[INTERVIEW] Sumika Tsujimoto revisits Japanese culture with her saxophones
What inspired you to learn the saxophone and embark on a musical career?
"The encounter with the saxophone was by chance. I joined a music club at school to play drums, which was my dream at the time. But there were too many students who wanted to play drums, so the club director assigned me the baritone saxophone. At first I was not very happy with this instrument, which was very heavy and did not play the melodies in the orchestra! But the experience of playing together with friends finally made me love it.
In the last year of secondary school, I started playing the alto saxophone to replace a student who had just left school. Playing another saxophone in the family, I began to appreciate the sounds of each model, so I entered a music high school to continue playing saxophones. Many experiences and encounters during my musical studies in Japan and France then directed me to the path of an artist."
What are your main influences today?
"Until a few years ago, my primary goal was to be a 'super' saxophonist: to be able to play any repertoire with a beautiful sound and without any mistakes. But as time went by, my perspective changed. Watching films, going to museums, reading literature, seeing concerts of various musical genres, discovering different cultures… Many experiences have given me the following understanding: the essence of an artist is to create.
Performing music that has already been written as an interpreter is of course a way of expressing oneself. That's what I do on YouTube. But now I'm starting activities not only to perform, but also to compose original pieces, to do illustrations. I'm looking for different ways to express myself to reach people."
Which artist would you like to play with?
"There are many famous composers and musicians who are wonderful, but there are also wonderful artists who remain unknown. Nowadays, it's very easy to publish your own work through social networks. We can access it anywhere and anytime just with our little smartphone. But at the same time, I think there is so much information in this world that some wonderful music remains unknown. My 3-disc Oto-no-series collection is designed to bring to light hidden works by young Japanese composers. My aim is to do creative work with the artists and to convey their beautiful music to the public through my saxophone."
Is there any music that fascinates you or that you listen to over and over?
"I love listening to music of course, but I think the most beautiful music in the world is the sounds of nature.
As I work as a musician, my day is filled with music: recording and mixing sounds, editing videos, producing scores, etc… So in the moments when I can relax, I always listen to the rustling of water in the river, the forest, and especially the rain. The sound of the rain soothes me. It is very useful to concentrate on my work because there are no words or notes to disturb me. By the way, this habit gave me an idea for the creation of my second record Oto-no-Ame, which carries a track with the sound of the rain."
Can you tell us about your work on YouTube?
"When I started putting my music videos on YouTube in 2017, it was in order to stay connected with Japanese audiences as I moved to France for my studies. I chose music that I liked, such as music from Japanese movies, Anime or J-pops, because these types of music allow me to express myself spontaneously. The comments from followers in each video encouraged me to produce more. Through these videos, I can pass on the pleasure of playing the saxophone and it has also allowed me to meet and collaborate with many artists I like. YouTube is a great platform to spread your music around the world."
Any short, medium or long term plans?
"Oto-no-Series is a collection of records featuring original pieces by young Japanese composers for soprano saxophone and piano. I released my 1st disc Oto-no-Jisho featuring pieces evocative of the four seasons in 2019, my 2nd disc Oto-no-Ame with pieces inspired by the sounds of the rain in 2020 and the 3rd disc is released on November 15, 2021, Oto-no-Ginga: Galaxy of Sounds. This is the conclusion of three years of collaboration with different artists, remotely between Japan and France.
I would like to continue with the creation of a record every year. I always have ideas: collaborations with other composers, with other instruments, with other art forms such as literature or painting… I am eagerly working on these future projects!"