The Mad Hatter
Music and Fashion Design in Tokyo
by our special correspondent ATSUSHI YOSHINAKA, reporting from Tokyo.
From June 30th through July 5th, hat designer Sayuri Saitoh, working under the name Sayuri Peaux, presented a show at the Gallery ES in Harajyuku, Tokyo. At the end of the show, entitled Demi Plie 1998: Hajime no Ugoki (The First Movement), Saitoh organized a tiny art-performance by 3 dancers from a group called Medicinal wafer in a box with music by Pepe-Tonino Caravaggio and hats by Saitoh.
Designer Saitoh has a philosophy for decorating heads. In today's world, she points out, Hats are not a first priority. Every time they are a secondary item for people's life. We never see someone walking on the street only with a hat and a smile...so hats can complete-complement your life-style. Headgear is the last weapon for your life!
All these hats are on the boundary line between dressy and casual. Each of them has a healthy, well-balanced taste you can feel on your head. And yes!, it was summer. So, the base material for all the hats is straw--shape and color cool you down to enjoy the season. The design and straw-work for the material (textile) of these hats are avant-garde but also suggest a classical, traditional style. The reason why? Designer Sayuri Saitoh, who is 27, leads a very active life and holds the license of a first-class architect in Japan.
In a previous event, Pepe-Tonino Caravaggio (his nom de compositeur) did a poetry reading about the celebrated hat-maker: Previously he created a musical accompaniment, recording his voice onto hard disc and then changing the pitch to get a kind of rap taste. At the same time, one of the dancers read poetry as well.
In general, the music for this evening was Minimalistic Ambient Techno. Caravaggio was the musician and composer for the event, producing a sort of club-type sound, one that derives from a techno rhythmic motif, during which the dancers chase one another on a beach. The patchworked music has a certain fast-paced tempo, in a comic vein. Quips Caravaggio, its like "Tom & Jelly, you know!
For the final section, he says, the closing music was a kind of French pop...accordion or muted-trumpet or honky tonk piano sounds: Yes, a happy ending!
Says composer Caravaggio, My favorite? That was a Turkish hat. It has a wonderful straw-work and a white color: I looked like a Indian gentleman with it!
[For more information see Saitoh's web site at: http://www.big.or.jp/~sayuri-s]
Atsushi Yoshinaka lives in Tokyo, and studied at CalArts in Valencia, California.
London PromsThe Proms in London, August 1998 by Special Correspondent RODNEY LISTER
Time, Isaac Walton tells us, bears all his sons away like an ever-rolling stream. Pieter Bruegel the Elder would add that he also chews them up, spits them out, and gives them a very bumpy ride in the process. The Triumph of Time, presented by Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (August 14th, BBC Prom), is Sir Harrison Birtwistle interpreting/reacting/celebrating the Bruegel print, which shows Time as a monster eating a baby while rolling on a big cart; a parade of desolation which moves along turning everything-both good and bad-into void and waste. The music is inexorable, remorseless, and slowly grinding. Although the orchestration is beautiful, instrumental color is not the point. The sound is mostly monochromatic, offset by a mournful tune played by English horn and occasional wailing from soprano saxophone (parts played wonderfully by Peter Walden and Peter Davies, respectively). The performance of The Triumph of Time was as focused and relentless as the work itself, faithfully realizing its character: not of mourning, but of disinterested observation. Its placement on the program, proceeding a performance of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony-which was by turns wonderful and problematic: the third movement is not the slow movement of a Mahler Symphony!-put it in a context which offered a philosophical alternative to its bracing nihilism.
August 15 at the Proms involved choruses, all of them splendid, and each representing a slightly different aspect of British choral tradition. This tradition was seen by its planners as including recent music (an attitude which probably wouldn't be assumed with equal alacrity in the U.S.). Amidst the Renaissance polyphony, the barbershop music, the Parry and the Grainger, there were pieces by Jonathan Harvey, Judith Weir, Allan Simmons, Frank Martin, and David Matthews.
Jonathan Harvey's Forms of Emptiness was performed by Peter Broadbent and the Joyful Company of Singers. The texts for the work are drawn from poems of e. e. cummings and the Buddhist Heart Sutra (in the original Sanskrit and in translations based on those of Edward Conze). The "here and now" quality of the cummings is intended to be a foil to the Buddhist texts which are a "ground" out of which "forms of emptiness" periodically emerge. Judging from the performances of works of Poulenc, Grainger, and Vaughan Williams, I imagine that the performance of the Harvey was fine without being either particularly inspired or particularly insightful. I would like to give the composer the benefit of the doubt. The piece seemed to be as it named itself, forms of emptiness, wrapped up in busy stuff involving three choirs and obvious performance difficulty. This work might serve as a cautionary tale to any composers writing for speaking singers.
Judith Weir's Storm was performed by the City of Birmingham Youth Chorus, assisted by members of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. The storm is what Weir thinks of as a true hero of The Tempest. The texts, drawn from Shakespeare's play, are concerned with aspects of nature and the spirit world. These words are set in a masterly way to beautiful tunes. For me, though, the most admirable and enjoyable aspect of the piece was the instrumental writing. The most striking aspect of all of Weir's music is her ability to invent very simple musical things that have great dramatic power. This piece is no exception. The different kinds of music that she was able to produce from a small and unvaried ensemble (three flutes, three 'cellos and percussion) and the enormous expressive power and complete aptness of each kind of music to its text was staggering-and very enjoyable. The performance, conducted by Simon Halsey, was as good as it gets.
The CBSYC also performed Alan Simmons' first movement from Energy, a work commissioned by the choir and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a city-wide educational project. It was a very high example of the kind of music commissioned for education which is supposed to be new(ish) music but not risk contamination by the real thing. The performance was excellent.
The Agnus Dei from Frank Martin's Mass for double chorus is very beautiful, and the performance of it by the Choir of New College, Oxford (Edward Higginbottom, cond.) was gorgeous. The sound produced by the enormous Huddersfield Choral Society and the Albert Hall organ was, of course, completely different from that of any other choir on the afternoon's program. It was thrilling. It was displayed to best advantage in I Was Glad by C. H. H. Parry. Two excerpts from David Matthews' Vespers, in which they were joined by John Alley playing piano, also made apparent their quality as a choir: their diction was beyond reproach and they were able to negotiate polyphonic lines with agility and beautiful ensemble. The music was not as nice, despite the fact that it was designed to show them to advantage and that it had many admirable aspects, including tunefulness and attractive harmony. Martyn Brabbins conducted.
Rodney Lister is a composer living and working in Cambridge, Massachussetts.
Kristoff K. Rollportrait octophonique
Electronics and Improv at the Instants Chavirés, Paris
by Guy LIVINGSTON
September 22, 1998 - Montreuil
Welcome to the Instants Chavirés, a converted garage for jazz, improv and eclectic musics on the outskirts of Paris: Indeed it's the closest you can get in Paris (actually in the Montreuil suburb) to the atmosphere of Brooklyn...
This evening presented a portrait of the saxophonist Daunik Lazro by the duo known as "Kristoff K. Roll." This "portrait octophonique" was composed by Jean-Christophe Camps and Carole Rieussec in their trademark brilliant post-musique-concrète style.
Corazon Road, the exotic CD by this electronic duo. (see our review)
This is a music of found objects, an ever-altering soundscape of huge contrasts, long silences, and great explosions of saxophone improvisation by Lazro. The whole is tied together by commentary from Lazro, sometimes presented by himself in an acoustically dead room, but more often, and more successfully, presented in-situ, whether in the metro trying to catch a taxi on the streets of Paris. It's this sort of layering that gives their music a depth, indeed the sonic depth of "Lisbon Story" of Wim Wenders, or of Kieslowski's "La Double Vie de Veronique."
We'll be very pleased to hear more work of theirs. Indeed, thanks to the brilliance of the K. Roll duo, the actual presentation of his comments, complete with laughter, sirens, slamming doors and unintentionally comic bystanders, is far more exciting than the recorded solo saxophone sections.
All that changed however, when Lazro took over live for the second set of the evening, and gave us a wild and woolly, but quasi-romantic accomplished improv concert. Circular breathing and other virtuoso techniques are effortlessly incorporated into frequently repetitive, slightly humorous, occasionally self-deprecating solos. Aside from a ironic comment Lazro makes on the tape about free improv not being for the public, he clearly loves the instrument and loves being on stage, all to the audience's great profit.