Improvised Music from Japan / Haco

Excerpt from Haunted Weather by David Toop

Drawn by the mania, others have returned to Pachinko's relentless downpour of clattering steel balls and barely fathomable layers of electronic melodies. Kobe-based singer Haco released 'Pachinko Mandala' in 2000 under the name of View Masters. I asked her where the sonic attraction lay. 'I like it that each acoustic space is different in each Pachinko parlour.' she replied 'This includes the sound of the machines (ten or more of the same model machine often stand in a line, which sometimes produces sound similar to Terry Riley-type minimal music), the background music that is played over the loudspeakers, and the announcements of the day's winners. A million steel balls being shot into and spat out of each machine makes a fantastically chaotic noise. It's a bit similar to filtered pink noise waves. The steel balls create a feeling of "mass" and "speed". Of course, the players at the parlour are just keen to play and apparently experience a "high" of some kind. Personally, I don't play. I just listen and record the space secretly for between 20 and 40 minutes. It's a kind of urban meditation.'

A Haco performance can be an engaging interaction between voice, simple objects and lo-tech electronics, a world away from the depersonalized, machine environment of the Pachinko parlour. In fact, there is no contraction. Her 'Bugfield' performance piece uses two contact microphones to pick up and amplify the oscillating sounds from a computer's internal electromagnets. The piece ends with Haco inserting a blank CD-R into the drive, setting in motion the computer's most agitated and complex sound emissions. 'As we surf the waves of the drastically changing society we live in,' she wrote in Improvised Music from Japan, 'we also come into contact with primal aspects of the landscape that remain unchanged. "Sound", under these circumstances, seems to function as a reflection in a mirror (= the viewer).'

I asked if she felt that this way of working was an entry point for 'small' people (small in the sense of being a private individual lacking great financial or political power) to develop an alternative relationship to forbiddingly complicated technology manufactures and distributed by vast and remote corporations. 'After the performance, some people said they had never imagined how fantastic the CD-R drive sounds,' she replied. 'The most interesting thing about the concept is that people attempt to "convert ideas" with the "ear", not with computer software, and not with "onkyo", sound resonance materials. My interest is not only focusing on a minimal idea - for example, playing with a sine wave or an oscillator - but examining a wide range of viewpoints - for example, sounds in ordinary life or bird's eye views with the ear, by zooming in and out on the observed object with sound.

'In this project, I try to approach "popology" by emitting sounds that everybody makes when they use a computer. Commonly, people simply ignore or fail to notice sounds like the CD-R drive, but by trying to train the spotlight on such anonymous sounds, I hope the audience will change its ideas about sound. In my performance, "Bugfield" the computer is used to encourage a different focus regarding the computer. Stereo bugscope is very simple and works not only with a computer, but with any other electromagnetic device.'

Last updated: January 25, 2005