INTERVIEW: SAWAKO: TOKAFI
Sawako politely deleted some questions of this interview, because she felt that "they are based on the typical 'A VS B' type of thinking, although, for me, the relationship of A and B is like 'a cat and a horse' or 'a rabbit and a moon'. Without clarifying the context of 'talking about the old Japanese story about a rabbit and a moon' or 'talking about the scientific experiment on the moon with a rabbit', I can't answer the questions, especially since my activities are related to widely different domains." Indeed they are. This last summer, Sawako enchanted her musical followers with a free-to-download album of pure and unmanipulated field recordings culled from a Summer tour, followed by a string of commissions for remixes of these pieces. Basically, this album allowed anyone interested in the work of the Japanese artist insight into the first two phases of her compositional process: Research and Capture. What follows, has been documented on four full-length albums, the latest of which (Bitter Sweet) has just been released on 12k. As on previous efforts, Sawako weaves a fine web of associations, allusions and annecdotes, capturing lucid moments of reality in sometimes astutely concise and occasionaly free-floatingly spatious still lives (for an example of the latter, check out the dream-like eternity of "Looped Labyrinth, Decayed Voice" on "Bitter Sweet"). As playful as these pieces may be, they are never naive or merely "charming", instead suggesting intangible mysteries and a sensual depth underneath their lovingly knit apron of drones, ghost melodies and harmonics. Finally, Sawako is also envisioning her own web-based show, lauching guerilla visits to some of her friends and colleagues and offering Japanese lessons. With a schedule as rich and diverse as this, it is no wonder that her answer to what inspires her is as short as it is obvious: Everyday life.
Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I am in Brooklyn, USA.
What’s on your schedule right now?
I am waiting for the release of my 4th album, Bitter Sweet
, which will be released from 12k in May 2008. I am now working on a split CD with Daisuke Miyatani for the Japanese label schole, some tracks for compilations, a 5.1 surround sound work for Harvestworks, a new audio/visual environment for my first solo exhibition at AD&A Gallery in Osaka, Japan, etc., etc…I have many upcoming shows, including an audio/visual performance at OFFF Lisbon in May and Nicolas Collins' Devil Music Band at the River to River Festival at the World Financial Center in NYC in July.
What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
The question sounds like you feel there is some crisis about the recent music scene.
Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
I am made by what I see, hear and experience in my life. From that viewpoint, I am at a tiny point in history, and it is impossible to escape from the effect of what happens here now.
What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What “inspires” you?
How would you describe your method of creation?
In general, my creations are roughly divided into these 4 phases: research, capture (field work), consideration (analysis), and (re)mixing (processing). The result of my activities is a bricolage of what happens, does not happen, is recorded, and is not recorded around me.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Not at all. I never think about it and never care. I just take a breath and live in a sound, a visual motion, an environment, an experience, or whatever. It is impossible to separate and difficult to draw a line between the two if you are a composer (or planner or programmer) and at the same time a performer (or player or activist or whatever).
What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
I never find something "new" in any music or art or experiences so far in my life. Occasionally, I have found "differences" from what I had experienced before. Sometimes I feel it is "fresh" for me, but I don't know how other people feel with the same sound, especially at different places in time and space. When I describe music or sound seriously, I prefer to use more detailed words and descriptions.
Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
Are you using the word "multimedia" as "digital technology," especially a computer? (We can call anything related to more than one medium as "multimedia," even if it has totally no relationship with digital technology.) If so, the laptop computer and high-speed Internet connection give me a high quality portable DIY production studio as well as a communication tool to connect with the world. From the viewpoint of the studio setup, you can work any time, anywhere. Also, I like that the environment gives me the chance to create an artwork which detaches from me physically through the network.
I myself don't agree to use the word "enrich" in the context of digital technology and tools. It sounds too optimistic, and with too much expectation. If you live in the contemporary cities of today, you can find computers everywhere. All technology in any era (from a fire in the Stone Age to a laptop computer of the late 20 century) was welcomed with huge expectations at first but soon became nothing but a tiny part of our daily life and daily body (like a clothes or a pencil) within years.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
What happens on a stage depends on who the audience is and what they expect. For example, people require a catharsis, a drama and a star for rock music. What I offer to my audiences in real time and in the same physical space tends toward no drama and no catharsis. Something empty. But again, it depends who is there and what the night's concept and context is. I prefer an interesting communication or happening than a good live performance.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
So, you are believing that non-mainstream forms of music need to sacrifice their soul to reach wider audiences, right? Your question sounds like that for me.
Here is what fits for my reality: To call art for 100 audience members in the world "non-mainstream" limits the art's possibility. Just as to categorize the music for 10 million listeners as something different from it limits it, too. But, to understand my words, you have to really understand that I grew up and am living in the Japanese standard of consumerism and cultural education. My words are based on that reality.
You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
It would be something like a mixture of art, music, science, food, business and everyday activities. I would choose some percent of the lineup and leave the rest for spontaneous accidents and meetings.
Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
All things and traces as the result of my activities are now-in-progress or a mere one small part of the bigger continuing flow. For me, to dream about a "magnum opus" sounds too much optimistic and overconfident about the ability of an individual.