Message from New ATM Director General Seiji Ozawa


Making music, theater and art more accessible  

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                                                              photo:Michiharu Okubo

I am Seiji Ozawa, newly-installed director general of Art Tower Mito (ATM).

More than two decades ago, when my dear mentor and colleague, the late Hidekazu Yoshida, was organizing Art Tower Mito at the behest of then-Mayor Sagawa of Mito City, he invited me to his home in Kamakura, where he told me that he wanted to form a chamber orchestra. The result of those discussions was the creation of the Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO). Since then, I have been performing with my fellow musicians in the MCO for many years at the Concert Hall ATM. The fact that the orchestra was formed at the same time that Art Tower Mito opened is wonderful in itself, I think. Around 1990, when the complex opened, many concert halls were being built all over Japan, but most of them were what you might call "rental halls." So I was left with the impression that Mito was really doing something unique, enlisting the architect Arata Isozaki and the lighting designer Sumio Yoshii in Art Tower Mito's construction, as well as including an art museum and a theater in the complex.

My reason for accepting the position of director general at Art Tower Mito was that I began to understand the support and love extended to the MCO by the citizens of Mito, which I experienced each time I paid a visit there to direct the orchestra's regular concerts. While I don't believe that music is absolutely necessary for a person to live, I do think that it does have some sort of power, so it would make me happy if I could work together with the citizens of Mito and get them to feel and appreciate music more closely.

When I first was approached with the idea of becoming ATM director general, I wondered whether an orchestra conductor like me could really do the job, and there was also the problem of my health. My doctors had told me that I might suffer a relapse at some time, so I continued taking tests, and it was only recently that they gave me a clean bill of health. That's what led to my decision to accept the position.

Of course, having just been a conductor means that I have never served in the capacity of a director general before, so I cannot honestly say that I have much confidence about it, if you were to ask me. Still, speaking from my experience as a musician, I think that the most important thing, as far as music is concerned, is whether music-related activities are accepted by the people or not. For example, the Concert Hall ATM holds only around 700 people, so the number of people who can go inside the hall and listen to concerts there first-hand is limited. That's why we make trips from Art Tower Mito to visit elementary and junior high schools, among other places, getting people to listen to us in school auditoriums and other large facilities. Also, I've heard that Mito schools have excellent brass bands, so if we can establish a connection with their member students, I think that their families will see what they are doing and definitely show an interest. I really want to carry out those types of activities in Mito.

From now on, having inherited what Mr. Yoshida accomplished at Art Tower Mito, I hope to work together with everyone involved in a way that the three parts of the ATM complex-music, theater, and art-function efficiently and move on to greater heights.

The tall tower at Art Tower Mito serves as a symbol that everyone can see. Likewise, it is my hope that the activities of ATM will pervade the lives of people in the city, becoming familiar to them in an intimate way. That would make me truly happy as a musician.

*This message is based on comments delivered by Maestro Ozawa at a press conference held at the ATM Conference Hall on April 4, 2013, upon his assumption of the ATM director-generalship.

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photo:Michiharu Okubo
From left to right: Yasushi Takahashi (Mayor, Mito City), Seiji Ozawa (Director General, Art Tower Mito), Hanae Mori (President, Mito Arts Foundation), Mitsuo Yoshida (Associate Director General, Art Tower Mito)



From the first Director

Contributing to the World Through Open Artistic Activities

This speech was delivered at the opening ceremony held at the Concert Hall ATM on March 21, 1990.(The speech is Japanese.)

h_yoshida2Art Tower Mito is unique -- not only in Japan but perhaps the world as a whole -- in its comprehensive treatment of the arts, with dramatic plays and musical concerts being performed alongside exhibitions of art.
The arts involve the premonition, presentiment and prediction of humankind's current condition, our future direction and future possibilities of creation -- in other words, they offer a vision of where we and our society are heading. At Art Tower Mito, this function is taken up by the art gallery. At times, the art works exhibited there might be considered by some people as tending toward the weird or strange, but that only serves to emphasize their role as a one suggestion of what tomorrow might be like (or conversely, what one hopes and wishes it would not become). Be that what it may, please enjoy the art that we present.

The external manifestation of Mr. Tadashi SUZUKI's plays is marked in its singularity. It would be safe to say that most of his works are grounded solidly in a classical foundation that spans both geography and time: Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Beckett, and so forth. Simultaneously, he employs the conventions and techniques (such as gait and voice projection) of the traditional Japanese stage, as typified by Noh, Kyogen and Kabuki. For those of us living in the modern world, Suzuki's plays represent the depiction on stage of the integrated body of extremely important and pressing problems. While using ancient and traditional styles, SUZUKI adapts and converts them into his own creative form. Needless to say, his work demonstrates the fundamental function of art. To be more precise, the conversion of tradition into the unique is exactly what art aims to do.

Art Tower Mito was conceived as part of the celebration of Mito's centennial as a municipality. Speaking of one hundred years, that period is only slightly less than the time that Japan has been in contact with Western music. In other words, when Mito was promoted to a "city" a century ago, Japanese were just beginning to play, perform and compose music using the diatonic (do re mi) scale imported from the West. What has the century of Western music meant to Japan? How wonderful it would be to conclude that the result of that century of contact -- during which sounds were heard in Japan that were never heard here before -- has been the fact that we Japanese have opened our arms to and walked in tandem with the rest of the world, rather than staying secluded within the confines of our shores. That holds much more significance than simply citing that Japan has produced musicians of the caliber of Mr. Seiji OZAWA or the like.
Our institution has been fortunate to enjoy the participation of four renowned musicians -- Mr. Ryosuke HATANAKA, Mr. Michio MAMIYA, Mr. Hiroshi WAKASUGI and Mr. Shin'ichiro IKEBE -- in its planning and management committee.

I have mentioned spoken so far with the intention of informing you in advance about what we at Art Tower Mito intend to provide you. However, the job of art does not merely end there -- with our providing it. For art can only come to fruition once you -- our audience -- visit our galleries/ theater/concert hall at Art Tower Mito and both see and hear what we provide. Your job is to carry on dialogues with the works we display -- criticizing them, sympathizing with them, and being deeply moved by them.

There is another important thing I must not fail to mention: not only do we ask you to hear and see what we exhibit, but we also request you to display or perform here whatever you may desire. As Art Tower Mito belongs to all the citizens of Mito, it goes without saying that it must remain open to their participation. If the urge strikes you to sing, please come here and do so. At any rate, as long as this institution exists in Mito, it will remain the property of the people of the city. Our mission is to carry out our job in a way that makes all of you feel that Art Tower Mito belongs to you.

Our center for the arts, I feel, must function in a way fully open to anyone and everyone. That is my philosophy as a music critic; as long as I serve as the director general of Art Tower Mito, I will work consistently to make it the premise of this institution. Since the institution ought not to belong just to Mito -- nor ought it to limit its outlook there -- I shall unfailingly try to expand its perspectives beyond city limits. Unless we accomplish that, people around the world will not be willing to welcome Japan and Mito with open arms.

While Art Tower Mito belongs to the city of Mito, it must also be something more than that. As it accepts and welcomes what the world has to give, it must also serve as a base for open artistic activities so as to give something back to the world. That is the fundamental principle underlying the activities carried out at Art Tower Mito.

» Comments by ATM’s Director General about Damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake
» Statements by ATM’s Director General at Press Briefing: Toward the Recovery of Mito

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