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Meet Kotoka Suzuki

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kotoka Suzuki.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born in Japan but constantly moved from one country to another throughout my childhood.  I then moved to the U.S. from Canada to pursue my degree in music. Moving was never easy for me, and it has often left me feeling like I had no firm ground. I was introduced to the piano when I was little from my mother who was a pianist, but it was not until I took a composition class at nine that I fell truly in love with music. Music can stir up emotions one never knew one had; it can elevate a sense of strength, healing, reassurance and even freedom, just from listening. I felt I had found my sanctuary. It gave me a tremendous sense of joy, freedom, and comfort, as I create music in my mind and bring it to life. I knew then that I could never let go of this sensation and to become a composer. Now I embrace my unique background and love exploring different cultures. After my graduate studies in California, I moved to Germany as a DAAD Artists-in-Berlin fellow and lived there for a while.  After that I lived in Chicago, and now I teach at Arizona State University since 2014. I love Arizona. Nature is absolutely spectacular and is constantly inspiring me for my creative work!

Please tell us about your art.
I’m fascinated by how music can be vastly free in its expression and form. I think of music as an auditory object that can be sculpted in space and time; a pallet that can be manipulated spatially. For instance, many of my works are written for multiple speakers (sometimes over 100 speakers), or for live performers spaced in particular ways around the audience. Advanced technology allows me to not only customize sound but to also realize the spatial dimensions of music and sound in my own practice. I am especially interested in bringing music into dialogue with visual mediums, such as theater, video, and dance, and to explore how the visual impact of performance directly influences and becomes part of the composition. Using these mediums, I am interested in telling a story about humanity and our relationship to this world through my work. My work often deals about life, breath, fragility, joy, and sense of loss.

I’m also drawn to sound themselves. I constantly record and collect all sorts of sound that I find anywhere around me. I particularly love sounds that are intricate and so quiet that one can only hear through amplification; gentle sound of a cat licking its feet or snow quietly hitting leaves in a forest. In addition to customizing my own sounds using technology, I also like building my own customized musical instruments. For instance, I’ve been working on a series of pieces since 2015 for paper instruments, custom made music boxes, and sound making lights titled “In Praise of Shadows,” inspired by the essay with the same title by Junichi Tanizaki. I love to combine and arrange these sounds in such a way to create a unique sound experience.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
I think it has become increasingly important for an artist to become multifaceted. This applies not only to the diversity of creative output but also the role of an artist. I think there is an increasing demand to be more than just a composer to become successful (ex. performer, marketer, promoter, curator, manager, designer, you name it). If not careful, artists can get lost and focus too much on trying to satisfy to meet these demands.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m currently working towards a solo debut album release with Starkland Records! This will become available very soon, possibly by early next year. In the meantime, I invite you to visit my website where you will find links to samples of my work as well as my event calendar: www.kotokasuzuki.com.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Doug Fury
Mike Southworth
Vancouver Electronic Ensemble
Robert Spring
Claudia Rohrmoser

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