edition omega point's obscure tape music of japan series exists to document and expose- 
in small runs only, unfortunately -- the significant role played by japanese avant-garde composers in the development of electronic music. music for tinguely: toshi ichiyanagi, contains material that is far more historically important than its modest packaging would betray. the centerpiece of the disc is an extraordinarily fine piece of pioneering industrial electronic music, appearances (1967), recorded not in japan, but new york city; ichiyanagi's graphic score was realized on this occasion by john cage at the electronic console, with david tudor on bandoneon and two unidentified players on violin and trumpet. from the sound of it, ichiyanagi's score appears to have represented "points in space" in some way, as instrumental pitches appear in various ranges and then the electronics wring various additional sounds out of them. there is definitely a historical relationship between the pointillism of webern and other, later kinds of avant-garde music that one might not normally think is related to it, but this aspect is not always easy to illustrate; this, however, is a cogent witness to that historic relationship. beyond that, appearances is a righteous noise jam that any young industrial musician would happily claim for his or her own.

the title work, music for tinguely (1963), sounds almost as though it would have had to have been recorded in a scrap yard, with its ominous sonic sheets of clinking metal and glass sounds, but all of the sound sources were taken from sculptures by swiss kinetic artist
jean tinguely. the third piece, music for living space (1970), is the least impressive of these works; however, it involved the most effort on the part of ichiyanagi, who programmed an entire japanese language lecture into ibm's computerized speech program, the same one that sang "daisy bell." ibm's primitive program in 1970 didn't speak japanese with ease, and a high number of hours went into creating music for living space. nevertheless, it opens with a bed of chant-like singing, which certainly stakes a claim for ichiyanagi in such technique, way ahead of the curve, the origin of which remains a hotly contested subject among european purveyors of techno.

ichiyanagi ultimately made his mature reputation in music more easily identifiable with established currents in international music, but his early work of the 1960s counts as some of the most challenging and prophetic music by any japanese composer. although the rubric above the title might be "obscure tape music of japan," this volume restores to posterity some material that can be considered mainstream in the development of electronics, and it's a pity that the run is limited to only 1,000 copies, as certainly more than just a 1,000 people will want to add this to their library.

text: uncle dave lewis



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