Sine In, Please

Greetings from Tokyo! I returned to Japan a couple of days ago, and while one would think that the sleepless, jet-lagged nights would provide plenty of opportunity to write a voluminous column this week, in fact I must be brief.

Once things settle down in a day or two, I am planning a visit to Central Japan to check out the Ogaki Biennale, which is once again upon us beginning this weekend. The Biennale is a ten-day event featuring concerts, workshops, exhibitions, and installations. It’s a cooperation between IAMAS (Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences/International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences) and the city of Ogaki which, although otherwise a bit of a cultural backwater these days, was one of the Basho’s favorite rest stops. The poet visited the town four times during his lifetime.

Unfortunately, Basho never got a chance to experience the Sine Wave Orchestra (SWO), which will be performing at this year’s Biennale. The core membership of the group consists of four young musicians who perform using laptops set to produce nothing other than, well, sine waves. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, here’s a wikipedia link.) SWO events are typically audience interactive, and can include hundreds of audience members each supplying their own tones—think of a Pauline Oliveros interactive “Deep Listening” event, or a Bonnie Barnett participatory hum, but with sine waves, the elixir of all sounds. You may bring any kind of device that can play a sine wave, such as laptop PCs, synthesizers, analog oscillators, loudspeaker-equipped iPods, PDAs, or mobile phones. To help those who don’t usually have the right generators at their fingertips, people can download sine-wave producing software from the SWO website as well.

Other events at the Biennale include a concert featuring the works of Taro Yasuno and Yuichi Matsumoto, both nascent stars in Japan’s contemporary music scene. Matsumoto, in fact, just recently won the prestigious Takemitsu Prize 2008, judged by none other than America’s own Steve Reich. He was recognized for his piece What do you think about the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

There will also be gamelan workshops for dance and music, and a performance by Tesuya Umeda, one of Japan’s most interesting media artists, who has designed a number of installations and performance pieces using electric fans as his medium. He even has created a Fan Band! For more information check here—mostly in Japanese, but includes some nice Quicktime Interactive files).

It all should be fun. See you next week!

5 thoughts on “Sine In, Please

  1. colin holter

    The core membership of the group consists of four young musicians who perform using laptops set to produce nothing other than, well, sine waves.

    This sounds suspiciously like onkyo – have you ever been to one of those super-quiet performances? (I heard they used to be cool but are now totally corporate and lame.)

    Reply
  2. carlstone

    Usually quiet, yes. Corporate? First time I’ve ever heard that disparagement applied, not sure why someone would say it.

    Actually the term itself, onkyo, has been pretty much disavowed by those who have come to be associated with it, like Otomo, Sachiko M, etc.

    Jon Abbey, who runs Erstwhile Records and has put out a number of important releases from so-called onkyo artists, (as well as a few decidely outside the category, like Earl Howard and Denman Maroney) is in Tokyo this week and is holding a mini-festival featuring a number of members of his roster. I hope to attend at least one time.

    Reply
  3. colin holter

    First time I’ve ever heard that disparagement applied, not sure why someone would say it.

    It was a poor attempt at a joke. Onkyo strikes me as perhaps one of the least corporate, “establishment” musical practices in the world today! Thanks for following up.

    Reply
  4. carlstone

    Hey, anythings possible! I remember when so-called minimalism was as uncommercial a music as could be found, and then the next thing was Philip Glass doing full page Cutty Sark endorsements in Esquire.

    Reply

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