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, April 6, 2015

Day 19, Saturday, April 4 – Tokyo Art Museum (Tadao Ando)

I've known Christopher Blasdel, one of a small handful of expatriate shakuhachi players in and around Tokyo, for about fifteen years. I met him when Mika Kimula, his wife, was a Fulbright Scholar at Chatham University in 1999 and Chris came over with an Aomori folk troupe and performed in the chapel. His shakuhachi playing bowled me over and set off a chain reaction of two back-to-back Japan visits in 2000 and 2001. This time around, he invited me and Mika, as well as another shakuhachi player to join him for an "encore" piece at the close of his program. The Ando museum in Sangawa is perfect concrete minimalism. The narrow space we performed in had at least a ten meter ceiling with a concrete stairway going straight up the middle in two reversing sections. I picked my perch at the very top.


1 comment:

  1. Hello Michael, this is Ah Lee, the girl from Hong Kong and watched your performance at Tokyo Art Museum on 4th April night, It was so nice to meet you, I am home now! It is also nice to read your blog! I have sent the photo to you in email! :)