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!
Monday, March 23, 2015
Day 6, Saturday, March 21 – Meeting in the Park
Taeko Nanpei, a curator and art manager I met 15 years ago in Tokyo, invited me to join in her SANPO group meeting at Motomachi Park near Suidobashi Station, site of an enormous amusement park.
Motomachi Park, by contrast, is a tiny oasis up the hill from the nearby canal and train tracks.
I had no idea what the group did, but upon arriving discovered a butoh dancer going through his trance-and-dental paces (see below). Soon he was joined by a former ballet dancer stretching out into a different kind of movement. I pulled out my flute and began playing with deathly butoh abandon. In the distance, someone was playing honkyoku on shakuhachi while school boys were rampaging through the park. This is really the moment I arrived in Tokyo.
At Shinjuku Station, on the way back home, Tokyo's most ubiquitous dance form was unfolding........