HAL ca is a project led by composer/sound artist Haruka Kikuchi. Known for its experimental music incorporating noise, vocals, and various sound objects, the project merges abstract elements with a circular design of sound in response to time. HAL ca aims to capture the fleeting brilliance and sharpness in the abstract world through its music.
After graduating from the National University of Music, HAL ca moved to France and graduated with top honors from the film music composition department at the École Normale de Musique in Paris. Further studies included enrolling in the electroacoustic composition department at the Paris Regional Music Academy, focusing on electronic sound. HAL ca has been deeply committed to the path of music, contributing to various projects involving visual arts, spatial installations, and making a mark in the field of advertising music.
In this interview, HAL ca shares insights into their experiences at academies in Tokyo and Paris, discusses their 1st EP “In the Fog,” released in August this year, and reflects on their approach to art and music.
Interviewer: Yumiko Tamate
Planning and Composition: Mai Shimada
When did you first become interested in music ?
Music was always present in my household from a young age. Playing, composing, and arranging were not seen as something extraordinary; it just happened naturally, and before I knew it, I was already involved in it.
Do you have any favorite artists ?
I used to enjoy listening to dense music by composers like Henri Dutilleux, Olivier Messiaen, Iannis Xenakis during my student days. Looking back, I realize there was a preference for French composers.
Did the presence of those artists have a significant impact on your music production?
It was significant. The repetition of the realization that sounds are woven from meticulous scores was there, and that experience is at the core of my current composition.
Could you please share what kind of studies you pursued in music school ?
I mainly studied composition in the field of chamber music and orchestral works, commonly referred to as contemporary music. Within the musical community, surrounded by people passionate about music, it felt like I spent four years confirming and finding my own place.
After graduating from a Japanese music university, you went to France and enrolled in the Film Scoring Department at the École Normale de Musique de Paris. What was the reason for choosing to specialize in film music composition ?
Studying Western music in Japan led to a struggle with the question of its meaning, and I felt a bit of inconsistency. Before considering music studies abroad, I wanted to immerse myself in a city with a strong awareness of its cultural origins. Since I loved film music, and many of my favorite composers were French, the decision to study film scoring in Paris was made without much hesitation.
I also enrolled in the Electroacoustic Composition Department at the Regional Conservatory of Paris, where I studied electronic sound. Could you tell me the reason or motivation behind that decision ?
In my early years, I frequently arranged and performed orchestral pieces on the Electone, and during the process of shaping the sounds within those arrangements, I naturally began to think about how to add noises and resonances to make the instrument sound more authentic. Over time, my focus shifted to the noise elements, and I developed an interest in exploring what is commonly referred to as non-musical sounds. It became a journey where, before learning how to write music, I became aware of the importance of how to listen to and dissect sounds.
Regarding the 1st EP "In the Fog,"
Thank you for the congratulations on the release of the 1st EP. Regarding the composition, were there any inspirations or influences that guided you ?
Thank you. For this release, I gathered ambient pieces with a common theme from compositions I’ve accumulated over the past few years. These three songs express the subtle changes brought about by oneself and time, resembling a world gently coming to life when staring at a simple and flat painting.
Over the past few years, as the information and words within myself have increased, I’ve experienced a gradual quieting of the sounds I use for expression. Exploring and depicting sounds has led to many realizations, and I felt it was important to document these moments. That’s why I decided to release these three tracks.
Please tell us about the songs included.
I created this piece inspired by the image of a pure white bird floating on a lake, surrendering itself to the slow current without actively moving. The work reflects a sense of tranquility, uncertainty, and delicate emotions, capturing subtle and ambiguous feelings.
This piece was created by layering artificially manipulated humming recordings of a single male voice, applying intentional pitch changes and processing to build up the continuous movement of waves one by one.
I wanted to express the irregularity in the process of trying to create scenes where the continuous randomness of moments, such as waves in the sea or the shape of mountains, could be perceived as “the same scenery.” The intention was to capture the inherent distortion in the attempt to construct such scenes artificially.
In this silence
This piece is an extension of various sound objects hidden within silence. Even when we perceive it as “quiet,” there is usually some form of noise present. The existence of these noises, fragments of randomly generated sounds, was conceived to create a sense of causality evolving over time.
How do you create noise ?
I create noise using various methods such as synthesizers, recorded sounds, and human breath. Regardless of the material, a common approach is to craft it with a musical quality, incorporating elements like softness and a slightly sharp character to express a musical texture.
Please tell me your thoughts on "time".
The relationship between music and time is inseparable, and the challenge of how to weave sound within time is a perpetual concern for me. Perhaps there is a certain discomfort or aversion towards it, but I am consciously aware of it, and facing this fundamental theme appears to be at the core of my creative process.
About the works created with Lada
Could you please provide more details or specify which aspects of your works with Lada you would like me to focus on?
In 2022, at the “BMW THE SEVEN ART MUSEUM” held at the National Art Center in Tokyo, I presented an audio and visual art installation titled “Transcendence of Digital Form” in collaboration with visual artist Yusuke Murakami, who is active in both Japan and London. Additionally, in 2018, I created various works, including a light and sound performance at “Blue Curve 2018,” featuring a 400-meter-long Zelkova tree-lined path synchronized with musical instruments, and a music performance surrounding Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture.
What steps do you usually follow in your production process ?
I refine the imagery of sound while ruminating on the concept and scenario of the piece within myself. I don’t often use traditional instruments; sometimes, the motif emerges first, and at other times, the overall sonic concept takes precedence. Turning to the production environment, like scores or DAW, usually happens towards the end of the process. Once I begin writing, completion tends to occur relatively quickly.
Please let us know what you think about the installation and what you would like to do in the future.
The term “installation” has a broad meaning, and I feel it encompasses conceptual aspects while balancing between the conceptual and the universal, and determining the distribution of intentional and accidental elements, making it more uncertain compared to other art forms. Moreover, considering the physicality is inevitable, it is necessary to design the structure of the cause-and-effect relationship between the outputs generated by the artwork and the inputs experienced by the audience, such as listening with the body and feeling with the ears.
I would be delighted to continue exploring the creation of works that go beyond traditional frameworks of visual perception, auditory experience, and bodily sensation.
Do you create advertising music using a different approach than your regular work?
The process of expressing what I want to convey through my works doesn’t differ much.
Music, not being a language, possesses a certain clumsiness that cannot be explicitly stated, and I believe that this inherent awkwardness, and hence its strength, is something I cherish. Confronting both aspects while creating the work is essential and valuable at every moment.
Have you noticed any changes in your way of thinking or life while devoting yourself to music?
I don’t have any strong desire to bring about a revolution through music; rather, continuing with music feels necessary to me. Being able to stay in a place without a definitive answer, no matter how long, feels like a source of happiness in this era.
HAL ca - 1st EP 『In the Fog』
1. White Bird
2. Draw waves
3. In this silence