Behind the Music: Kazuto Byars

by admin on November 14, 2014

Who is Kazuto Byars? Not a name you’re familiar with I’m sure, and a name you may not even know how to pronounce. He isn’t some famous musician or musical experimentalist. Kazuto Byars is a brilliant composer, an extraordinary musician, and my brother.

In the sixth grade, he composed a piece for his class’s band and conducted the song himself during a school concert. Kazuto also taught himself how to play piano and read music. Later on, music teachers would comment on his unique style of playing. A notable comment came from his most recent piano teacher, “I have no idea how he does it, the music comes out beautifully, but his hands and fingers are all over the place!” Kazuto has created many pieces of music, ranging from vast orchestral arrangements to repetitive variations. For years, I’ve watched as Kazuto has created his works of art, but never once asked about the process behind it. That is, until recently. The interview went a little something like this:

What process do you go through when you compose your music?

“Oh boy…I don’t know. I’m not very good at explaining things. I don’t really go through a process, I mostly wing it.”

Can you try? (I should have given him some advance as to what I was going to call him about).

“Well…first I brainstorm a theme (melody), this can occur in different ways: improvisation, randomly entering notes or trial and error, or the theme may already be in my head.”

What do you do once you’ve created the theme?

“After brainstorming the theme, I develop it by either improvisation or musical variations. I repeat the process and keep what sounds good, and scrap the ones that don’t. I add accompanying chords that sound well with the theme, and sometimes add supporting themes using the same process as normal themes.”

Kazuto later mentions that he usually follows the classical music form called a sonata, which follows a fast-slow-fast pace, but sometimes uses other forms.

How do you usually wrap up your piece?

“When I feel like I’ve exhausted the themes enough, I write a coda. I like to make an outro with a lasting impression, and end with a chord that resolves the piece.”

Kazuto has moved many times since he has started composing, including Florida, Washington, and North Carolina, and outside the U.S. in places such as Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and Japan. I had wondered if such a drastic change in scenery had affected his compositional style.

I know we’ve moved a lot, has the change in environment and culture affected your composition style or creative process in any way?

“That’s stupid, no. Khalas.”

Can you elaborate why not?

“I have drawn from the same inspirations, I go with what I feel, and don’t take many influences from the outside. I take inspiration from emotions and natural identifiers, such as the sun and moon.”

Though I still don’t really understand how he composes such a wide variety of pieces, I feel like I can see where the roots of his arrangements stem from. From this interview, I not only got a glimpse into the mind of Kazuto Byars, but a huge amount of respect and admiration for my brother’s favorite pastime.

by Hiro Byars

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