Improvised Music From Japan: 日本からの即興音楽


Improvised Music From Japan


Nov. 2001, Improvised Music in Japan IMJ-10CD

Much of this box set could be categorized as various types of electronic musique concrete or Japanese noise music, though it is improvised. Though most tracks involve electronic alterations of sound, machines of various sorts, and both traditional and contemporary improvisations on Japanese instruments, all are improvisations, and regardless of style, mostly free improvised. Compiled by the host of the website Japan Improv.Com, this collection contains what might be seen as a sonic snapshot of improvised activity in Japan between the years 1994–2001. It also contains the work of improvisers, famous both nationally in Japan and internationally as well.

Drummer Shoji Hano, for example, regularly collaborates with a wide variety of internationally active musicians including the late Derek Bailey, Werner Lüdi, bassists William Parker and Hugh Hopper, as well as performed with the late Kaoru Abe, a legendary free jazz saxophonist whose troubled life was the subject of a major Japanese motion picture. Haco, the lead singer of one of the first Japanese bands to develop an international following (AfterDinner: 1981-1991), is an electro-acoustic composer and vocalist whose performances (with a sound resonator that she calls a howling pot) are well known in Japan and elsewhere. Satchiko M, a former member of the band Ground Zero, is an advocate of post-sampling “plunderphonics”, a term coined by Canadian musician/producer John Oswald. She is most known for her use of non-memory sampling, which is made up exclusively of sine waves, and is the founder of the record label AMOEBiC. Composer Yoshihide Otomo is probably the most famous musician in this collection other than collaborator Yamatsuka Eye, both for his performing, and as the creator of several highly acclaimed Chinese film scores.

Though not free jazz or free improvisation stylistically, this collection is an excellent example of creative approaches to sound inspired by each genre, through a wide variety of instruments, styles, and conceptualizations. As an anthology of creative gestures, it is a useful improviser’s compendium for non-idiomatic improvisers and indeed any creators of post-60s free jazz, improvised rock, contemporary classical, turntablism, and non-idiomatic improvisers whose work combines many of these styles simultaneously.


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