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Infrared Sensor Shirt & Voice | Tokio 2007-2010

Release date: 12.06.13
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Who is Tomomi Adachi?

I am making a character who doesn't have a coherent subject. Tomomi Adachi is performer, composer, sound poet, visual artist, instrument builder, performance artist, notation developer, conceptual artist, curator, writer and more. All is related but I don't think it is possible to integrate them under one subject. I don't oppose a categorization, just I cannot belong to exclusive one category, any category is not enough. I have an interest in a multiplicity of personality and life.


History of Tomomi:

When I was 14 years old, I found cassette tapes in my father's shelf, he was a music lover and they were Bartok and Stravinsky. After listening to them 1 month. I realized I must become a composer. I listened to everything. Then I met the music of John Cage at the age of 15. It told me how art has many possibilities, opened all doors. After that, I was influenced by the Japanese New Wave movement in 1980s. Also I read many books about contemporary music. At that time to know vivid contemporary music was only possible through books in libraries and very limited radio broadcastings in the local city I was born. Thoughts of Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, TAKAHASHI Yuji led me to improvisation and even social activism.

Also I was extremely fascinated with Zen, Taoism and also minimal art (Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt) and conceptual art (George Brecht, Joseph Kosuth) at that moment. I moved to Tokyo to enter a university, I went to see concerts of improvisation, hardcore punk, noise music, also exhibitions, dances, theaters, movies as many as possible. Still I think my art consists of many elements which I absorbed when I was young. Cage, Cardew, conceptual art and rock and pop music in the 1960s and 80s made my backbone. But I don't follow a style of John Cage or a style of conceptual art, I am developing their ideas.

For me, the involvement with technology is only a part of my activities. But I remember well I saw a performance by Nicolas Collins in a small club in Tokyo. I found the most beautiful relationship between physicality and technology in musical performance on his performance. Also a record of David Tudor really struck me. I tried to know how he made such an incredible music. I thought one of the most exciting future of contemporary music would be in home-made electronics. Actually an electronic DIY was my hobby in my elementary school days. I decided to take a soldering iron again in 1994.


What does it means "Naokatsuhe" and how it works the infrared sensor shirt?

The shirt has 10 infrared distance sensors, also 8 buttons on palms and 2 bend sensors on a wrist. The distance sensors capture my movements. The data goes to Max patch running on a laptop, it changes the parameters of real-time signal processing for my voice.
As for the title, it has no meaning. I use two kinds of methods to make titles. One way is to express a structure, material or attitude of music metaphorically or allegorically with one or several sentences. Another is simply to transcribe a part of its sound with letters. Naokatsuhe was the latter case. I don't make a posh title.


Selfmade instruments:

I can classify my self-made instruments into three categories. One is electronic instruments built in a tupperware. They are interconnected oscillators more or less, but the oscillators are connected in an electronically wrong way. It causes unforeseeable behaviors of sounds.

The second category is amplified objects using piezo pick-ups. A one euro piezo disk provides an incredible world of sounds.
The third one is sensor interfaces to connect to a laptop computer. Mainly it reacts to my physical movements and control a real-time signal processing. My focus is not sound. Not new sound. A point is how I can make an exquisite balance between controllable sound elements and unpredictable behaviors of sounds and bodies in real-time. It is a problem of interfaces. Now I regard the interface as a kind of extended notation for music.


Academic background:

I studied music and engineering by myself. I am a self-educated person. I get technological knowledges which I find the necessity. If I feel I need it, just I study it. I studied electronics and computer programming in this way. Music required me to study them.


The "Adachi Tomomi Royal Chorus"... about the concept behind the punkstyle choir:

I am not interested in a pitch element of vocal music basically. It is a reason I am involved with sound poetry. My vocal music is not an extension of singing, it comes from speech. I thought if choir doesn't care about harmony, it can make more interesting music, this is why I decided to organize a choir without precise pitch. I asked my friends, many of them didn't have musical backgrounds, to perform together. We performed, composed and commissioned new pieces during 1997-2002. In the "Royal Chorus" activity, also I didn't care about a preciseness of performance very much. A basic idea is intense music everyone can perform. Still it is one of the main issues in my music, I am developing the idea in temporal group performances and workshops. I think this idea is connected with a thought of Cardew, also a spirit of Punk.

Adachi Tomomi Royal Chorus: Yo [Tzadik 2003]

Watch Adachi Tomomi Royal Chorus Composition by ADACHI Tomomi (1999). Live at Manda-la II, Tokyo.


Is that true you are the only performer of sound poetry in Japan and how was your experience performing Kurt Schwitters' "Ursonate"?

Almost true, it means I don't know any other Japanese who performed Hugo Ball. As for "Ursonate," after I performed it in 1996, two Japanese performed it. But I don't think they performed other sound poems. There is a tradition of sound poem after 1920s in Japan too, especially NIIKUNI Seiichi left important works in the 1960s. But after 1980s, unfortunately I am only one person who is working in this field actively. Are any other non-European native speakers working on "Ursonate"? I am very curious. "Ursonate" is following the German phonetic system, but he didn't intend to write German as the title "Ur-son" suggests. Probably my "Ursonate" doesn't sound like European language, but it is not Japanese or asian language, of course. I think this unintentional condition in my performance is rather close to Schwitters' idea about the universal language.


Where are you from? How was the scene there?

I was born in Kanazawa, I was there until 18 years old. For me it was not interesting experience. Kanazawa is a bit isolated old beautiful town. I could have a few connections with contemporary art lovers in the old generation at that time. Now the town has a big contemporary museum, maybe it has a quite different situation.

Japanese contemporary and experimental music scene exists mostly Tokyo and Kansai area (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe). I am not sure I can use the word "scene" for other cities. Japan is a centralized country in art too. But, after the nuclear plant accident, some artists moved from Tokyo, probably they are making interesting local scenes. But also I have not felt to belong to any "scene" myself, just I have several trustable artist friends.


Japanese musicians, bands and performers:

Many Japanese names, but I want to mention one name first, YOSHIZAWA Motoharu, Japanese bass player. He was only one person I can call as my teacher. He was one of the first generation of Japanese free jazz movement. He did abstract solo improvisations 1970s. When I met him in 1990s, he was developing a complex effector system with his self-made vertical bass, it was absolutely amazing live-electronic music. Also he gave me good opportunities to perform. Unfortunately he died in 1998. Listen to his music!

The second name is IMAI Jiro. He was one of the key figures of Japanese underground new wave in the beginning of 80s. Then he worked with theater, song writing, etc. He was exploring a tiny and insanely absurd object theater named "Jirox Dolls Show" recently. It was the most exciting art form I have ever seen. He also passed away in the last year sadly.

Maybe the deceased are enough. I put several names in my and younger generations, they might be relatively a little known in overseas countries. I feel still a stupid Orientalism filter is prowling in European journalism. YASUNO Taro (composer), IKEDA Takumi (performer/composer/programer), TANAKA Yumiko (shamisen), Ensemble for Experimental Music and Theater, TOKUHISA William Kotaro (voice), KAWASOME Yoshihiro (collapsed conceptual hiphop), NOMURA Makoto (composer/performer)


Artists in the present days that inspire your work?

For "the present days," I want to refer to artists I know personally in Europe, mainly Berlin. In this one year, I am very happy that I could work with Jennifer Walshe, Annette Krebs, Cia Rinne and Ute Wassermann constantly. They are inspiring me a lot. Also other artists in Berlin, especially Sven-Åke Johansson, Peter Ablinger, Les Femmes Savantes, Richard Barrett, Jens Brand and Alessandro Bosetti are amazing, though this list is not enough at all. And I am very impressed with high skills and thoughtful interpretations of German contemporary music ensembles.


In case you don't consider a performance is an isolated act separated from the deep-and dark mirror is in front of you while performing -  and named vaguely: audience. If we think in terms of a communicative "speech" based on a poetic substratum, where the essence of this communicative process belongs to the fact: that we don´t need for real any native existent language to express an idea...

If we think in terms of the very beginning of the history of music, and even more, before any idea of history, music, or words and stablished meanings conformed in a common language... 
What do you think about the metacommunicative relation and meaning in an ritualistic way, as possible exchange of human catarsis and feedback between the audience and the sound performer while performing?

I agree the metaphor that connects music to language. But it doesn't mean music coveys a message. Even I don't agree the language model; message-code-message. There is no rule in a linguistic activity, the rule could be found after our communication process. This idea is appeared in the late Wittgenstein and some thoughts in Buddhism.

In this meaning, my music makes a communication. It is for the communication. I need audience, but they are not the mirror, they are not my alter-ego. Concretely, I suppose three kinds of audience. One is the audience in there; I can expect they understand the context of my performance more or less, probably they can decode it.
The second type of audience is totally unknown people; I imagine I am on the street of the central Africa, not in Die Akademie der Künste.

The third audience is a perfect other as Martian or insect. Maybe they have any intellect, but I don't know what it is yet. I expect I can communicate with them someday. During performance, I premise these three kinds of audience. I take a balance between them. But this premise is just a reference because this premise doesn't make sense fundamentally. Who guarantee my audience is not Martian? Who knows I am not Martian?


Since when you are established in Berlin? ... and about your experience as musician in the city... was it hard to get into the "scene"?

I got an award from DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program in 2012. Simply it was a reason to come to here. Already the residency term is over, but I am here yet. I must say Berlin is a special place. You can find people who understand whatever you do. Maybe here is only one place it could happen. You don't need to be afraid of your isolation. The scene is interesting but not monolithic, it is not hard, but not necessary to get into it for me.
Rather I prefer to belong to several scenes at the same time. The problem is that all proceedings in Berlin are very slow I think.


Sites and recommendations:

I think here is a website one of the most interesting things on contemporary music practice is happening.


Any other thing you want to add?

I start with a simple idea, not sound, aesthetic or style. Then go far from the idea on the process of embodiment to reach an unknown world. For the purpose, I use any arm; body, technology, medium, style, humor, fiction, chance, mistake and even cliche. Art is a battlefield in mind.



Tomomi Adachi, 7th June 2013, Berlin.





Infrared Sensor Shirt & Voice | Tokio 2007-2010




Tomomi Adachi, self-made instruments, infrared sensor shirt & voice.

Recorded by Tomomi Adachi, Tokyo 2007-2010. Picture by Naya Colletive. Design by Aniana Heras.