sa Sound Arts vol. 6

XEBEC SoundCulture Membership Magazine

Events, talks, interviews held at Xebec

Interview with SUZUKI Akio (Prt 2)

Interviewer: SHIMODA Nobuhisa (Xebec staff) Additional comment

SUZUKI:WADA Junko (dancer)

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 performances about which he agreed to interviewed. In this issue, we present the second part of this three-part series. Suzuki Image 1

Spring Hammer

SHIMODA: Well, next could you tell us something about "Spring Hammer?"

SUZUKI: I first performed this piece in the fall of 1976.

SHIMODA:Was that also at Minami Gallery?

SUZUKI:No, it was in an underground hall run by a record shop called Shinseido in Ogikubo. I guess it was a product of the minimal music era. After I had made "Anapalos," I often passed by a factory in town, and I started to become fascinated by the stretchiness of springs. What interested me was the way they bounced back. The material is the most important part of this piece. I remodeled one of those motor-driven, spinning red warning lights that you see on top of police cars, and attached springs of different lengths to it. Then I attached hard malletheads to the end of these, and the three of them spun around on the floor. By putting fifteen wine bottles filled with varying amounts of water within their orbit, I produced a variety of rhythm patterns, and then I removed the bottles one by one. I thought the first performance was pretty sloppy, but YUASA Joji was kind enough to encourage me in his column in the magazine, Ongaku Geijitsu. Afterward, I stored all the materials away. Until that time, I had a lot of short-lived materials like that. When I came back from New York in 1981, a friend of mine was planning an event, and since I wasn't particularly inspired to do something new, I took out those old things. As I had done in the first performance, I set wine bottles on the floor, but just when I was making sounds with the second bottle I had a flash of inspiration. Right there in the middle of the performance. I figured out a way to put myself in the listener's position. As two sounds, "kin-kon, kin-kon," were being made by two mallets, I was watching the mallets spinning around those two bottles. "That's it! If I arrange the bottles in straight lines of three, I'll be able to make five visual games." So I started to concentrate only on putting the third bottle in a line as I gazed at the two that were already there. It wasn't so that the next sound would add a "kan" to the "kin-kon," it was a way of getting a sound from a visual game. In this way, I discovered how interesting a performance could be the second time, but also depending on the hall, if the floor is slippery, the bottles will start escaping after they are hit or stop making sounds if they are only grazed by the mallets. There's an element of chance in addition to the random sounds. I think of Minami Gallery as being the start of all these works using a certain material. Compared to European- style music that was developed to allow everyone to hear the same thing simultaneously, the flat situation you have in a gallery enables people positioned in various places around the room to hear a variety of things. That's what gets me excited about doing a performance. And that's what has helped me to develop these conceptual sound works one after another.

SHIMODA:What about "My Cat?"

SUZUKI:"My Cat" is just a piece in which I play with some materials that were left over from something else I had constructed around that time.

SHIMODA:Leftovers from "Spring Hammer?"

SUZUKI:Yes, that's a performance I conceived as a by-product of playing with springs. When I had encores (laughs), it was a piece I used to take out for them. The sound that it makes, "nyaago," sounds like a cat's voice to me. There are a number of sound events I did using springs. There's a place in Suginami-ku (Tokyo) called the Iwasaki Chihiro Art Museum where I did a performance with the same title as one of MIYAWAKI Aiko's sculptures, "Utsuroi . " The title just happened to be the same, and she also happened to have used steel for her piece. I took a long, arch-shaped spring and did things like making it sag by putting heavy stones on both ends of it, and winding it up into several loose spirals. I did one installation with a bunch of objects using springs. By hitting the side of a spring and making it shake, it has a strange way of prolonging the sound that is very pleasant. Or that's the way that I had prepared for it anyway. But suddenly something unexpected occurred as a result of my slightly playful mind. I was softly touching the work and enjoying all of the shaking that I was causing when I noticed that all of the people around me had become extremely quiet. I had created absolute silence and wanted to laugh but couldn't. It was like The Emperor's New Clothes or something.

SHIMODA:That was during your performance at Iwasaki Chihiro Art Museum?

SUZUKI:It was around the same time. It was around the time that I was called a "black panther" because I was always taking people by surprise.

SHIMODA:You were a panther? (laughs)


Plate Juggling

Suzuki Image 2
SHIMODA:Next, let's talk about "Plate Juggling." In "Plate Juggling," you try to get three identical, direct-cut records to produce the same sounds by moving back and forth between three portable record players and adjusting them. And as you are running to catch up with each of them, the performance ends as the records fall into endless grooves, which remind me of minimal music. Did you first perform this at Minami Gallery in 1976 too?

SUZUKI:It was a little later, maybe 1979. I had a friend who ran a coffee shop called Lupin Shokai in Ginza. The first time I performed it was for a party there. It wasn't one of those short-lived pieces, the next time I did it was at an art museum in Itabashi-ku (Tokyo) for the Holland Festival there. Each time I did it, I made new records, so there are a number of variations of it. One time I made records of the sound of the ticket punchers on the Yamanote Line--they've changed over to automatic wickets now, so you can't hear that sound anymore. I started noticing these masterly performances and took the outer track of the line from Tokyo Station all the way around, got off, and made recordings of that "chaki, chaki" sound at each station. The recordings were divided between the A and B side according to the order of the stations, and the endless locking ring at the end of each side had the shrill sound of the train's departure bell. In the midst of the ticket punching sounds, you can hear the cute voices of elementary school students on their way home saying things like, "Bye-bye! See you!" But when I did the performance at the International Contemporary Music Forum of Kyoto a few years ago, the records had already gotten so worn down that they have become quite different.

SHIMODA:To listen to these stories with you right here in front of me rather than reading about these performances, I have an entirely different image of them.

SUZUKI:There was another set of records that had the sound of applause as the endless locking ring. In the middle of the performance, I heard the sound of applause from one of the players. It was the same as having one of the plates in a plate juggling performance crack. I just threw up my hands, and let all three record players give a big round of applause for a while. Then the audience wasn't sure if they were supposed to clap or not. This was just another one of those things that came out of my playfulness. Because records are also called "plates," right?

SHIMODA:Incidentally, what was on the records you used here the other day?

SUZUKI:That was my voice. I took those sounds from the first performance, and some others, and rearranging them. Like I took a sound like "a" or "aa," and gradually stretched it out and changed the speed of it and things. I take a recording of the last performance as the basis for the next records I make. It's a multiplying work.

SHIMODA:You're raising little ones.

SUZUKI:Right. In the past, I made pieces one by one according to an occasional burst of inspiration. Now I play around by combining things and making variations of the pieces.

WADA: It gives you the freedom to choose.

SUZUKI:That's right. So even if I come to the last sound on the A side, I can turn the record over to the B side and continue my games at a leisurely pace until it finishes. The game is walking back and forth between the players and trying to drop the needle into the groove to make the sounds coming from each player match up as closely as possible. If they are even slightly out of sync a minimal moire is created.

WADA: It's a really amazing thing.

SHIMODA:When I saw it, I thought, "What? Is he really changing records? It looks like he's faking this!" (laughs)

SUZUKI:(laughs) I prepared a lot of records for my performances at Xebec Hall. That's why I only used each of them for a short time and tried the next one. In the past, using a set of three records was a set part of the performance, so to people who had figured out the concept beforehand, it might have looked as if I had changed my methods.

WADA: That made it look even more like you were faking it. (laughs)

SUZUKI:That's great. (laughs) I made it out just by the skin of my teeth.

WADA: That's probably what everyone was thinking! (laughs) (to be continued in our next issue)

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
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.

The contents of this issue:
interviews VOLANS
Ocean of Sound
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