Ryūichi Sakamoto was one of Japan’s most internationally influential musicians. Sakamoto’s career began in electronic pop music as a keyboardist with the band Yellow Magic Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1978, and which triggered a boom for this genre in Japan. At the same time he released his first solo album Thousand Knives. His understanding of music, which transcended genres, became evident on numerous other albums combining pop music, ambient, jazz, and electro-acoustic music, ranging to early forms of house and techno. His works in addition include the operas Life (1999) and Time (2021). Sakamoto studied composition and ethnomusicology at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music from 1970 onward, where he first came into contact with synthesizers.
He is also known for his music for films by Nagisa Ōshima (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, 1983), Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor, 1987; The Sheltering Sky, 1990; Little Buddha, 1993), Pedro Almodóvar (High Heels, 1991), and Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant, 2015), as well as for his music for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. Sakamoto’s final studio album 12–comprising 12 miniatures for piano accompanied by synthesizer sounds–was released in January 2023. He died in Tokyo on 28 March 2023 at the age of 71.
Look out for a full article on Ryūichi Sakamoto’s life and musical activities coming soon to MGG online (www.mgg-online.com).
Below is a video of Sakamota performing his composition Blu with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Comments Off on Ryuichi Sakamoto, pioneer of electronic music
The garment is a body instrument that emits musical sounds when the wearer moves in it, as well as triggering a haptic vibration response. It emulates the vibrations that are felt while a musician plays an instrument, and the emotional response that the musician and a performer such as a dervish feels.
The construction of the dress involves a variety of sensors that perform according to how the sound is triggered by the movement of the wearer. These determine the output based on the rotation of the dress using gyroscopes, accelerometers that measure the speed of the dress as it is turning, and flex sensors that trigger sounds when the arms are in certain positions.
The sound design component relies on organic sound samples of the classical Turkish ṭanbūr recorded by a musician and manipulated in computer music design software. This gives the garment a unique edge by functioning as a computer digitized representation of an instrument that is activated by motions of the body. The sounds are triggered using algorithms created in Max Cycling ’74 software. These patches will detect a threshold of movement by the wearer before a sound is triggered.
This according to “Dervish sound dress: Odjevni predmet sa senzorima koji emitiraju zvuk i haptičkim odzivom/The dervish sound dress: A garment using sensors that emit sound and haptic feedback” by Hedy Hurban, an essay included in Muzika–nacija–identitet/Music–nation–identity (Sarajevo: Muzikološko Društvo Federacije Bosne i Hercegovine, 2020).
Video documentation of the dervish sound dress is here.
In the 1950s, when technologies were plentiful and the need for reconstruction was great, West Germany began to rebuild its cultural prestige via aesthetic and technical advances. The reclamation and repurposing of wartime machines, spaces, and discourses into the new sounds of the mid-century studio were part of this process.
The studio’s composers, collaborating with scientists and technicians, coaxed music from sine-tone oscillators, noise generators, band-pass filters, and magnetic tape. Together, they applied core tenets from information theory and phonetics, reclaiming military communication technologies as well as fascist propaganda broadcasting spaces.
The electronic studio nurtured a revolutionary synthesis of science, technology, politics, and aesthetics. Its esoteric sounds transformed mid-century music and continue to reverberate today. Electronic music—echoing both cultural anxiety and promise—is a quintessential Cold War innovation.
This according to Electronic inspirations: Technologies of the Cold War musical avant-garde by Jennifer Iverson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2019-1204).
Below, Herbert Eimert’s and Robert Beyer’s Klangstudie II, one of the first works produced at the WDR studio.
After earning a degree in agricultural engineering in Cairo, Halim El-Dabh traveled to outlying Egyptian villages to assist with agricultural development projects. During these visits he became increasingly drawn to traditional music and dance.
Fascinated by the possibilities of manipulating sound, he borrowed a wire recorder from a Cairo radio station and began recording folk songs, religious rites, and vendors’ cries in the city’s streets. The experience gave rise to an early electronic composition using his recording of the zaar, a traditional exorcism ritual, which he manipulated in the studio.
“I was carving sound,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 1974. “I used noise like I would a piece of stone”.
That work, later released as Wire recorder piece, was well-received, and became one of the catalysts for El-Dabh’s decision to pursue a career as a composer. In the late 1950s he became associated with the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, a hotbed of sonic ferment.
Today would have been El-Dabh’s 100th birthday! Above, a photo by Robert Christy (Kent State University; used with permission); below, Leiyla and the poet, which brought him international recognition in the early 1960s.
BONUS: An excerpt from Wire recorder piece, often cited as the earliest example of musique concrete.
Comments Off on Halim El-Dabh, electronic music pioneer
The volume collects papers from the conference L’Émergence en Musique: Dialogue des Sciences, which was held in Plaisir and Versailles in 2016. This conference explored musical examples of how in certain complex systems radically new properties appear unexpectedly and are characteristic of a higher level of organization; these emergent properties are not found in any individual parts of the system, but occur as an effect of the system as a whole.
Below, a work by Horacio Vaggione, one of the composers who contributed to the book and conference.
Comments Off on Art création recherche outils savoirs synesthésie
In an analogy to Le Corbusier’s modulor concept, Telemusik is based on a proportional framework constructed on the Fibonacci series, through which so-called Klangobjekte—both found sounds and electronically modulated ones of the most diverse ethnic provenance—acquire musical form.
Still, the limits of the universalism sought by Stockhausen are seen in conspicuous traces of Western compositional practice.
This according to “Universalismus und Exotik in Karlheinz Stockhausens Telemusik” by Peter W. Schatt (Musica: Zweimonatsschrift XLIII/4 [Juli-August 1989] pp. 315–20).
Today would have been Stockhausen’s 90th birthday! Above, the composer around the time of Telemusik; below, the work in question.
Musique concrète has evolved a great deal since its beginnings in the late 1940s; experiments with musique concrète that are presently occurring within the world of electronic dance music (EDM) and other musical genres are quite different from Pierre Schaeffer’s original work.
In 2013 Brian Speise was composing credits music for a short zombie film and thought that the project would be perfect for experimenting with musique concrète. This was not a work of dance music at all, but it had elements of electronic music that producers of EDM can appreciate. Balloons and a grapefruit were brought into play.
The book discusses the visual programming language for music and multimedia known as Max. After over two decades of development and application, Max has become a sort of international lingua franca in practically-oriented music, art, and media institutions. A complete cultural-historical survey is presented, in which the software figures as the product of a specific sphere of aesthetic practice, which retroactively evokes innovative production structures. The focus of the analysis thus becomes the reciprocal influences of technological and artistic production.
Below, a demonstration of Percussa AudioCubes, an electronic musical instrument that allows users to create Max/Msp patches using an OSC server.
The chromochord is a bioelectronic musical instrument that is driven by protein expansion and contraction.
Linked to a laptop computer, the device holds 12 vials, each paired with a different sound. When light shines on one vial the proteins inside swell, changing the wavelength they absorb. A sensor measures the change in absorption and cues the sounds. As one set of proteins slowly expands, the chromochord emits the deep thrum of a bass; as another set quickly shrinks, out comes the sound of glass chimes.
The chromochord was developed by Josiah Zayner, a biophysicist at the University of Chicago, and the composer Francisco Castillo Trigueros. “Scientists see beauty in a well-crafted experiment,” Zayner says. “The chromochord allows other kinds of people to experience that beauty.”
Scrabble™-to-MIDI is a computer-emulated two-dimensional board game that generates MIDI music as the game is played.
The plug-in translator and its configuration parameters comprise a composition. Improvisation consists of playing a unique game and of making ongoing adjustments to mapping parameters during play.
Statistical distributions of letters and words provide a basis for mapping structures from word lists to notes, chords, and phrases. While pseudo-random tile selection provides a stochastic aspect to the instrument, players use knowledge of vocabulary to impose structure on this sequence of pseudo-random selections, and a conductor uses mapping parameters to variegate this structure in up to 16 instrument voices.
The main entrance to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’s exhibition Lou Reed: Caught between the twisted stars opens up on Lincoln Plaza, directly adjacent to the The Metropolitan Opera house. On a sunny day, the Met’s … Continue reading →
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →