Nov 7, 2022

(2022) TRANSLATION | "Music x Inspiration" Interview with Airi Suzuki by NHK Citizen Lab

This interview has been published before the online talk event "Ongaku wo kagaku suru kenkyuu-shitsu" by NHK.
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―――What kind of research did you do as a student?

I experimented with singing the university's school song in public. My experiment consisted of playing a recorded sound source and singing it in front of the audience. I made them listen to a version of the sound source with their eyes open, a version with their eyes open and me singing it live, and a version where the audience was in front of me but with their eyes closed. I also experimented with something that didn't include visual information, and in addition to measuring brain waves, I asked the participants to write a circle if they felt moved when they heard the song. I quantified such things (laughs).

―――Why did you research about music's influence on the human brain ?

When I was an idol, I had many opportunities to perform live overseas, and I found that the songs that were exciting in Japan were different from the songs that were exciting overseas. There were songs we did in the middle of the show in Japan because the audience wasn't that receptive to them, that really excited overseas fans ! There were times when we were like, "Wait, we have a little more to show in the second half of the show!" and that was very interesting (laughs). So that made me ask myself a lot of questions. I wondered if our songs were really understood by people overseas. "I want to say these words, but are they perceived differently ?". I wanted to fill in the gaps between these different senses and these between different countries, and I thought it would be fascinating to study the brain, which is the most common thing between people.

I thought it would be best if I could incorporate that research into my live performance. When I was researching the brain and found that visual information and olfactory information can all be transmitted to the audience, I thought I could use this data. I wondered if changing the scent of a live concert venue would increase the audience's excitement, that it'd be very interesting if we could recognize things like, "This person's scent smells like this, so it makes me feel at home".

―――It would be interesting to see how you use this in your production. Is there anything you are conscious of in order to impress the audience when you sing yourself?

Even if I studied it, I still don't understand everything about music! As a musician, if I think too much about it, it becomes like karaoke scoring, so I've come to the conclusion that it's better to separate the way I think about music from the way I perform it. When I talk about this kind of thing, I participate in the research with a completely behind-the-scenes feeling, but when it comes out, I really don't think much about it.

―――What would you like to understand through this event?

There are many singers who don't show themselves these days. I have the feeling that there is a gap between those who become fans based on the artist's appearance and those who don't. I wonder if the singers who don't show their faces are hiding it so that people can really listen to their songs. In fact, is the song more moving when people's eyes are closed because they're focusing on the artist's singing voice, or is it more moving when visual information is included? I think it's pretty important.

I'm curious about how far people who like music or want to know a little can step into it. I'd like to know if that research has come forward enough to actually incorporate it into a live venue, or if it's near impossible because it would take so much time.