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, April 4, 2015

Day 17, Thursday, April 2 – When Joni Calls...

On Thursday, Joni texted me: "Can you meet me at Hachiko, the dog statue at 10am this morning for another unique experience?" When Joni calls.... There were two other Americans waiting for Joni near the famous dog – Melba and Hugh Levick from Los Angeles, Paris, and somewhere in Spain. Hugh is a modern classical composer and Melba does research for Rizzoli art books. They had contacted Joni via a mutual friend who recommended him as the ultimate tour guide. That would be an understatement.

Joni whipped his Mercedes deftly through dense traffic. I guessed we were going out for breakfast at a special place. Where to and under what circumstances was still shrouded in mystery and hardly clarified by subsequent texts that morning inquiring about my culinary predilections. I had responded with "fish-eating vegetarian, but little meat," to which he responded with: "No meat? We'll have to change the gender of the person being used as a table." Nothing like being on the set of Peter Greenaway movie! 

We arrived, at last, in some remote section of Meguro at the front of a private house turned into an upscale restaurant by designer Nuri Wasara. Wasara designed the pottery, the lacquerware, the furniture, the dinnerware, the interior and exterior renovation and gardens, the white clothing of the service staff and cooks, and the culinary presentation down to the micro-detail. Apparently, Nuri Wasara owns three such domestic restaurants throughout Tokyo. This one was a 50s fusion of Frank Lloyd Wright and traditional Japanese, a nice architectural circle of influences.



Bathroom towels!

Burnished aluminum table.

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