Arranged by experi-mental musician Christian Galaterra, I will sit through Computer Music is Dead night at the Q-o2 indus headquarters rather anxious to getting my ear-drums burst by fuck-knows-what’s-coming-but-that’s-going-to-be-loud. Interestingly enough it didn’t happen. Sorry. What?
Photo cover: Seiji Morimoto by Laura Gianetti
Okay. Jokes aside, it’s eight o’clock in a long and dark class room which semi-darkness is split by one, and only, strobbing neon and I feel inside the ribcage of a factory beast where the only exit route (no no no! ed.) is the door (pfiou! ed.) that’s just closed on my right and I am trapped and there is no sound at all and the only thing to look at is a school desk and a chair. Inhospitable as it is – white walls alternate appearing red bricks and anyway the only thing we’ve come to see is sound – I and a companion will share a little black cushion on a large wooden stage-set-scaffolding, top floor of the Beursshouwburg an organization that has for the last six years been providing workspaces for contemporary music and sound artists – a fine building bearing a majestic 1885s facade erected right in the posh center of Brussels, adjacent to cafe Le Coq (explains the delay, ed.).
Nb: Since a misunderstanding will lead to the non-recording of Morimoto’s set, here is a duo with Crys Cole that sounds quite like the thing. But before that…
“Is computer music dead?” I ask Q-o2 Director Julia Eckhardt. “Well, there is a lot of controversy with computer music at the moment and it seems interesting to follow an event with mostly analog music work.”
The light weakens and a man detaches from the audience; he walks to the desk and switches on a small mixing table. About 40 years old, Seiji Morimoto is Japanese; dark and short hair, stubble. Humbly dressed. He moves very slowly and frowns – Silence – 1 mn – sits motionless gripped at the faders – Silence – has it started? – 2 mns – once again fallen in some contemporary trap – Silence – where am I? – neighbor coughs – Silence – chafing of winter jacket hisses angrily – 3 minutes – Silence – urgh – Morimoto’s all attention is kept on the table as if building to something but unsure what – Silence.
– 4 minutes –
Then suddenly, out of nowhere in the room, two thin C notes appear, in perfect unison, one of lower scale. They twist and twitch sparkling, two lights glowing in the dark. This darkness, this obscurity, is a thick and impenetrable void where only these two lines will shine and ring like the sound of a heart monitor only post-mortem.
Is that it then? Is this the narrative? The notes play, racing each other between different frequencies to meet again: two distincts and mellow Cs. As the sound evolves, pressing stronger on the surrounding air in the room, the darkness changes shape: a rectangle, a cube, a line, cut, compressed and pushed, it swells then stops – Silence.
The then lines come back, with sharp attack, muffled, it shrieks. Stops. Squeals. The feedback is zooming across the room and soon we are back to the changing shapes hanging around us.
Morimoto releases the faders and sits stoic.
The sound changes. It swells; it is not a rectangle anymore and our two lines have met on the top of a Japanese mountain; they hold hands and form a cube, they meet, and part and meet again with great emphasis. They are very close, the closest they’ve ever been.
Then a cube again, then it swells and bulges and modulates. My eyes are closed and I feel on a linear journey, crossing hills of long round sound wave. I forget time and focus on the summoned distorted geometry and then onto the frequency’s narrative and I feel filled with the inner peace of a love fuelled orgasm, a feeling slowly withering to the upcoming silence. As it takes me and the 30 or so people present to react, I catch Morimoto and insist on meeting him at the end of act II: Christian Galaterra – and here is a sample called Computer Music Is Dead.
The second set brings in much more sounds and varied weird instruments. The table is filled with objects whizzing, buzzing and huming. The bass frequencies are so strong that it makes breathing difficult. Chris Galaterra ends in the most chaotic and visceral ear-wrenching finale. If Hell hath a fury then I am sitting right in its epicenter and then – Silence.
I find Morimoto at the bar bathed in aggressive fluo lights. I am pink, he is green. The story goes that he started making music at 21 back in 1993 having studied Classical, Ethnic and Japanese traditional music at the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo.
“I was trained in Classical Music. I was not so good. If you make a wrong note then that’s it! But I was bored!”
A fan of John Cage, the American experimental composer notorious for the 4′33″ (pronounced “Four minutes, thirty-three seconds”) a three-movement of just pure silence, Cage will play a huge part in Morimoto’s work.
Working on Cage’s legacy, Morimoto will constantly revisits the master’s work until a 2011 gig called Cage Test which Morimoto curated at Ausland, a cultural den of experimental music, dance and art in Berlin. One year later and the centenary of Cage and Morimoto takes part along 8 other artists to the “John Cage 100th Anniversary Countdown Event 2007 – 2012 final” in Kyoto Arts Centre.
I cannot but express my enthusiasm. I like his work, his music but he differs. “Sometimes I am very excited: “WOW; what is this!!” Or sometimes I am like the audience and when I don’t play I think: “Wow, what happens here!!!” Not every time but I am very happy and I just listen to my work. It means, I am not a musician, I don’t improvise. I don’t say my work is music. It’s just sound performance. It’s very simple. Just two notes. Two piezos, two contact microphones between the box and the sound goes to the two vibrations speakers and it makes feedback.”
– Why is it not music?
– Hummmmmmm, it’s difficult to explain. Many people expect something from music; a kind of story.
Having started making sound using a friend’s vibration speaker, he found it interesting, so much that he rapidly acquired material (simple as that, ed.). “I already had ideas on what was feedback and the objects. This time I only played with a table and a box but I tried to find another combination, with other materials. I found this combination is best and also funny that I use an empty box for effects but it is not the effect that it says on the box [a Boss pedal effect]. It is my joke hahaha. But today I wanted to know how it works, I brought the vibration speaker. I just tried and at the end this system could be changed.”
– How would you describe your music?
– With words?
– Hummm, experimental?
As it goes, Morimoto never plays the same tune twice. Or almost, but never; with only minimal differences. “If the structure is “WAWAWA”, it is the same because the system is the same. But the table is different every time; sometimes it’s softer sometimes it’s hard and makes higher frequencies; it depends on the situation, also the space. Today for me made a big difference; a small difference. It is never the same because I cannot control.”
– Would you agree that “Computer Music is Dead”?
– I don’t think so. Computer music is more and more interesting. Many musicians try to find different ways aside from programming. I think next generation computer will be interesting.
End of the break.
Once this little break over the party ended on a trio. But I am already out of the story. Morimoto has gone and my head hurts. More, the “band” uses electronic devices. A faux-pas. Nevertheless, Morimoto invited me to Berlin.