Toshi Ichiyanagi

June 25, 2016


Edition Omega Point    Toshi Ichiyanagi : 

obscure tape music of japan vol. 17: funakakushi (JAP,63,64,re.2013)***°'


“Funakakushi”: “This electronic work was composed for an opening ceremony of a hotel 'Funakakushi-en' in Kagawa prefecture in 1963. It was realized like sound installation used many speakers built-in stone sculpture. They were designed by sculptor Mitsu-aki Sora (b. 1933) and were arranged here and there at main garden of the hotel. The sound was made from modified Japanese traditional instrument Biwa and sea wave sound [2]. Engineer Junosuke Okuyama [3] assisted for electronic devices.”


The piece starts a bit disharmoniously with the mono-enhanced odd stereo effects, sounding worst on headphones, this luckily thoroughly and quickly restores itself to better balance conditions although I wish they could have revised these first few moments a bit. Once it shows its purpose and the disharmonious, aggressive effect becomes secondary, it still shows a great track and idea of an experimental use of what sounds like an electric koto but which is a biwa, of distorted pulses with long spaces and silences between the actual playing or activating of the instrument. These sounds are cut and broken into a minimal form. The piece while listening further really becomes better, like a sound box finding it’s natural rhythm, peeping from one side, receiving an answer like an electric response. This starts off as being a sound disturbance but becomes more like an organic sound object, breathing, like a living entity with repeated sections of similarly distorted minimal fractions, sections, fragments, coming out of small spaces of what even sound a bit like a sculpted distorted electrified sound fragment of minimal but still complete expressions. I assume the rhythm of this pulsing is guided by the sea wave sound that activates the instrument’s playing/distortion. A special piece that looks different to a traditional instrument as well as it’s essence of what music can be made with it. It shows a different alternative but also a similar sensibility. 


Toshi Ichiyanagi I knew already before from the avant-garde project and box I have reviewed before (here). 


The second piece sounds less essential, at least does not have that same educational association that adds something new to an old tradition. But still, again, it plays with feedback and with orchestral space as a total entity of sound, minimilising the role of an orchestra this time, minimalizing it to the degree of a clustered sound expression, a screaming-like tension. 


“Life Music was composed as tape version originally in 1964. After then, this work was played as another version with electronic modified orchestra (contact microphones were put on all instruments of the orchestra[1]) at Nissei Theatre in 1966 [2]. Junosuke Okuyama designed a special effect machine named Electronics Sound Breaker (=ESB) for the concert. Kuniharu Akiyama, music critic, wrote about this machine on liner notes of 'Orchestral Space' LP as follows, "... amplified sound of the orchestra was sent to some effect machines and ESB, and they were driven by tape version. Just then, electronic amplification was cut off synchronously by silent parts of the tape, and only non-effect live sound was played ....".

1: Unfortunately Yomi-uri Nippon Orchestra refused this instruction at the concert, and ordinary microphone were used for the modulation. Therefore complete realization of this work planned by Ichiyanagi has not carried out yet.

2: This version was recorded and published as one of the 'Orchestral Space' LP series. 


The idea is interesting but there’s an element of a disturbing effect too which could frighten the listener a bit, while it’s breathing pulses and varying and evolving of the theme, are the same, are like the expression of music like being expressed in one concentrated breath, consisting of a variety of spatial effects, in the end mostly leaves us with flute-like combinations of sounds besides a few other disturbances on other instruments. It doesn’t show easily another purpose outside of that.


Edition of 500 copies.

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