Hatori Yumi was born in Palermo where he lives and works. He studied and graduated in Musicology and Music History in Palermo. He works in different fields: music, graphic-design, video. He evolved as a bassist and guitarist in bands whose influences ranged from noise-rock, to punk, before buying a midi-controller and moving on to electronic music...
Who is Hatori Yumi and where does the moniker come from?
Hatori Yumi is a project born in 2009 for the “Congresso di musica elettronica” (Congress of Electronic Music) which, after the Brusio label was set up, mutated into the festival MainOFF. The moniker is only an aesthetic choice. It sounded nice and I decided to keep it!
I was intrigued to learn that you studied Music History and graduated with a thesis on the “Sound structure of Euripides’ The Bacchae”. Could you boil down the whole concept of your thesis in a few sentences?
Of course! I have always been fascinated by the classical world and studying the history of music, I decided to combine these two different passions of mine. My thesis is based on musical reconstruction and looks at how music works inside the play. Obviously, no clear indications have survived, so I based my study on the theory and the harmonic rules of the time. I specifically chose The Bacchae for its expressivity and because music plays such an integral part in the play. There are so many scenes where offering songs are sung in honour of characters markedly different from the traditional Olympian ones. As a matter of fact, it seems that songs in honour of goats (or tragos in Greek), are what gave birth to classical Greek tragedy. In a way, it’s almost as if I’ve attempted to uncover the roots of music.
Is knowing the history of music important in order to make electro-acoustic or electronic music?
I believe so. It allows one to have an awareness of the language, especially when it comes to listening and producing music. The interesting thing, in my opinion, is to interpret the experiments carried out by different composers in order to try and push to envelope, to be bold and daring! Obviously it isn’t that easy and the risk is of falling into mannerism, but if one finds the right key of interpretation, it can be very satisfactory.
You are involved with Brusio, a netlabel which releases a broad spectrum of electronic music from IDM to Ambient. How is the label run on a practical basis and how do you go about selecting the appropriate material for a release?
Brusio is a cross section receptacle of music, ideas and people! Over the years, we have managed to integrate projects hailing from very different backgrounds, something which we are very happy with. For instance, to juxtapose an academic set of electro acoustic music to a hardcore noise work, is certainly destabilising but also very stimulating as one is comparing two completely different methods of working and of treating sound. As for the material, when it comes to selecting the next release, this is always something done as a group decision, since there are four of us running the label. This can be quite a difficult process at times. Still often it only takes about a minute or two to realise a particular piece of music wouldn’t in within our remit.
Brusio seems to have strong ties with other microlables such as Franz Rosati’s Nephogram. Indeed you have released two albums by Franz on Brusio, Fields and Fields II and he has released your album Rhegma on Nephogram. And yet you don’t seem to share just a penchant for granular synthesis, but also a similar ethos. Is that correct?
True, my experience with Brusio is similar to Franz’s with Nephogram. The Internet has created infinite possibilities to start up new projects and initiatives, even if it is not easy to find your own niche. Nephogram and Brusio share similar concerns and have often collaborated together most notably on this year’s MainOFF festival. Having said that, we have taken different paths. On the one hand Nephogram is concentrating more on the label side of things with a number of physical releases, whereas Brusio is striving to promote the festival which next year will reach its 10th edition.
Melody is also important in your work. It’s not all just glitch, then?
No, I wouldn’t say so. If on the one hand it is true that it is possible to create melodies with rhythmic glitches, as I did with some of my early stuff, on the other I tend to create sonic textures, or harmonic works that go beyond the rhythmic. It all depends on the mood I am in at any particular point in time and on where I find myself on an emotional level in that specific stage of my life.
One of Brusio’s aims is “the enhancement of that music often generated by non-conventional tools, obtained with any device and/or technological system able to produce or record sounds.” Your own music sounds quite “technological”. What non-conventional tools have you used so far, if any, in your work?
I wouldn’t say that I use “non conventional” tools. On the contrary, I utilize the standard editing software that most electronic musicians tend to use. What fascinates me the most is to create “non conventional” sounds from basic material. For instance, I have lately been integrating the electric bass into my work, as this was my first proper instrument. I enjoy filtering it and recording it only to deconstruct the resulting samples in order to get radically new sounds out of them. Therefore, I would say that more than actual tools, I like to use “non conventional” sounds.
Together with Pietro Bonanno, you won the Critics Award at the Percezioni Festival in September with the piece OS i/O’s conceived along the river Sosio in the Nature Reserve near the Albanian village of Palazzo Adriano and the Sosio Valley in the province of Palermo. OS i/O’s was then broadcast in September in the woods of Santo Stefano di Quisquinia, Agrigento. It’s a piece that reminds me of Øe’s Transfer and that seems to be touching on the dichotomy between Nature and Technology. How did you go about capturing and integrating the organic aspect of the aural environment into the sound design?
OS i/O’s combines two aspects that have characterised both Pietro’s life as well as my own. With this piece we have tried to integrate the natural environment, which has been eroded and feels removed, and specifically that of the river Sosio, within the more chaotic and unforgiving urban landscape. OS i/O’s is split in two macro-sections that we managed to combine through contrasts. It’s been a sort of experiment whereby we wanted the audience to savour the real sounds of nature, which we recorded in situ, only to abruptly awaken them, as if dragging them out of bed and shuttering a pleasant but increasingly distant dream.
Visuals are a really important aspect of your work and often come into play in your live performances. How do you go about preparing for a live show?
Yes, visuals are as important as the audio in my sets. I believe this to be crucial in order to create the right synesthesia for the audience to feel involved. The visuals stem from the intrinsic concept behind the audio. When I create a piece of music I inevitably get images and colours into my head. Sometimes it can be the other way round as well. It’s an interchangeable relationship, even if the two aspects remain distinct.
Another one of Brusio’s goals is to provide an outlet for “bedroom artists”. Indeed promotion and distribution are two of the key factors in any artist’s work. Could you tell me something about the festival MainOFF, which you are involved in and which takes place in three different locations, Palermo, Rome and Bologna?
As I was saying earlier, the festival MainOFF raised from the ashes of the Congresso di Musica Elettronica, which used to take place in an occupied space in Palermo. Slowly but surely, and with no support form the institutions, we managed to gain a certain following. It hasn’t been easy, though, still, this year we decided to take venture outside of Sicily and further a field to include Rome and Bologna. By combining our forces with those of the Roman based label Nephogram and the Bolognese collective ConcreteElettoacustica, we have devised a number of projects for each city and managed to complete the line-up. The festival kicks off on the 11th of October in Palermo and closes on the 27th in Bologna. Aside from choices dictated by our network, we have also opened up the festival to local projects. Furthermore, a number of other artists joined in, which has meant building new bridges and creating new connections, and this will undoubtedly help MainOFF expand over time. At the latest count there will be a total of 35 acts taking part in this year’s festival! It’s pure madness, but we are driven by a strong sense of commitment and feel really passionate about it.
You are from Palermo, the beautiful but “troubled” capital of Sicily. What can you tell me of its cultural life and specifically about its music scene?
Talking to friends, fellow musicians and music lovers in general, I have been pleasantly surprised by how Brusio’s echo has reached far beyond the Strait of Messina. I am very proud both of the work carried out by Brusio and of the fact that this scene clearly has a certain appeal. It may be because Palermo is weighed down by so many problems that those who live here feel compelled to strenuously counteract the sorry state of things by producing art of a certain standard. For better of for worse, this city really gets under your skin. I have never heard anyone leave without commenting its streets, its people and habits in strong terms, both positive and negative.
Is the Italian north / south divide applicable within the music scene as well, or are you all one big happy family?
In my experience, I cannot see any differences or divisions between North and South. Let’s leave these silly divisions to politicians. We have more interesting things to do!