© Kenta Tanaka 2015 - 2023
The Sound of Matsudo-City
We are very happy and honoured to have been selected as one of the invited artists for the PARADISE AIR 2020-2021 Longstay Program, located in Matsudo, Chiba prefecture, Japan. PARADISE AIR is located in Matsudo, Chiba prefecture and is known as a place for artists to carry out residencies. We will be staying at PARADISE AIR from April to May as an e-Residence and from September to November as a Residence. I am very excited to see what kind of encounters (happenings) and sounds I can expect there.
I've written a lot about PARADISE AIR, but I've never been there before, and tomorrow I'm going for the first time. In fact, I used to live in Matsudo City when I was very young, so I feel like I'm going to unravel my roots, which is a strange connection.
As the theme of AIR's residency, this year is "Unraveling Time", I would like to unravel the "time" of my childhood.
"I wondered what kind of city Matsudo is..." I thought "what kind of city is Matsudo...", but as I live in Japan it's easy for me to go there, so I really wanted to explore the image of Matsudo from the sound first. When you hear the sounds of Matsudo, do you remember something from your childhood, what kind of memory is it, or do you remember nothing at all? Or, even if I don't remember anything at all, how does it reverberate in my body and what kind of feelings does it evoke? Phenomenological listening
I thought I'd like to try to get rid of all the stereotypes and face Matsudo first.
When I was talking about this at the e-Residence, Ralph C. Lumbres, an artist who would be coming to Japan at the same time, shared with me his field recordings of Matsudo. He had previously done a residency at PARADISE AIR, so it seems that he had a record of his fieldwork there. And now I am writing this article while listening to the sounds of Matsudo.
The first sound I heard in Matsudo was the sound environment in front of Matsudo City Hall. Of course, I had some previous information about living in Matsudo, but when I heard the sound, I had an inexplicable and terrible feeling of nostalgia that covered my body. The unique melody of the jingles before the broadcast, the Showa-ish announcements and phrases, the sound of the trains echoing through the city, the chatter of the people, the flow of time reminiscent of the evening, the sound of birds singing throughout. The volume balance and rhythm of the birds, people's voices and the sounds of traffic in the city seemed familiar to me. Of course, this is helped by the brilliance of Ralph's field recordings, and having lived in Japan for so long, the soundscape of the city is familiar to me, but the sense of the sounds of Matsudo reverberating through my body was certainly strong. Strangely enough, I also felt as if my body was getting smaller like I was walking slowly and gingerly with a plastic bag along the railway tracks near the shopping street.
I don't know exactly how much you can learn about a city just by listening to its sounds. However, by pursuing the act of listening to the sounds of the city, I would like to explore the possibilities of listening to the city's character, its old memories, its history, the environment surrounding the place, and how it will change in the future. I don't know what kind of project it will be during the residency, but I would like to start with listening to the city. When I go there tomorrow, it will be completely different from what I imagined! (laughs) I am looking forward to facing Matsudo while living in PARADISE AIR, including such uncertainties.
The Memories of Cities and Sound
Urban Reminiscence - Sound, Object, and Rhythm", my solo exhibition at Sta. in Maruyamacho, Shibuya, Japan from July 4th to July 12th, 2020, is over. During the exhibition, I spent a lot of time next to my works, which were constantly playing sounds, and I wrote down my thoughts about my works and activities, as well as about the city and music, in my notebook.
It will be irregular, but I'll try to write and update it with sounds and photos.
This piece was made as a report on the results of the European Postgraduate in Arts in Sound (EPAS) program, in which I have been enrolled since last September 2019. EPAS is a sound art program run by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. EPAS is a sound art programme run by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, and is a fascinating course that explores the possibilities of sound through a tour of Ghent, Belgium, Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Lille, France. I have learnt so much about expanding my imagination just by listening to sound, about placing sound in space (composition), about creating artworks around sound, and so much more. (I hope to write more about my experiences and travels in EPAS and Europe in the near future.
As we travelled around the city and practised sound and sound art, the question arose: "How does the soundscape of the city affect us and what possibilities does it have? This led to the creation of a variety of sound works, which eventually developed into this solo exhibition.
This work begins with the collection of waste materials from the city and the field recording of the sounds that the waste materials are used to make. By playing the sounds through the scrap wood and placing them in the space (I think this act is very compositional), I reconstructed the soundscapes of several cities as a memory of the city.
With the help of Sta., FabCafe Tokyo and NOD, the exhibition venue which is also a restaurant, we received waste wood from Shibuya and recorded the sound at the place where the wood was placed, thus recording the memory of the waste wood. When we played the recorded sound, we attached special speakers to the scrap wood, but because the sound is vibration, the way it sounds depends on the material and the materiality of the scrap wood, which I felt was very much like memory. Just as people remember the same experiences in different ways, so do waste materials (objects) remember sounds in different ways depending on their bodies.
With this in mind, I placed the memory of the city as a sound in Sta.'s venue and created a sound installation to experience the memory of the city by mixing the actual soundscape of Shibuya (since the gallery is open) with the memory soundscape from my work.
When I installed the work and opened the exhibition, I was surprised by many things I noticed.
One of the biggest realizations is that playing sound in the city can be a small intervention in the city. Playing sound in the city is a very delicate act that needs to be done with care, but thanks to the generosity of Sta.'s gallery space, we were able to keep the sound flowing comfortably.
The scrap wood itself, although visually reconstructed, is a bricolage of everyday objects, so my work is "something sonic, something musical" that is floating around the venue (and the city). Some people hear and react to this "sonic something", others don't pay any attention to it. It's a very beautiful phenomenon for me.
Because the gallery is semi-open, there are many people who pass by without knowing that it is my exhibition. Some pass by without a care, some stare and then walk away, some ask me questions. ---- All of these phenomena made me realize the appeal of showing sound works in the city. I now think that the (sound) landscape that is created by placing sound in the city can be a work of sound art in an urban space.
When I make a work mixing several sounds of the urban environment, I become aware of the moment when they sometimes interfere, resonate or play dissonantly. You can feel "oh, it's like music", or "it's a bit uncomfortable", all these moments are structured by sound. By layering the sounds of the urban environment, I feel that it is possible to make sounds sound both like noise and like beautiful music.
What I am more interested in is the moment when sound evokes memories. I think it's very precious when you listen to a sound and suddenly remember something from the past, or when you become aware of a place you've visited before. What kind of memories sound evokes in a person depends on the situation, the person's past experiences and the state of the body on that day, but I find it interesting every day to face the city and sound, taking into account the capricious nature of sound.
This exhibition would not have been possible without the support of so many people, and I am most grateful to my teachers and friends who have supported my research and production at EPAS. I am most grateful to my professors and friends who supported me in my research work at EPAS and without whom I would not be where I am today. I would also like to thank my mentor, Mark at the London College of Art, for his constant and thoughtful criticism.
And I can't thank Mr Nagumo of Sta. enough for agreeing to the strange idea of "sculpting the sounds of the city". I would like to take this opportunity to thank him. Thank you very much for all your help.
Thank you very much to Miyashita, Anzai and Yumoto for their technical support, and to hazu and Sakakibara for their set-up support.
Thanks also to Takahashi-kun for taking all the beautiful photos of the exhibition. Thanks again!
In the future, I will continue to work on bridging theory and practice regarding the city and music. I sometimes think that I am doing something complicated, but I hope to document the process here.