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 1, 2015

Day 15, Tuesday, March 31 – Yokohama

On my next trip here, I want to do rubbings of the utility covers. This one's a beauty. My parents arrived in Yokohama on the Yamato Maru in April 1941, almost 74 years ago to the day. They had planned to stay just long enough for my brother to be born and then continue on to northern China to catch the Trans Siberian Railway into Europe. The Atlantic blockade had prevented the normal route from America. But when Pearl Harbor happened at the end of '41, they were stranded for the duration of the war. My three siblings were born in Kobe. I came along in 1950 in Germany. Yokohama is a name I heard throughout my childhood.  

Bruce and Tomoko's condo juts off the edge of this Hopi-like cliff dwelling. 

In the evening, we walked over to Mitsuike Park near the condo. Bruce is schlepping part of the Birdmachine for me, a sign of imminent sainthood.

The following morning we got up at 5:00 and hightailed it to Mitsuike Park.

The Lotus Sutra Bird, immersed in Cherry Blossoms, sings its mantra.


1 comment:

  1. Why is it that Birds, Flutes and Cherry Blossoms all seem to go together so nicely? You're definitely in the right place at the right time, Michael!