Early on in my life, my interest in making music wasn’t fulfilled as I had little to no access to musical instruments in my home environment. I had to wait until I turned 10 when I finally got a Casio keyboard, and I could then play as I pleased. In junior high, I was enthusiastic enough to plead a music teacher to allow me to be a piano accompanist for a chorus (usually, that role would automatically go to someone who had taken private formal lessons). Luckily, I was given a chance to be one and was able to practice with the instrument. This, combined with playing in a brass band (I played the clarinet) and in a jazz band (I played the bass) in my teenage years, fostered my foundations in making music.
My name is Tomonori Hasegawa. Through working in areas like Educational Technology, Gaming, and Science in my career, I am currently a Technical Product Manager. After a pause imposed by the Covid pandemic, I’m now taking a slightly new direction in Digital Ads Products. It sounds very 2020 to me, and I’m curious to see things first-hand. Recently, I happened to pick up a side-job as a translator for a biotech company, which I enjoy a lot: bio-inspired technology for sustainability is among my long-term interests.
I’m a Japanese immigrant (let’s say “0th generation” …). I moved to Ireland in 2010 to do my PhD in an Irish university with an Irish professor. I researched about Artificial Life – it’s related to Astrobiology and Origins of Life and Robotics. So far, it’s not as widely known as other fields, but I believe it is unique and offers important insights, and will be more relevant in a post-AI (or post-data-ism) era.
Outside of my job, I love music. Making music has a certain therapeutic effect, as it allows me to express things in a different way. I like the way it comes from ‘personal’ but then enters ‘abstract’. And when things take shape, I feel like my endless thoughts finally find an end and get embodied with boundaries. I also like that making music has many elements to consider – melodies, harmonies, beats, rhythms, timbres, tones, words, voices; and not to forget recording, mixing, mastering, arrangements, and live performances. It’s all just so rich and abundant; I could explore it infinitely.
I have a lot of favourite musicians and music composers. Among others, I closely follow music by St. Vincent and James Blake – I’ve actually watched them live in Ireland (in Iveagh Garden and Olympia Theatre, respectively). Sonically, I’ve been always inspired by Björk and Donald Fagen. As an artist, I respect Herbie Hancock. His autobiography Possibilities is one of the influences that made me determined to hold on to music in whatever way possible.
My home setup for composing music is basic – I use Logic Pro X, an Audio-Technica microphone, a Focusrite audio interface, and a KORG digital piano. Last year, I added an acoustic guitar to my line-up, in the hopes that it helps expand my musicality. It feels like a guilty pleasure to me.
When I compose music, I would usually experiment. I simply start with one of the elements (melodies, harmonies, beats, etc.) and hop onto another, going back and forth. I feel each method has its own advantage and excitement. From what I have heard and seen, music listeners respond to the beat/the rhythm first, then the chord progression/the bass line/the melody, and lastly, the lyrics. So I generally believe it is safe to go through in that order.
I have digitally released a full-length album titled Immense Dwelling (https://tomonorimusic.com). The production took 2 years based on sketches I kept here and there when I was in my 20s. I had to fight the temptation to outsource everything to brilliant musicians and engineers to shortcut the process. But I knew that would defeat the purpose because the process and coherence were important factors for me, so I decided to take my time for this one (and I was tight on a budget too!). Actually, I even commissioned myself to paint a cover art and edited a booklet, making it look like a novel!
Dublin has definitively been an intriguing place to live as a music composer. I am exploring musical venues and communities to see if I could fit in here and there. After 10 years of living in Dublin, I still have much more to explore. Earlier in 2020, I tried going to some events run by First Fortnight. It happens annually in January and it’s not music-only, but I share the same interest as they have – “Challenging Mental Health Stigma through Creative Arts.” It’s an organisation I wish to see more of and get involved with in the future.
My other future goals with making music are to make friends and shift my focus a bit more to music performance. I also want to learn and train myself in stage technologies and techniques. Hopefully, I will find collaborators to play with in a band.
Very personally, I’d also like to engage in raising awareness of such relatively unspoken topics as male survivors and next-generation men (as opposed to so-called toxic masculinity). I intuit that making music has something to do with emotional intelligence.
I tend to see more differences than similarities between music and my job. In my career, I’ve been trained to be analytical. Making music speaks to creativity, which is what makes it indispensable to me. However, I feel music and tech are complementary and synergetic, and that one can’t replace the other. The activities may look different, but I’d do both happily. For me, they are both a source of passion and a means to connect (with people and with society).
My advice to people interested in making their own music is to do it for your own sake. It’s tempting to try hard to impress others or compare myself with others, but I would choose to reflect on my own intent and motive. Techniques and skills are obviously important to continue learning, but it’s always a work-in-progress and it can’t be developed overnight. Practically, I also keep telling myself to “finish and ship”; it helps me focus on what I can do and beat perfectionism. More broadly, I keep this in mind first and foremost: “Awaken to your humanity”. This is a first of the ten-point manifesto by Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter (Open Letter To The Next Generation Of Artists), which I often take inspiration from (https://planetradio.co.uk/jazz-fm/news/music-news/an-open-letter-from-herbie-hancock-and-wayne-shorter/).
There is always more than tech. I believe creative passions are a necessary driving force for tech. What’s interesting to me is when there is a gap – between mediums, between genres, between technologies. That’s where there is potential (or necessity) for a new interpretation, and it’s where creativity arises.