Improvised Music from Japan / Filament

Liner Notes for the CD 29092000

The Oscillating "Will" and the Flickering "Self"

Atsushi Sasaki

People listening to this CD for the first time may have trouble accepting the fact that this was a live performance before a large audience, so powerfully stoic is Filament's music.

To the constant sound of subtly strengthening and weakening sine waves are added the intermittent miniscule sound of circuitry, and a dull mechanical hum (too soft for us to recognize its origin). From beginning to end hardly anything happens here, but at the same time an amazing number of events occur. If one were to give a name to this "onkyo" of just under 30 minutes, the words composition, improvisation, and performance would probably all be too extreme. But all of these are included in this quiet phenomenon.

Of course, from time to time one can hear coughing and rustling from the audience, which tell us this was a live performance. Anyway, it was definitely live (I was there myself). But the two members of Filament hardly moved at all in the time they were on stage. They looked as if they were doing nothing. In fact, they were surely doing a mind-boggling number of things.

When producing sound, even if one reduces as much as possible what is called "self-consciousness," one can never completely eliminate it. This is because the "I" that produces, decides to produce, and thinks about producing sound and the "I" that listens to, decides to listen to, and thinks about listening to sound are always there. The minimal "I" performing minimal "listening" and "sound production," possessing a minimal "will"...

Filament is a delicate, ambitious experiment in which the two individuals Otomo Yoshide and Sachiko M attempt--always as a one-time-only event--to realize this minimal "I" and, maintaining a definite stringency while referring to and reflecting one another, to realize a kind of direct contact, a crossing of swords, an interlocking--in other words, an encounter--in a certain time and space, that is in one sense extremely passive but in another sense decisive.

Here, the meaning of "listening to sound" is more important than that of "producing sound." (Otomo: "What is the relationship between listening to sound and producing sound?") The first thing one does is strain one's ears and attempt to grasp the sound that is there. It makes no difference whether it is "I" or "you" who produces the first sound.

One cannot say that behind "sound" there is "will." Rather, there is a type of will called sound. Paradox: it is because it consists of completely mechanical sine waves and glitches--in a rejection of such vague conventions as traditional instruments--that it can be "will." Another paradox: it is this mutual illumination of sound and will that can emerge as the "improvised music" communication model in its most primal form. These are the kinds of things that Filament teaches us.

(This is an excerpt from the author's essay "On Filament.")

Translated by Yoshiyuki Suzuki and Cathy Fishman

Last updated: May 11, 2001