Improvised Music from Japan / Shoji Hano

Interview 3: About Poly Breath

The following are excerpts of "Shoji Hano Interview: Introduction to Poly Breath," published in Japanese in Jazz Hihyo (Jazz Critique) quarterly magazine, No. 81 (second issue, 1994). The interview was conducted and edited by Toyoki Okajima.

Question: You have used the phrase "poly breath" to describe your music. What does "breath" mean to you?

Answer: Breath is the proof of life. There are no living things in the world that don't breathe. In my opinion, breath contains latent energy and spirit. When someone utters a sound, I think the first thing that's conveyed to other people is that person's breath. For me, breath is the basis of rhythm. At the same time, breath is spirit as well as the way people live.

If you asked people to make their own sound, how many do you think would be able to do so? If there are a million people, each one should have his or her own sound, because you have to breathe by yourself. But in fact, very few people can express their breath as their own sound. The ones who can are those who instinctively liberate themselves. In the jazz world, Satchmo and Clifford Brown could do this. I believe that your true nature and rhythm come from your subconscious. The rhythm isn't regular and accurate, like the rhythm of a clock. Sometimes it's wavering, unstable, swelling... It's moving. I think that's what a really nice rhythm is like.

Question: Is that the concept of your Poly Breath Band?

Answer: Yes. First I wanted to make a sound in which the breaths of all the members become one. This didn't mean that the breaths would pile up on top of one another, but that when each member went his own way by truly uttering his own sound via his breath, the result would be a complete living breath. It should have worked in reality, but it only worked in my mind. But in fact, as long as each member used his own breath, even if the breaths didn't fit together, I think it became an appealing living sound.

Question: Do you think you failed?

Answer: No, I don't think I failed. Because it's important to act on your own, I think it's interesting to put together the actions taken by each group member. So I'm still doing this. If we continue with this kind of activity, the day will come soon when each member can fully express his own breath in a satisfying way. Recently the sound I'd hoped for has finally started coming out of the Poly Breath Percussion Band. When Megumu Nishino joined the band, in particular, it became possible for the first time to create a sound that I hadn't imagined.

Last updated: August 16, 1996