Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hello! My name is Verity Lane and I am an artist, composer, creative director and writer from Tottenham. I lived in Japan for ten years, and specialise in creating works that explore traditional Japanese arts, instrumentation, aesthetics and beyond.
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
I work a lot on developing my own projects, so I guess my job at the moment mainly involves producing/promoting my own events as well as scoring the music and creatively directing everything. It’s a lot of work, but every day is completely different! I think it all depends on what stage of the process I am in, for example applying for funding, booking musicians, venues, admin etc, but ultimately the goal is to write great music and create an unforgettable experience for the audience members.
At the moment I am producing a Japanese noh theatre-inspired opera installation called The Crane and giant origami and music project called Origami Soundscapes which will be premiered at the Grimeborn Opera Festival at Arcola Theatre. I have two great producers helping me so it gives me a lot more time to be more creative, working with musicians and developing the music.
I also take commissions, working on a variety of films and multimedia works, so there’s a lot of diversity.
Recently, I have started painting Chinese character inspired works in acrylic, which I have been adapting into set and costume designs.
What’s great about your job?
It gives me a chance to explore my own creativity as well as being practical minded. I get to work with a lot of great people, create site-specific works in a lot of different places and showcase different elements of traditional Japanese music and arts in an avant-garde way.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
Producing, promoting and managing everything is challenging, though I’ve had immense help with my up and coming opera project, and feel things are moving in the right direction.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
Being able to bring the amazing Tokyo-based koto player Etsuko Takezawa and sho (Japanese mouth organ) player Ko Ishikawa over from Japan to perform my music in my hometown of Tottenham! That was for my project Yugenism: Animated Soundscapes of the Japanese Sublime. We also performed the project at Cafe Oto; both completely sold out.
I also really enjoyed writing a multimedia installation for 300 shakuhachi (Japanese flutes)! It included dance, projections and spoken word and was commissioned by The World Shakuhachi Festival - it felt like every single shakuhachi player from around the world really was there!
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
I started studying the violin at age 6, attending music colleges etc to hone my skills. I started formal composition training at the age of 11 under the tutelage of the late Indian composer John Mayer, where we looked at music from all around the world as well as aspects of ethnomusicology. I then did an undergraduate degree at SOAS, studying Japanese and Music - this was a pivotal point in my life. As part of the degree I was able to study at a Japanese university for a year, where I learnt a lot about the culture, which I found integral to understanding the music and arts. After I finished my degree, I moved back to Japan and stayed there for 10 years! I worked in a variety of different jobs such as translation, English teaching, artist management, event management etc to hone my Japanese language skills and get acclimatised with the culture; I also completed an MA at a Japanese music college. All of these experiences taught me how to be self-sufficient as a modern avant-garde composer producing their own events. I also learnt the art of winging it.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
Living abroad presents a lot of day-to-day challenges, but you really do grow from it. Small things like buying something at a shop, sending a letter etc can feel quite big and present mini mountains to climb, but it really is a chance to build confidence and obtain self-belief.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
Since moving back to London 3 years ago I’ve had to learn how everything works over here; how to meet people/musicians etc, how venues work, insurances etc - it’s been quite overwhelming!
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
Do not worry, everything will work out - just have faith in yourself and your choices and stick with whatever you decide to do.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
I think learning a language and living abroad really helped broaden my view of the world and gave me the confidence to try new things. It also had an immensely positive impact on my creativity and gave me so much inspiration. I also think it’s a great idea to produce things yourself as it keeps you moving forward and helps you get your stuff out there on your own terms. It’s a lot of work, and you won’t always know what you’re doing and whether it’s right, but it’s a chance to grow and develop so starting small and working up might be a good idea. I would just make sure to do a lot of research, have all the right insurances etc, assemble a team of people you trust (this may take time) and do not be discouraged - oh, and always ask for help!