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!
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Day 25, Thursday, April 9 – Shinjuku "Nagashi"
I met Kudo in Shinjuku at 9pm and went over to Golden Gai, an area of back alleys lined with bars – tiny bars – bar after bar after bar! We hit about 15 places where I performed for 5 minutes on the Birdmachine and then left. About two hours in total. The responses varied, mostly enthusiastic, but I actually only hit my peak once. Wow, what a process... and what a deeply Japanese form of social, creative outreach. It's called Nagashi – "flow" – and used to be quite popular. Hijikata, the father of Butoh, got his start this way in the 50s, and so did Kudo in the 90s. At one place, a guy gave me 1000 yen! Of course, I politely protested... and then demurred. Sweet. I hadn't expected that. Unfortunately, I have no video of any of this, just photos of the locales and some people, but that's ok. It's a project, like all the other projects here, to be continued on the next jaunt.