Electone Player and Composer Saori Iwauchi expands the possibilities of the Electone (electronic organ)
We interviewed Saori Iwauchi because there has been a huge impact on the mandolin world since Saori arranged and performed Hiro Fujikake’s “Pastoral Fantasy” – originally a work for mandolin orchestra which has been popular for many years.
Saori discovered music when she was 4 years old and started composing at age 6. When she was 11 years old, she was invited by UNICEF to perform her original music with an orchestra at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in the USA. In 1989, she won first prize at the International Electone Festival and became a professional player. She has frequently performed her original music, giving performances more than 2000 times domestically and overseas. Her works have gained a good reputation, combining melodies and stories with orchestral backing. Her CDs and 17 sheet music collections have been popular for many years. She was the first Electone player to perform at the “Izumo Taisha Dedication Performance” in 2016 and 2018, which received positive reviews. She has engaged her work for the “National Tree Planting Festival,” “National Tree-Rearing Festival,” and “Florence Nightingale Medal from the International Committee of the Red Cross” ceremony, all attended by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. She has also provided her music for music festivals sponsored by the Cabinet Office and various companies. Her activities have not been limited to musical performances but have also included lecture presentations since 2019.
What inspired you to start playing Electone? Did you like music when you were a child?
I started attending painting class and music class when I was 4 years old. From the time I discovered the Electone, I was fascinated by the performance style of Electones because only one instrument was able to make different sounds at the same time by using foot pedals. I got where I am now because my teacher was very kind and patient with my practice. Also, my father liked music very much.
Have you been inspired by artists or composers?
When I was an elementary school student, I had a chance to perform my original music with several orchestras, and I received advice from conductors. Among them, I was heavily influenced by international conductor, Mstislav Rostropovich from Russia and the motto “Keep music in my heart” by Hiroshi Ishimaru remained in my mind.
What do you cherish when you compose music? Do you have anything to keep in your mind when you perform on the Electone?
I develop the concept of the music before starting composing and the process of creation is very important for me. I use most of my time building the structure of the whole music, and the best part of composing is assembling all my ideas to put together at last. Arranging for the Electone from the orchestra music in my head requires me to be a composer and conductor at the same time. Since I take full responsibility for the music, I do care about the balance of each part and I’m quite sensitive when I’m giving a performance to convey the concept of the music to the audience.
Your work has definitely expanded the possibilities of the Electone. Some of your songs include vocals and are in the style of a musical. Especially the song “Mirai-no-tobira” (Door to the future) seems to have a strong message. Please let us know the message behind this song.
This music is a fight song for the people who need to be encouraged and cheered up when they are depressed or encountering difficulties. Originally it was composed for solo Electone. I wanted to create this song with both male and female vocals, and I had a chance to collaborate with singers. The song was released through YouTube. I think the message of the music becomes clearer when it’s sung. I would be grateful if the music is personally meaningful to the people who listen or those who perform the music.
How do you know music of Hiro Fujikake? Please let us know if you have any favorite music of Hiro Fujikake.
I have known Hiro Fujikake from many years ago since he has released many CDs and scores. Among his works, I encountered “Pastoral Fantasy” by chance through TV and I remember that the melody impressed me very much. I wanted to arrange and perform this mandolin orchestra music for solo Electone. I’m glad this arrangement has been published and introduced to people outside of the mandolin field, and I like “Pastoral Fantasy” the best among Hiro Fujikake’s music.
Please tell us about your goals and anything you would like to achieve as a composer and Electone player.
I would like to continue to compose as much music as I can and release it in the future too. Although I’ve been giving many performances of my music, my hope is that my music will be arranged or performed by different people and the music will stand alone. Please visit my official website (https://www.saori-iwauchi.com) and check my works which are available as instrumental scores.