Word The Cat

Word the Cat

present-nuclear futures

Posted by Chris on June 21, 2012 at 10:16 am  

Open string guitars driven by percussive vibration. Fuyuki Yamakawa’s recent installation at Tokyo Art Fair featured two guitars attached to pots of radioactive soil. Every time a geiger counter clicks, the sound is converted to movement via a transducer that shakes the guitar. For the Tokyo installation the soil was taken from the imperial palace gardens. Open string percussive sound with a strong attack. Through a double analogue metaphor of sound, first via the geiger counter, second via the guitar, the invisible/inaudible presence of the radiation is given body. This seems like a pretty useful way of understanding an invisible threat. In this article for the LRB, Nick Richardson writes:

‘Since the accident,’ Yamakawa told me, ‘Japanese people are living with numbers and abbreviations: Sv, Bq, Gy, CPM. They think that numbers are a scientific and concrete way to know about radioactivity. But numbers are abstract, we cannot perceive numbers.’ We can perceive guitars.

Compare this way of sonically dealing with radiation with Jacob Kirkegaard’s four rooms [archived post here]. Fukushima is a lot fresher than Chernobyl, the Tōhoku region isn’t a cleared, fallow space in the same way. When Kirkegaard does the old Alvin Lucier trick of playing room tone back into a space repeatedly (thus building up a layered drone through recording and re-recording the playback) he is engaging with ruined architecture, a space without people, historicising a dead and poisoned space.

Jacob Kirkegaard – Auditorium

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Despite the ruin porn of Chernobyl/Pripyat’s human structures, wildlife in the area is thriving. Radiation is far less of a threat to animals than the presence of humans. Just like in the Korean DMZ where one of the world’s largest colonies of amur tigers live, safe from hunters, dodging landmines. Peter Cusack has made some environmental recordings of Chernobyl wildlife which you can hear here.

Yamakawa’s work seems more human than post-human, a way of understanding radiation for people who are still dealing with the emotional and physical fallout. His previous work is also on a very human scale. One performance uses his heartbeat and a stethoscope as a vibrational trigger for the guitar. Tuvan throat singing also plays a part:

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Noda has taken the decision to restart two nuclear reactors in the face of the biggest protest movement in a generation. A major protest to surround the national diet (parliament) building is planned for 29th July.

Akio Suzuki … 鈴木昭男

Posted by Chris on May 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm  

Akio Suzuki is a Japanese composer, artist and inventor of instruments. he’s interested in the sounds of nature, stripped down pieces of noise and their resonances in a given landscape. David Toop fetes him as “a kind of magician”. In the sleeve notes to the ‘Odds and Ends‘ double CD, Yamantaka EYƎ of the Boredoms, writes “Hearing this music I remember many things, including playing in a puddle as a tiny kid. Play makes all things one. Those who are able to play in the true sense of the word are able to live in eternity. You don’t have to pay no rent to live in the home of eternity. And how cool is that?”

These are really amazing noises. I want to say they’re unearthly, but that’s wrong. The noises are earthly, just maybe not from what many of us think of as the earth. Simple, but richly layered resonances, delays, echos and overtones give such a strong sense of place. Here are three pieces and notes from the Odds and Ends CD featuring his invented instruments. He’s installed and performed with the instruments in galleries, sound art events etc. around the world. some info on that here.

Voice “Analapos – ’70″

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“During the sixties I made nature my teacher. I visited different natural landmarks all over Japan, where I carried out a series of self-study events I called Searching for Echo Point. I would “throw” sounds out into nature and play with the resulting echoes. One day i came up with the idea of a machine that would create echos in a room.

According to a Japanese proverb, parents can learn much from their children. In the same way, the echo instrument I invented and named Analapos still continues to guide me.

In 1988 I held an event called Space in the Sun, the aim of which was to spend an entire day listening to the sounds of nature. I created a special space for this event in the mountains of Aminocho near Kyoto. The space consists of two parallel walls of sundried bricks which produce a unique echo similar to the famous “roaring dragon” walls at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. I sometimes revisit this space, located right on the meridian, and am touched by how time and weathering is gradually causing it to fade into its surroundings.”

Aeolian Harp

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“At the beginning of the eighties a magazine rang me up, saying that they would like to do an article about my invented instruments. I took them to the sand dunes at Hamaoka to take some picture for the article, and it was there that I discovered that Analapos played a weird melody when the wind blew across it.

These sounds depended on the direction of the wind and on the angle at which the instrument was suspended. I was also suprised to observe that rain and sand particles acted on the coil-springs to stop the sounds.”

Ancient Hill

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“After the Space in the Sun event, I began to think about the links between hearing, living and purification. Thirteen years have now passed since I first moved here to Tango. On three occasions during that period the hill behind my house has played host to a sound festival I promote called Festivity on the Ancient Hill.

The sounds here were originally recorded as ambient music for the Ancient Village local history museum in Tango, and feature me playing some of the instruments I invented during the seventies.”

日本 voices

Posted by Chris on March 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm  

while the international media get caught up in the high drama of a nuclear catastrophe, things remain very bad in the quake hit area, the extent of which is only increasing as the situation develops and relief efforts are stretched. i recently returned from living in Japan for two years. i was based in Osaka, far from the the disaster zone (the Chinese government moved their embassy from Tokyo to the consulate-general there a couple of days ago). my friends, including the ones in tokyo, remain safe. the real tragedy is happening on the ground in the north east.

i thought it might be useful to share some voices and experiences from people living in Japan. these are from my friends on facebook and the kine-japan japanese cinema list, which i’ve been subscribed to for many years. there are some interesting thoughts and observations here on how people are responding on the ground in relation to the international media coverage. i won’t paste any pictures here, but my friend alex who also lived in Japan has a picture blog here with images taken by jesse ortiz, aika ortiz and erwin ortiz who have been working in the disaster zone.

if anyone i’ve quoted here sees this and has a problem with me using their words, let me know and i’ll remove them, but i hope it’s a useful exercise. comments at the bottom, if anyone else has voices to share.

“I just wanted to say that things are really horrifying and devastating in the northern regions which are affected directly by the earthquake and tsunami, but in Tokyo things are basically fine and normal given the present impeding circumstances. Of course, one can make oneself panicked by fearing about a possible nuclear power plant disaster like Chernobyl, or another big earthquake but most Japanese are calmly watching the situation, praying for the people working hard in directly dealing with the situation, those who themselves or their families are affected by the earthquake. Many foreigners who live in Tokyo have fled from Tokyo to safer areas, which is totally understandable, but makes me feel a little distant.

It took me a week to actually take a look at this mailing list. It’s just the way it is when one is experiencing a disaster like this, and I am not even affected, unlike those who have to live in the shelters with shortage of food, heat in the snowy cold weather, fear of radiation disaster, on top of everything, let alone having instantly deprived of their homes and loved ones… All they have is nothing but debts or mortgage of a house or a tractor that no longer exists or whatever they lost. But still many of them appreciate concerns and thoughts from people all over the world.” [ayako saito, tokyo, kine-japan, 17/03/11]

“My boss is stoic beyond belief – she just re-entered the building after a few minutes and when I came back an hour later, she was just sat in front of her computer clicking away, debris all around as if nothing had happened! … Well the epicentre was Miyagi prefecture up noth I think, so my boss has dismissed it as nothing at all! I honestly though I was going to die under that table – although I feel like I have bonded with my co-worker!” [nancy roberts, tokyo, 11/03/11 day of the quake]

“As someone who has been in Tokyo since August (currently in Kyoto to have a bit of a break from the aftershocks), I can say a few things.

1. The nuclear power plant story is being ridiculously sensationalized in the American media. Article after article and expert after expert have declared that there is absolutely no danger to anyone outside the immediate vicinity of the plant, and yet the major news outlets ignore these stories and continue to vamp up the fear. Worse, they do this at the expense of reporting on the real crisis, which is the 400,000 + people in the northeast who have limited food, water, and shelter and are already dying as a result.

2. Many people have made the decision to leave–at least temporarily–for a variety of reasons. Aftershocks were constant for the first 24 hours after the quake, and they continue even now. I personally have not slept much at all for the past week–partially because of the stress of the aftershocks, and partially because I have been dealing with frantic, panicked family members who were horrified that I hadn’t fled the city. I also worried about blackouts as my only heater is electric, it’s getting very cold, and kerosene / space heaters are completely sold out. I’ve left for a few days to get some sleep and try to re-group, but I plan to return. The bottom line is that even if there is no danger from the power plant, there are plenty of other reasons why people might choose to leave. And given the changing nature of the power plant situation and the huge amount of conflicting information available, I can understand why some people would be concerned enough to leave.

3. Regarding film archives and screenings–for the most part it’s business as usual in Tokyo. The scheduled blackouts have been avoided so far because people are doing a great job of conserving energy. Some universities have postponed classes and some smaller companies have shut down to allow their employees to spend time with their families, but most places are up and running. Very few Japanese are leaving the city (the shinkansen were crowded today as I headed for Kyoto, but Monday is a national holiday, so that’s not too surprising). If regular blackouts become a necessity this will of course impact daily life considerably, but for now other than slightly reduced train service, a gasoline shortage, and shortages of items like bread, milk, and rice (really just the result of over-buying, not an actual shortage), Tokyo seems pretty normal to me. I provide informal updates about the situation on the ground and links to helpful articles at http://gradland.wordpress.com. [lindsay nelson, kine-japan, 17/03/11]

“Dear all, please do not worry about me as I am miles away from the tragic destruction that has been caused by the earthquake and tsunami. I remain perfectly safe, but completely grief stricken about the tragedy that is unfolding here. I cannot thank you enough for your love and thoughts; I’m channeling them all where they are needed most: northern Japan, we’re thinking of you.” [roxanne borowska, shiga, 12/03/11 - day after quake]

“Although as one writing from the Kyoto/Osaka part of Japan that is distant from the immediate events, it is still possible to say a few things about what is going on here. At Kansai Gaidai there are nearly 400 students from around the world that are in some turmoil as pressures to return home from often poorly informed governments, parents, and so on who are often insisting on their immediate return regardless of the comparatively low risks faced by this area. Combing the web and foreign newspapers and comparing them with Japanese it is amazing to see the Orientalizing attitudes toward Japan and people in Japan, ranging from some French commentators referring to the reactor workers as “kamikaze” to impressions that people in Japan are unifed dupes of their government’s misinformation and that governments around the world are some how so much better informed and deeply thoughtful than anything going on here in Japan. Of course, the round the clock all-channels coverage going on here within Japan contains its fair share of absurdities both from official and unofficial sources. Yet patient looking around at the newspapers, TV and net sources also provides a lot of good information and viewpoints. It is tiring/distressing to see so many major foreign news sources spouting that they have the real information only to find them even confusing which reactor is which and garbling up other aspects. This is leading to a kind of hysteria that is the opposite of what is needed. People here seem to be going about their lives calmly while trying to sort through the news and events – it is often the Westerners that are going around with glazed eyes due to their reading of foreign accounts or the reverse – exhausted from long hours of email and skype conversations trying to calm down the anxieties of friends and relatives who are convinced that only by being outside of Japan can you know the “truth” of what is going on inside.” [paul berry, kine-japan, 17/03/11]

“Sometimes, it is difficult to respond so spontaneously.

The more implicated you are in the situation in Japan, it’s difficult to translate the feelings into critical writing.
Remember how long it took for leftist Americans to be able to start writing about 9/11 without feeling like you’re risking your
posiition, or alienating the masses.

If Kine-Japan has been silent, I’d take that as a sign of just how much “implicated” people feel in the crisis.

Perhaps it is now time to use our critical faculty to start challenging the worrying trend of “ethical” totalitarianism (perhaps it is enough to mention the cruelty of turning the inhumane work condition of the Tepco workers into humanist “heroic” stories), but I’d say it is a political choice to determine the right time to launch this.

a confused thought, no doubt, but I needed to posit this anti-intellectual response.” [shota ogawa, kine-japan, 17/03/11]

“Anyway we are aiding stuff till not delivered to victim. It seems than can’t deliver for disaster area. The foods are going corruption and people are starvation because of hunger. Its impossible to help victim at disaster area really messy and nothing life line. And that have nuclear happens. Everyone confuse everything bollixing.witch way is best? Must think best way and manage… We can’t go there if will go only make more happens and nuisance . I hope aid from garments and It will be quickly and soon.” [kazumi masutani, osaka, 17/03/11]

“I hope everyone can life of ordinary early [fast].” [shoko yamada 12/3/11 - day after quake]


Posted by Chris on June 12, 2010 at 6:36 am  


image by takehito koganezawa


today a track by kyo ichinose from 2002. it’s from this cd. file under well designed furniture. bought here, where you can get immaculately designed tables for over €1000. the track is from a evening of performance inspired by st.giga st.giga was a ambient radio station that organised it’s programming of spoken word and field recordings according to a tidal timetable. despite attempts at franchising (including a st.giga fragrance) the station was only operational in this form from 1990 to 1995 when a lack of subscribers forced them to cut back on the tide of sound broadcasts and cut a deal with nintendo to supply snes games via satellite. the station crawled on non-tidally until 2007.

kyo ichinose – travelling with st.giga

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

moi st air and immediacy

Posted by Chris on June 6, 2010 at 9:02 am  

image by yokohama yuichi


the weather is getting warm and perhaps inescapable. humid air retains smells for much longer. you can smell tobacco 10 metres away or the smoke being pumped out of the barbeque restaurant from down the road. here is a mix of odour from psychadelic bus a.k.a. hiroki murai from mokmal.

“The activity that centers on Tokyo and Toyama is being done now. Music is being produced now.”

psychadelic bus a.k.a. hiroki murai – non verbal communication vol.3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


quiet village – i regret the flower power
tokyo black star – violent rush
tiefschwarz – ghostrack (radio slave remix)
frankman – orion
zoexenia – cherish
gamat 3000 – feeling love (feeling dub)
upz – noiz f/ rasu (abican soul remix)
slam – azure (radio slave remix)
dominik eulberg – liebelle nwellen
dennis ferrer – the undertow
fuckaponydelic – switch the lights (motocity soul remix)
petits djinns – sous l’arbre
quiet village – desperate hours

if you’re talking the hardest

Posted by Chris on May 2, 2010 at 2:41 am  



Word the Cat...