AC : To what extent do you believe that isolation and /or alienation is necessary to create meaningful music?
That's a difficult question. In one sense, being by yourself is lonely. That is equally true for other things as well, but because of this feeling of loneliness you begin to look for friends. I mean friends in a different sense from the universe that we were talking about earlier. If you imagine that I am here and I feel the universe in a certain way, then by friends I mean other people who are in a different place but who experience the universe in a similar way. So I've begun looking for those kinds of people. When we were talking earlier about my childhood and how I was, for want of a better word, "different," we didn't get into the negative aspects. I didn't feel lonely at kindergarten, but when I got to elementary school there was no way I could avoid it. I hadn't been scolded at kindergarten, but I was at elementary school and that gave rise to awareness and prejudice–so there was no way I couldn't feel lonely. So I started to wonder why I had begun to feel lonely, but I couldn't really get out of it. Maybe I could have forced myself to be like other people. It's the same as the way people ask me why I choose to make the kind of music that I do–but this is the only kind of music that I can
make. This is the only way that feels right to me, the only thing that I can possibly do. As to whether I ever wanted to be alone, of course there are times when I want to be by myself for a time, but I have never felt like I want to cut myself off from everyone else. Cutting yourself off is very lonely. This is interesting, something that links how I was then with how I am now–I'm lonely so I make music, and the more I make it, the lonelier I get. Within my consciousness I keep on moving towards a primitive state, because I keep testing myself to find out just how different I am from everyone else. And the closer you move towards that primitive state the lonelier you become, but because you are lonely, in one sense, you want to make more friends. This is a hypocritical way of putting it, but as you do that you become kinder to other people, you begin to value them more. By valuing people I mean a desire to be of some service to the world. To pray and to make something better for people. That something is impossible to define in words. I believe that you've first got to have experienced loneliness for that feeling to emerge. This is something I've talked about before, but to expand the analogy, if you take it that loneliness also means feelings of isolation and solitude, then I want to experience the same feelings as Jesus or Buddha must have had.
In my experience, whenever I see a truly beautiful or powerful piece of art, music, or whatever, there is always a feeling of loneliness that goes along with the appreciation of it.
I feel the same thing. This is something that I've come to realize over the last few years. I hardly ever go to art museums, but one day when I was in Europe I happened to go into one. I can't remember the name of the artist, but there was a picture of Christ on the cross and there were red drops of blood dripping from his wounds. But while they were falling, when they reached a certain point they changed from red to yellow. It's obviously very symbolic but I felt that I had totally understood it. Blood is very vivid, very real, but it can become something glorious.
Like the way something initially negative can be transformed into something positive?
I think it's a bit different from positive and negative.
Something born out of pain can...
More like that. This is a harsh way of putting it, but I believe that people who aren't doing things properly, who aren't serious about what they are doing as I always put it, it's very convenient for those kind of people to see the yellow drops of blood as gold. Because they don't want to taste the pain of real blood. That's the way religion is–they say that it was enough for Christ alone to die, because they don't want to spill their own blood. So they put Christ up on a pedestal and call him a god, because if they do that then they can get by without having to spill their own blood. I think that those medieval painters were probably told by the church to paint the blood yellow like that. Something that was originally red. It's hard to pin it down historically–no one really knows the exact change from medieval to Renaissance, but I feel that blood was just painted red up until the end of the fourteenth century. It's the fault of religion.
AC : Do you have an interest in religion?
KH : Not in religion, though it depends on how you define "interest." It's something that gives me a greater understanding of myself. I've said this again and again–I like Christ, but I hate Christianity. I see a painting like that and it gives me various sudden insights. But it's not like I'm ever going to get involved with any particular sect. Everything begins from the individual, doesn't it? Some individual did something, and then people who came after needed to make a living for themselves so they turned that individual into an organization. What I'm interested in is the individual. To use the example that I always use, I like Thelonious Monk but I don't like jazz. I like Syd Barrett, but that doesn't mean that I like all rock 'n' roll. That's always the way with me.
AC : The first time I saw you play was with Fushitsusha, and what impressed me most then was the total physical energy that you put into producing each sound. It's especially apparent in your percussion performances. It's something that you see very rarely when other musicians play–the sound seems to be coming just from their brains or from their fingers, whereas with you it's very obviously the whole body. Could you say something about the relationship between the body and the production of sound?
KH : When I first started thinking about sound, I wanted to make music that would be totally unique to me. Not something that would fit into any genre. I wanted to do something new, but because I'm a musician I have to use instruments, right? I would like to make a distinction with the Dadaists though, people who make no sounds and call it music. As far as I'm concerned that's just a concept that never gets beyond the brain, and they aren't musicians. They may be expressing themselves, though. It's like what Webern said about music only being born from the tree of music, that's close to what I believe. To repeat, the Dadaists would just meaninglessly hit a typewriter, just because it was interesting as an act, and they would call that a composition. Instead of using it to produce a rhythm or as a musical instrument, they were just treating it as an object, in one sense. I have no interest whatsoever in that kind of "music." I wanted to come up with a concept that would be as original as possible. So going back again, musicians must produce sounds–the whole problem of why and how sounds appear is something that you can think about for yourself. And it is something that you should think about–in one sense, ordinary musicians just produce sounds and never think about how or why. So-called contemporary composers work at a slightly deeper level, thinking about questions like why does music appear and why it exists. But they only think about these concepts. I believe that it's acceptable to have a period where you think about questions like that, but that thinking in itself isn't the same as making music. I believe that if you're going to show something to people then you have to physically produce actual sounds, not just concepts. So once I'd realized that, I picked up several instruments and began to think about how you could produce sounds with them. Instruments that already existed. You can simply hit them, pluck them, blow into them and so on(11). One thing that I came up with was indirect ways of making sounds–sound would not be produced immediately but it would appear after some time had elapsed. Perhaps the easiest example I came up with was the alpenhorn–it takes a certain amount of time for the sound to appear after you blow into it. What I thought about was making an alpenhorn so long that it would take about three years for the sound to emerge. But that was just another type of mental conceit, and so totally worthless. When I thought about producing sound, what it basically came down to was me and an instrument. So the only thing left open to me was to discover new bodily movements and create music that way. Just around that time when I was experimenting with my body to find these new movements, I had the chance to see some butoh(12). Using the body has been a main theme of mine since then. For example, when I strike something I don't just do it straight, I break down the action or stop just before or just after the actual striking of the object. No words exist to express or explain those types of action–all I can do is move my body and show people. It's something that doesn't even come across in audio recordings, you have to see it to experience it. How about this for an impossible proposal–instead of a CD, Halana should have a free video, then people can see what I'm talking about.