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 18, Friday, April 3 – Chokoku no Mori, Hakone

Taeko overcame a pulled tooth enough to accompany videographer and photographer, Toshiharu Sasak, Alissa the dancer, and Akinori Matsumoto, the sculptor whose sound installation we were going to see in Hakone, at the Hakone Open Air Museum or Chokuku no Mori (Sculpture Forest).  I had played flute in an installation of his in Yokohama nine years ago and was glad to at least see his new show, if not play in it. Taeko said that the museum was pretty strict about anything that might interrupt museum visitors, but I brought a couple of flutes along just in case. As it turned out, they gave me the go-ahead right at closing time and I got in about a half hour of recording time. Lovely. The best way to explore an installation like this. Perhaps a seed has been planted for future events such as this.

The installation consists of three rooms with different sounds and sensibilities. Everything is made of bamboo and tiny, hidden electric motors. Each kinetic piece makes a different percussive or wind sound.

Akinori is in the pink shirt talking to the curator, Takuro Kurokouchi and Taeko Nanpei, art manager, writer/translator, and curator.

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