sa Sound Arts vol. 5

XEBEC SoundCulture Membership Magazine

Events, talks, interviews held at Xebec

Interview with SUZUKI Akio (Prt 1)

Interviewer: SHIMODA Nobuhisa (Xebec staff)

It all began with the desire to hear what a bucketful of empty cans and rubbish dropped down the stairs of the train platform at Nagoya Station would sound like. For close to thirty years, SUZUKI Akio has been performing sound events based on the central concepts of "casting" and "following" leaving in his wake unpredictable audience reponses and reverberations of sound that are almost impossible to "follow." As a leader of the sound art movement and a pioneering artist, he is active throughout the world. In 1993,his exhibition was held at Xebec for two months. During that period, Suzuki gave four days of performances about which he agreed to interviewed. For the first time anywhere, we present those interviews in a three-part series.. Suzuki Image 1

Suzuki Image 2 Suzuki: : I first got the idea for "Howling Objects" when I attached a microphone to the Analapos stand and played with it. It made a howling "wooo" sound when I put the microphone close to the box on the stand, which surprised me, and actually made me jump back. It happened in 1976 just at the time I was doing a sound installation at the Minami Gallery in Nihombashi in Tokyo. Not only was it an Analapos installation, but "Howling Objects" became the first step in developing my floor-based sound performances. I made ten tin cylinders thirty-five centimeters high and from fifteen centimeters to eighty centimeters in diameter. And I painted them black. When I put a wireless microphone in them , I was able to line them up on the floor like a musical scale: do-re-mi-fa-so- la-ti-do. Then by placing the microphone in the center of the space, I got a lot of interesting sound variations by sticking the cylinders inside each other and moving them around. Listening to those unpredictable sounds emerge from them was kind of like performing a ceremony. For that performance, my tools were two tunable FM radio receivers designed for karaoke, which was just starting to become popular about that time, two wireless microphones, and ten cylinders. Later, when I was invited to New York, I started thinking about doing this performance again. Since the metal cylinders were too heavy to carry, I tried using large sheets of black paper cut in half to get an idea what kind of materials I would need there. As it turned out, I was able to get the same effect from paper as I did from metal. And besides that, I figured out that by just rolling the paper without gluing it, there was an even greater diversity of sound available.

Shimoda: But at the Minami Gallery in 1976, the cylinders were still metal?

Suzuki: That's right. At the time, I thought that the electromagnetic induction would be better with metal. It wasn't until later that I realized that what all of my various performances had in common was my desire to "become the listener." But that work was the first and since I didn't exactly understand what form my work would take later on, that was the method I used. When I put the microphone close to the speaker, normally, the howling sound that is emitted would be hated. But on the contary, I try to use it. And according to the environment, there are all kinds of different effects that can occur. According to whether the performance is outside or in a room like an art museum, or whether the space is made of concrete or wood, or is different in some other aspect, it is difficult to imagine what is going to happen. So I feel really nervous before the performance. Sometimes there is no sound at all, but other times, like in Italy I think it was, I picked up some taxi drivers talking to each other by wireless radio.

Shimoda: The signals got crossed.

Suzuki: Yeah, it gave everybody a good laugh. They must have been having a charming conversation. Maybe I was jamming the airwaves, or rather, eavesdropping. (laughs) Not long ago at Xebec Hall, I had another kind of experience. By just walking between the paper rolls that were set on the floor, the sound changed. This had to do with the concentration of sound rather than intentional movement. Or sometimes the sound is so loud that I break into a big sweat.

Shimoda: Was eight rolls of paper a good number for that event?

Suzuki: I just happened to buy four pieces of paper and cut them into eight, and I also thought it would be interesting to have them correspond to the eight natural elements used in fortune-telling. The paper was black because pianos are black, and I used to have this habit of painting all of the everyday objects that I was inspired to use in my performances black. Oh, I forgot to mention that the wireless microphones for those FM receivers were tuned to two different spots.

Shimoda: You use two different frequencies?

Suzuki: That's right. I wouldn't be able to do the performance if I didn't.
Suzuki Image 3

Shimoda: So you don't want two different paper sounds to emerge from one receiver, right?

Suzuki: Right. I had absolutely no knowledge about electronics, so I guess that's why I was able to create this strange form of performance.

Shimoda: I suppose that your performance series using one material. Like "Newspaper , " must pretty strictly regulate the way in which you move. Like, with "Newspaper," having to move in a spiral shape or having to pinch and tear the part that is between your toes. That results in a variety of sounds that the audience can hear. With "Howling Objects," as you listen to the sound, you are listening to the result. Or to put it more simply, when one performs with a regular instrument, one reacts really quickly after playing something while listening to the sound that is made. Does your "Howling Objects" evolve from the same rules as regular improvisational music performances?

Suzuki: That's right. When it comes to being a performer...who makes sound, the speed is fast. Anyway, the speed of capturing and making sound is fast. In my case, I delay it more innocently, or you might say, I try to search for sound in a more relaxed situation, and put more emphasis on listening. Instantaneous listening and control are the marks of a professional performer. But what I'm trying to do is eliminate technique from the process. So rather than be a technician, I'm trying to deliver sound that is as alive as possible and keep it separate from me... To make a firm decision or concept about how to tear the newspaper, I can become part of the audience: I pinch it in the center between my toes and I stare only at the point in front of my eyes that I'm going to begin tearing from. In line with this promise, I proceed to walk in the form of a spiral in a clockwise direction towards the center. By chance, I pick up a certain corner of the newspaper which I placed on the floor, and I keep staring only at the place where the paper is being torn, the way it tears will be decided naturally according to the balance of the paper. I don't make any effort to try and control the sound musically. By just maintaining a "space" for chance and starting to tear away, I have already separated myself from my work and can, you might say, put myself in the same position as the people around me because I too am listening to chance.

Suzuki Image 4 Shimoda: In that sense, when you do "Howling Objects," except for the sounds that occur when you put in and take out the paper rolls and the way you walk, there aren't any rules in the event that regulate your actions are there? For example, just by walking, the sounds change and modulation between two sounds occurs, which to my ears, is quite beautiful.

Suzuki: Well, as far as rules, I just leave it up to my body to react to the sound as it changes. It's just as if my feet were continuing along the stepping stones in a garden as I was enjoying the landscape. So in the same way, when I stick the paper rolls into each other, more than trying to create a modulating effect, I try to put myself in the position of enjoying the changes that occur.

(to be continued in our next issue)

B:Suzuki Akio Sound Exhibition" at Xebec Hall "Howling Objects" and other works Wednesday, July 7, 1993 "Spring Hammer" and other works Thursday, July 8, 1993 "Plate Juggling" and other works Friday, July 9, 1993 "Materials Series" Saturday, July 10, 1993 (B: Sound and Dance Event"(Dance: WADA Junko) Saturday, September 4, 1993

The panel exhibitions, "Space in the Sun" and "Process Vol. 1" were held in Xebec Foyer from Wednesday, July 7 to Saturday, September 4, 1993 with sound, ";," produced by Suzuki Akio. In commemoration of this event, two pamphlets were published: "Space in the Sun" and "Festivity on the Ancient Hill." Both are on sale in the Xebec Cafe. a sound & art vision

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