably and that’s so great. It is good to practice both, they complement each other. When it’s time to play, listening, trusting and not being attached to the outcome are all that matter.

You are also a teacher. Do you like your job? What is the most challenging thing in teaching young musicians?

I can say I learned everything I know now from teaching and playing, rather than by being taught by teachers. I believe that would be the same for my students. A teacher can help, but we need to experience to learn. I didn’t know anything when I first started teaching! The most challenging thing for me is to keep it fresh all the time, as we encounter enthusiasm, disinterest, curiosity, indifference, and everything in between. I am better when I communicate with students as a person and a learner myself. I improvise a lot!