It was around this time last year that I had arrived back to Dublin after a short trip to Brazil. Prior to embarking on this adventure, I had finally completed my Master’s thesis, which discussed the stylistic development of Western Classical music in Japan. The third chapter focused on the post-war era of the country, specifically on an artistic movement which throughout the 1970s and early 1980s gave rise to many now renowned Japanese composers including Midori Takada, Joe Hisaishi and most importantly for my work, Satoshi Ashikawa.
During my time in the city of Sao Paulo, I was repeatedly overwhelmed by its ever-changing nature. I became obsessed with imagining a music best able to reflect the blending of these modern urban environments. I found an elucidating reflection of this pursuit in the liner notes of Ashikawa’s album, Still Way, where he noted how his concept of an Environmental Music can be understood as an:
object or sound scenery to be listened to casually. Not being music which excites or leads the listener into another world, it should drift like smoke and become part of the environment surrounding the listener’s activity. In other words, it is music which creates an intimate relationship with people in everyday life.
Upon returning to Ireland, my obsession with Environmental Music only grew stronger as it offered me boundless agency for creativity, this is when I started work on my first album, Laistigh den Ghleo. It was during the writing and recording process that I began to realise just how relevant Ashikawa’s concept of Environmental Music had become in modern times.
Instant access to music via streaming sites has changed our day to day relationship with music, resulting in most experiencing this art form in a passive manner. This offers an opportunity for Ashikawa’s concept of a static music to develop into an Environmental Music which blends and reflects our ever-changing environments. An Environmental Music which moves with the listener throughout their day. This is what I have attempted to develop with my last two albums, the aforementioned Laistigh den Ghleo and most recently, Gluaiseacht. In order to reflect the changing environment of the listener, the music that I have written does give into certain dramatic qualities, leaning away from Ashikawa’s concept of a music “which does not excite the listener.” However, I believe this necessary in my pursuit of developing Environmental Music within a modern framework.
My main hope is that Laistigh den Ghleo and Gluaiseacht help the listener reengage with their surrounding environment and also to recognise the multitude of individual pulses that comprise the world around them. Instead of using music as a form of escapism, Environmental Music is instead designed to create an intimate bond with the listener and their everyday life.