EarShot Aguascalientes Symphony – Composer Spotlight: Kenichi Ikuno Sekiguchi

Kenichi Ikuno Sekiguchi (he/him) is a Mexican composer of Japanese heritage who was born and raised in Mexico City. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Composition at Mannes College of Music in New York City, studying with Rudolph Palmer and David Tcimpidis. He was later admitted into the Master in Music degree in Composition from the Royal College of Music, London studying with Kenneth Hesketh. 

Ikuno’s pieces have been performed in various cities in the United States, as well as in London, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Tainan, and Paris. His opera, 76 Days, was premiered in the Britten Hall in London produced by the Royal College of Music in partnership with Tête à Tête Opera under the direction of Bill Bankes-Jones. In 2016, he was awarded a grant from the Mexican Ministry of Culture for young artists (beca FONCA de Jóvenes Creadores) to compose a piece under the tutelage of Marcela Rodríguez and Lilia Vázquez-Kuntze. His piece Vox Villaurrutiensis was recorded by aTonalHits for their album Origins

Kenichi‘s piece Retratos de la locura was selected for the Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings, which takes place August 12-14, 2019 in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Kenichi spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Composer Kenichi Ikuno Sekiguchi. Photo by Pablo Antoli

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Aguascalientes EarShot New Music Readings?

Kenichi Ikuno Sekiguchi: I was quite thrilled! It is very difficult -outside an academic environment- to be able to have an opportunity to have a piece played by a full orchestra.

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece since you found out it would be performed by the Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra?

KIS: I am anticipating some of the questions that might arise from both the musicians and my colleagues of the score I composed. I did some adjustments when I was revising the piece anew for the reading.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

KIS: I’m looking forward to actually listen to the piece I wrote live! Besides that, I’m looking forward to the feedback: I think any criticism will help me grow as a composer. Everyone has a very different listening experience based on their own background and history, I would be very interested in what they hear in my piece.

ACO: The second half of Retratos de la locura is a fugue, and you write in your program note that “writing a fugue in the present times seems almost an act of outmoded foolishness.” Why were you having these doubts? At what point in the compositional process did you begin to believe that using this technique was going to be worth it?

KIS: Now that I’m reading myself again it comes off a bit standoffish. I didn’t mean that fugues aren’t written anymore, but they do have a very thick air of academia. I remember at the conservatory that we were required to compose fugues from time to time for certain classes on given subjects: it was not always fun, and results were – most of the time – theoretically correct, but results were extremely stale. Fugues are obsessive by nature: for this reason, I chose to write a fugue for this particular piece.

ACO: Can you talk about what it means to be a Mexican composer?

KIS: To be honest I’m a bit conflicted about this question. Probably what I write in such a brief space would leave a lot out. What makes someone belong to a certain place? Who dictates that? Is it the state? Is it the people? The culture? I think a big part of belonging is identifying oneself with the place one considers home. We live in a time where displacement, more than immigration (and I think there is a big difference between both terms) has become commonplace. More times we hear voices screaming that he or she doesn’t belong somewhere; that they go back to where we came from; for them to deny their roots and become “one of us.”

Mexico is a multicultural country, not only because of immigration from different countries but also by their many indigenous peoples. It is a complex country with a complex web of different identities: there is an idea of a Mexican, but there many shades of gray of what a Mexican is. My name isn’t Mexican. It is Japanese. My facial features are not Mexican. They’re Japanese. My heritage is not Mexican. It is Japanese. But I am Mexican. I was born in Mexico. I feel Mexican. I have Mexican customs. My mother tongue is Spanish: my slang is Mexican, I cuss with Mexican curses, I sing Mexican songs when I’m drunk. For me, what it means to be a Mexican composer is manyfold: it is an acknowledgment of my Japanese heritage, it is embracing the Mexican culture that adopted and welcomed my ancestors, it is mixing a lot of different influences.

Kenichi’s piece Retratos de la locura will be workshopped and performed at the Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings, which takes place August 12-14, 2019 in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Follow Kenichi Ikuno Sekiguchi on Twitter and Soundcloud

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.