Improvised Music from Japan

Liner Notes of Otomo Yoshihide's CDEnsemble Cathode

This album was recorded intermittently between May 2001 and March 2002. Most of the tracks were recorded almost like live performances, in the largest studio at GOK Sound in Kichijoji, Tokyo--which was also used for the CDs Cathode and Anode (both on Tzadik). Additionally, Yoshida Ami's voice on "Cathode #3" and "Cathode #4," as well as the sound by Andrea Neumann, Sachiko M, and myself on "Cathode #5," were recorded in the tiny studio in my home. Actually, I composed these pieces in around 2000: in the course of rewriting "Cathode #2" and "Modulation #1"--which I had originally composed for a studio recording in 1999--I expanded my concept to create these three works.

Of these, I made "Cathode #3" first. It was based on "Modulation #1," and was polished in concert performances in Europe and the U.S.--especially on the Japanorama UK tour of January 2001. The performance during this tour at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London went very well, and the recording of it was of excellent quality. I would like to release it in the future, when I have the opportunity. During this London performance, Taku Sugimoto alone played an improvisation, using the motif of his composition "Koma" and merging it into "Cathode #3." In the studio recording on this CD, Sugimoto's part is almost completely improvised, but here and there the atmosphere of "Koma" remains.

"Cathode #4" and "Cathode #5" came about through musical studies made in the process of completing the CD Anode, released on Tzadik in 2001. In terms of musical concept, these pieces are located somewhere between Cathode and Anode. Although the musicians basically improvised, they were given a fairly limited amount of freedom. Depending on how you look at it, though, it could also be said that they were given a great deal of freedom. The pieces were created in such a way that the direction of the whole would not be determined by the will of any one musician or composer. This is similar to the way in which Anode was created.

Like all of my works so far, none of these pieces could have been realized without the improvisational and compositional skills of the participating musicians. An obvious example is the way in which Sugimoto Taku's composition blends into "Cathode #3." Thus, they are not "composed works" in the narrow sense given to this term by traditional Western music; nor can they, in my view, be categorized simply as improvised music. All I can say is that for me, this is the most natural way to make music. The same goes for any type of work I do--jazz, turntable and guitar solos, and so on. For that reason, if the music is successful, it is thanks to the great improvisational musicians, the instruments that produce wonderful sound, the people who record it, and those who listen to and like it. I want to thank them all.

Otomo Yoshihide
London, May 2002

Translated by Cathy Fishman and Yoshiyuki Suzuki