The Birdmachine & Michael Pestel
Tokyo’s bird population has declined drastically in the past 75 years. I’m told that’s due primarily to pollution and loss of traditional thatched roofs where many birds nested. Enter the crows, or kurasu, the world’s greatest synathropes, masters of what we do best: produce garbage. There are upwards of 150,000 of them terrorizing the populace with their brilliant antics and survival strategies. It's no wonder that one calls their flock a "murder" of crows. Enter the Birdmachine, a multiphonic, multi-timbrel musical instrument designed to attract and jam with birds, butoh dancers, and anyone else dedicated to avian sound and movement. That includes crows.
From March 17 to April 9, 2015, I'll be in Tokyo performing and jamming with avian butoh dancer, Taketeru Kudo, as well as with vocalist, Mika Kimura, and expatriate shakuhachi players, Yohmei Chris Blasdel and Bruce Huebner, among others. For his April 4th performance at the Tadao Ando Tokyo Art Museum in Sengawa, Chris has invited me and Mika to join him in an unusual acoustic concert space. The performance with Kudosan at Konno Hachimangu, Shibuya's oldest Shinto shrine, on March 22, is the event that set all this in motion. But mostly, I'll be busy exploring the urban soundscape by visiting places where birds used to sing, places where they still sing, and places whose bird names celebrate a particular species. As a kind of shamanic ornithologist bent on discovering the soul of Tokyo's bird life, I'll invoke an avian past of lost sounds in order to connect with the present. I know the crows will be listening!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 12, Saturday, March 28 – Motomachi Park

Today was Birdmachine's first outing. Yuki and I went up to Motomachi Park near Sudabashi Station and Tokyo Dome City amusement park, the home of the Yomiuri Giants and the Nippon Ham, two professional baseball teams. It was in the low 70s, perfect weather, and everybody was out for cherry blossom celebrations. Beer, sake, and wine were flowing freely, along with elaborate picnics. Many people were totally sloshed. I assume that few are writing haiku or waka. But this is a botanical event of great national importance, along with plum blossoms, going back at least to the Heian court described in Genji Monogatari. It's my first time here during cherry blossom season. What a revelation! Temperature wise, it's the best time to be here. Summer, by contrast, is holy hell, a brew of heat and humidity that only shakuhachis can tolerate.

Unlike most parks, Motomachi is really tiny (250' x 250') and relatively quiet, save for three parties going on around the periphery. I set up the Birdmachine on a small concrete slab at the center of the upper section. Note the extension made from two bamboo spatulas and the GoPro on top!

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