Ahead of her performance at Latitude Festival, the Japanese-born British violinist talks about writing her own music and introducing the violin to new audiences
Latitude has presented classical artists like Lang Lang, the Britten Sinfonia and Alison Balsom in the past. Why do you think it hosts classical music while other large UK festivals don’t?
It has a real focus on a high quality in the arts in general. And I think it attracts the kind of people who want access to really good music of all genres that will stimulate them in different ways.
What will your programme include?
I’m still trying to work that out at the moment. It will all be my own music including pieces from the record I released last year called Finding the Parallel. I’m really excited because it’s the first time I will get to play some of my new works to a big audience in the UK.
How would you describe the music you write?
I always describe it as contemporary electronic classical because classical music is the core of who I am as a musician. I first picked up the violin when I was five years old and I am lucky to have had the opportunity to record two classical albums at a young age [A recital disc, Elegy, with pianist Nigel Clayton in 2000 and a recording of works by Saint-Saëns with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2002]. That’s where I found my love of music, and classical music is the history of music. At the same time, I am inspired to try and do something new with the violin and explore different genres of music. It’s important for musicians to evolve – we need to create music that in 100 or 200 years time people will look back at and say, ‘that’s the classical music of that generation’.
What are your main influences?
The Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto has been a huge influence because he does everything across the board, from classical to contemporary. I really respect him because that’s what I aspire to try and do in my own way: to be respected in all the different fields and not be pigeon-holed into being just a classical musician or just a contemporary musician. It’s just about creating good music.
How does performing at a festival like this compare to traditional concert hall appearances?
I love do lots of different types of performances but the more intimate ones where you can actually see people’s faces and reactions are most rewarding. When I perform in concert halls I often notice that the audience look like they’re almost scared to breathe or make any noise! Once I decided to leave my violin backstage and just speak for a bit so that my audience could relax. Anyway, I think that’s changing now. There is a movement in classical music to remove convention and invite people to feel freer. At festivals of course they can do this. I once played at Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar and there were tens of thousands of people. It’s a totally different experience to being in a concert hall but I love them both for different reasons.
You mentioned seeing people’s reactions – is that something that’s important to you?
Yes, to be able to see people’s responses to music is really important to me. Especially when you’ve written music yourself it’s vital. Because I come from a classical background, it was initially scary to leave that and go into writing music and improvising; I was so used to being in the safety net of what composers had written. But being able to see people’s reactions allows me to know how they feel about my music. It’s an amazing thing and all I could wish for as a musician.
Finally, is there anybody you’re looking forward to seeing at the festival?
I’m not sure if I will have much time because I am flying to Japan the next day! But time permitting, I will try and see as many acts as I can on the day that I am there to perform.
Diana Yukawa is performing on the Film and Music stage at Latitude Festival on Saturday 19 July. Other classical artists at this year’s festival include Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka) and The National Portrait Gallery’s The Portrait Choir. Visit: latitiudefestival.com for more information