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The concert that is the main feature of this year’s Taiwan International Improvisation Music Festival (#IV) is all about the creative challenges you get when you have to deal with certain technical shortcomings. In this case: the time lag of the internet when you play music together. In everyday life this happens when you speak on apps like Skype with someone and the response time gets too long. This special kind of delay is called latency in technical terms. In such conversations, videochats or other online communication it is always there, but nowadays it is often so short that you (almost) don’t notice it – until you are in that neighbourhood where your mobile operator’s coverage is very poor.
Now that musicians everywhere flock to Zoom and similar media for collaborations, it is clear that most musics can satisfactorily be broadcast one way (musician(s) to listener) but that real-time collaborations for most projects fail due to the impossibility of synchronising temporal structures. The question arises what musical materials can be created that are relatively undisturbed by the latency phenomenon, unaffected by it or even entirely built around latency. After some trials, a group of artists from Taiwan and The Netherlands explore this possibility head-on and present it live.
The Latencies Project
For this project, these musicians explore the musical challenges and solutions that are the inevitable result of two-way online improvisations. ‘Latencies’ refers both to ‘latency’ and to ‘latent’ sounds, that is, sound structures implicitly embedded in the nature of sound signals shared between musicians and arriving with a time lapse. It also explores sound structures emerging out of unpredictable, uncontrollable situations. I got inspired to search for the creative challenges of this problem of latency, and wanted to see (and hear, of course) what interesting new sounds and musical structures could be exploited when you have to work with a time lag.
The chance elements due to a fluctuating, unpredictable lag in sound signals translates, for me, to ‘latent’ musical possibilities, rather than the usual impossibilities in most rhythm/pulse-driven musics (when a drummer in Tokyo wants to play online with a rhythm guitarist in Madrid, the latency of normal apps like Zoom or Skype will cause them to be out of sync all the time). In trial sessions during the first wave of the pandemic (Summer 2020), Oorbeek’s members in The Netherlands/Belgium played live online with musicians in Taiwan, using game piece structures. In other sessions, free improvisations were spun out in which the live sound on one location was expanded with near-simultaneous live playing on the other side of the Eurasian plateau.
Now the moment of truth is near. Just a few days and we will know if we can do a half set (the 2nd half) with the other musicians thousands of miles away, or if the sound becomes a mess. This challenge is so different from the other creative problems I have encountered. Can we live up to the expectation I had, now almost 1,5 year ago, that making music online with two bands is worthwhile for a concert? Two weeks ago we did a trial session. Pretty simple, we have no big budget to ask a technical company, but we use a fantastic software tool called Jamulus, that is exactly designed for online music making. I first used it for monthly classes I teach here in Taiwan: in fact my students came up with it when we had a temporary lockdown in Taiwan. During the latest cross-continental test one of them, our technical supporter Sky Tseng, fiddled and tweaked for a while, and then it really was like the music from Amsterdam was played in our rehearsal space in Taipei. Not at all a lo-fi sound but proper bass and guitar, and a time lag that we could play with. So at this point I feel I can confidently recommend everyone to have a listen this Sunday.
Mark van Tongeren
For this occasion I am in a double role, reinforcing Shih-Yang’s group KaDaoYin which is missing members. So I’ll be playing ‘against’ my own Oorbeek members and introducing several of our conceptual/game pieces to the players here.
The Taiwan International Improvised Music Festival 2021
LIVE on Sunday December 19
from Taipei (19:30 local time)
& Amsterdam (12:30 local time)
LIVE event in Taipei details:
線上+線下專場- 2021/12/19 19:30 (線上活動19:00入場) (GMT+8)
線下票：預售票$500 / 全票$550
Online tickets – watch anywhere around the world:
Some months before this concert we held a talk in Taipei with Arie Altena joining online, as a first long-distance meeting. We had three very interesting perspectives. Arie was talking about differences in microtiming when musicians play in the same room (I had never thought about that, really); about stretching the beat by King Tubby, and Charles Mingus playing before the beat, while Lester Young played after the beat; and about Pauline Oliveros exploring delay and even saying ‘we (humans) are delay.’ Shih-Yang discussed canons in the music of Pachelbell, Bach, Nancarrow, Ligeti and Tenney. I gave examples of German yodeling and the Pashtaai ritual of the Saisiyat tribe, where there are constant shifts in overlapping temporal structures.
Oorbeek also contributed footage for a video event, of which you can see a screenshot here. The video will be completed next year by Lee Ellickson, who filmed the Oorbeek members.
In a strange twist of events, the necessity of playing in lockdown seemed to have passed last Summer when we received the green light for Latencies from our Taiwanese funding body, through organiser Nicole’ Creative Artists Agency. Late August 2021, a live performance with audience on both sides seemed possible. But right now, with a new lockdown in The Netherlands, the maximum number of people that can gather is once again severely restricted: back to four – exactly the number of Oorbeek members taking part in this long-distance meeting. In fact, writing the day before the concert, a complete lockdown for tomorrow is even on the table, which might force our four musicians to play from their own home, for which some of them do not have the proper set-up with mics, audio interface and software tools. A quite bitter turn of events, going back to how this whole idea started in the midst of the first global waves of the pandemic.
As it turns out, there is nothing new in my fascination with latency: Edwin van der Heide, a Dutch multimedia / sound artist, explored it already in the 1990s, and our own Arie Altena, on his website, discussed French and American musicians trying it out as early as the 1980s.
Latency now between Taipei and Amsterdam: about 250 ms.
Latency then, between Paris and another city in Southern France: up to 4 minutes.
Here they are! 12 sonic snapshots of the semi-unguided missile called Oorbeek.
Ja, ze zijn er! 12 momentopnames van het half-ongeleide projectiel dat Oorbeek heet.
Cut to tape by Kasper Frenkel in the Electric Monkey studios in Amsterdam using loads of vintage equipment. Mixed down, with real tape, in fact, for some of the effects, by Kasper Frenkel and Mark van Tongeren.
Onversneden opgenomen en gemixed in de Electric Monkey Studios, Amsterdam, met vintage studio apparatuur,
Packaged with Oorbeek’s own artwork in a limited, numbered edition of 320. Each LP sleeve in silk screen print was handmade by Oorbeek.
Kavel is ingepakt in eigen artwork – 320 unieke, genummerde exemplaren in zeefdruk.
Go to Blowpipe Records for listening and to order your own copy of the vinyl + redeem code, or ask your local record store. Official release date: October 14, 2020.
Ga naar Blowpiperecords voor beluistering en om je eigen vinyl exemplaar + download te bestellen, of vraag je platenboer ernaar (officiële releasedatum: 14 oktober).
All of the band members during the recording:
Alle leden tijdens de opnamesessies:
↑ Peter Cleutjens, drums, percussion
↑ Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, bass
↑ Maarten Hepp, voice and acoustic and electronic instruments
↑ Serge Onnen, trumpet
↑ Arie Altena, electric guitar, banjo, marimbas
↑ Mark van Tongeren, voice and acoustic and electronic instruments
and ↑ Alice Smits, electric guitar
Check out impressions of the unique silk screen covers while listening to the Jew’s harps of Maarten Hepp and Mark van Tongeren, accompanied by the rhythm section, on this video.
Hier voorbeelden van de 320 unieke, gezeefdrukte hoezen op een rijtje, met de mondharpen van Maarten Hepp en Mark van Tongeren + ritme sectie.
Search for Oorbeek’s deep past on Arie Altena’s Oorbeek pages, like texts and reviews about Oorbeek, or here on Fusica.
Amsterdam’s most uncompromising
7-piece weird-jazz-avant-rock outfit
atmospheric film music with hard rock,
tribal vocals with distorted New Age bells
and yodel with dub.
For experienced listeners only!
↑ Oorbeek in the Electric Monkey studios, July 2018.
From left to right: Arie Altena (gtr), Peter Cleutjens (drs), Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (bs), Mark van Tongeren (vc), Alice Smits (gtr), Serge Onnen (tpt), Maarten Hepp (vc).
After some years of relative silence, the full seven-piece collective of Oorbeek reunited again this Summer to record in the Electric Monkey Studios in Amsterdam. We did some cool new stuff in those two days, and picked out some of our time-tested game pieces, which are guaranteed to produce music no one has ever heard before (our two motto’s are ‘Oorbeek always starts over again’ and ‘Oorbeek liberates sound’).
As a band proclaiming to do things differently, every time we play together, we decided to make a fresh rendition of two all-too-familiar Christmas tunes. That’s right, Oorbeek is joining the musical madness of X-mas, where dozens of groups and singers produce scores of iterations of the melodies we know so well. Of course Oorbeek would not be Oorbeek if it did not give that unique … what shall we call it… New Dutch Swing-twist.
Now hear for yourself if you can recognise these tunes and sing along in your own language. Get the 7″ or listen to the tracks for free at Blowpipe Records.
And look out for more vinyl and downloads from the Electric Monkey sessions to come out in 2019.
If you use Facebook, you surely will like Oorbeek there.
I recently sat down to create a contribution for Serge Onnen‘s exhibition, opening tomorrow at the Kunstfort in Vijfhuizen, called The Fear of Small Numbers. Among the exhibits is a record player for which visitors can change the speed. Our collective of sound makers Oorbeek (where I got to know Serge in the first place) recorded a contribution in the studio this Summer, while recording a new album, and a host of other performers (me included) were asked to contribute. The record contains all these short pieces, one after another, and as a listeners you can play them back as fast or slow as you like. An interesting challenge for which I produced the following short piece, which I think will sound good no matter how slow or fast it is played back. I looped the original track of 22 seconds several times to make it longer. And for lack of a turntable I give you the half and double speeds as a bonus.
The second Taiwan International Improvised Music Festival (TIIMF) is in full swing, with many events in Taipei and some in Hsinchu. It is great to be involved again, like two years ago when Jaap Blonk came over from the Netherlands for the kick-off of the festival’s first edition. I played host for Jaap and will do the same now for the guest arriving next week. Even though he lives close by, in Japan, it will be Makigami Koichi ‘s first visit to Taiwan. Friends of Taiwan! After a carreer spanning some 40 years, moving in wildly different directions, here is a chance to finally hear, see and even make music with your charming neighbor!
I first met Makigami in Kyzyl (Tuva, Siberia) in 1995 during the International Festival Khöömei. Our paths crossed many times since then, in New Zealand (where we performed with and on the invitation of Phil ‘Dadsonic’ Dadson), New York (where we had a concert the same evening, but in different places; I caught the tail of his performance with John Zorn and others and joined them for a bite afterwards), Germany (where we did a duet which was displayed live on a big screen as a Cymatics graph by Lauterwasser), Amsterdam (for the International Jew’s Harp Festival, where Makigami joined our band Oorbeek) and of course Siberia. More than Jaap Blonk, who sees himself primarily as a composer, Makigami is an improviser at heart.
I’ll never forget how Makigami entered the stage in Siberia to deliver his version of Tuvan throat singing in 1995: he walked in firm, big steps towards the mic, effectively starting his performance not after installing himself behind the mic and getting prepared to sing, but at the moment he appeared from the wings. His performance was hilarious, blending throat singing with other theatrical voices.
It’s hard to nail down where Makigami belongs musically: better not to even try. In 1979 he received national pop-star fame with a rather experimental, faintly New Wave-inspired song.
Shortly before that, he and his friends had formed a rock band called Hikashu (ヒカシュー), even though they started out with an interest in exploring theatre a year earlier. They were not quite interested in staying in the business of producing pop/rock format material and moved in new directions. This can clearly be seen in a documentary from the early 1980s, where we see the band exploring all sorts of absurd, mystical, comic and intellectual ideas and performances. I do not understand Japanese, but anyone can see they explore a huge range of performance techniques.
One of these techniques I knew from my studies in ethnomusicology, which included one semester devoted to Japanese music. We discussed the case, and listened to the recordings, of Buddhist monks (if I remember well), who would pursue a state of being where they let go of their ego-bound consciousness in such a way that they would squarely fall on the ground. We listened to the recording (chanting and bells, I presume) and suddenly heard a loud thud of a monk’s body dropping down; and then another one, and another one. I tried hard to understand how to do that without seriously hurting yourself (I pictured them falling forward). It definitely stands out as one of the most intriguing music-theatrical rituals ever invented.
Well, I found out one possible way to do it when watching the Hikashu documentary. All the band members let go and drop themselves on the floor, almost without counteracting the crash. If you want to try: the movement goes backward, not forward. It seems a thick mat or padded floor is used, by the sound of it (it still looks like a wooden floor). Painless it wasn’t it, at least not every time, so much is clear. It takes practise and guts.
(for the video link of this fragment, scroll down).
I knew for a long time I shared many musical passions with Makigami. The first one was obviously throat singing, then we both love the Jew’s harp. Later after I joined Oorbeek, I met probably the biggest fan of Hikashu and Makigami Koichi in The Netherlands, Maarten Hepp. And just at about the same time I did some improv work with Koichi in New Zealand, playing Zorn’s Cobra under his direction. But after viewing this documentary some years ago I see there is a whole range of body work and conceptual experiments he did in the early days.
It is therefore a great pleasure to also host a workshop with Makigami, who ignited some of my own improv teaching work when jointly presenting a workshop in New Zealand in 2003. He had a fantastic way of inviting and encouraging people to join in his musical experiments, and this lingered on in my own teaching. Next Sunday, November 26, Taipei residents have a chance to work with an original master of musical invention.
I asked him for the requirements of those who are going to join.
He dryly replied “no technique”.
Any styles people should know or play?
That will be on Sunday November 26, 13:30-17:00, in Reykjavik Lab /
愛雷克雅維克實驗室, 台北市濟南路一段7號B1, Taipei. Full details and registration: on Accupass and at the bottom of this post.
LIVE APPEARANCES OF MAKIGAMI KOICHI in TAIPEI
Friday November 24
Concert “National Song beyond the Voice”
with Makigami Koichi (JP, voice, theremin, Jew’s harp, shakuhachi), Lin Chien-Chun (soprano), Lee Shih-Yang (piano), Mark van Tongeren (voice, sruti box, Jew’s harp), Hsing Tian Kong Library, Taipei, 19:00
With Porta Chiusa; and Makigami Koichi (JP, voice, theremin, Jew’s harp, shakuhachi), Tung Chaoming (guzheng), Mark van Tongeren (voice, sruti box, Jew’s harp), and others.
Zhongshan Hall, Taipei, 19:30
Tuesday November 28
Improvisation music/dance with Makigami Koichi and Mark van Tongeren and one female dancer.
HORSE · No.24, Lane 28, Sec.1 Daguan Rd., · Banchiao District · New Taipei City 220 · Taiwan
– SOLD-OUT –
Wednesday November 29
A lecture-demo in Fu Jen University, Taipei
Details upon request.
HIKASHU VIDEOS: FALLING BACKWARDS, 1981
This film also includes their hit song:
Hikashu ヒカシュー | プヨプヨ
For which the single version is here.
This afternoon is for anyone interested in improvising with sound and music, from professionals (voice/instruments) to absolute beginners. Makigami Koichi is one of the special international guests for the second Taiwan International Improvisation Music Festival, doing several gigs around Taipei in this week.
Mr. Koichi is a master at manipulating groups of musicians, from absolute beginners to the most experienced professionals, and to let them create something never heard or seen before.
Powerful yet playful, with a body-language that is at once authorative and disheartening, Makigami Koichi could even turn a group of meek lambs into a fantastic bleeting-orchestra.
This man is breathing music and you cannot help breathing along with him, so that music, noise and theatrical antics will start to pour out of every pore of your skin.
As a (former) avant-rock star, an extremely versatile vocalist, the bandleader of Hikashu for almost 40 years, and as a multi-instrumentalist, Makigami has steered through numerous Japanese musical landscapes. He redefined the horizon of music in Japan, and far beyond.
Most of all, he understands group dynamics and, with few words, can guide people who never met before through a diverse musical landscape.
it’s Mr. Koichi’s first visit to Taiwan.
Join this unique event.
You will not regret it.
Makigami Koichi is a renowned vocal performer and multi-instrumentalist who has been playing around the world for years. He rose to fame as the singer of the New Wave/rock band Hikashu in 1979. Soon thereafter the band sought more freedom, incorporating elements of spontaneity and improvisation into their music.
With some changes, Koichi and his collective continue to play a significant role in the cross-over field of rock-jazz-improvisation in Japan and around the world, with recent tours in Europe, Australia and the US.
Besides solo work, Makigami played with prominent jazz/experimental/avant-garde musicians like Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Ikue Mori and Fred Frith. He has visited Tuva/Siberia since the early 1990s and organised many tours and published CDs of Tuvan and Altai music in Japan. He is also a co-producer and the main curator of the avant-garde jazz festival Jazz Art Sengawa in Tokyo.
What happened after 1981 and recently, just check out Makigami’s websites.
I’d like to announce a couple of concerts in The Netherlands and in Poland in the coming week:
Monday 18 november, AMSTERDAM, Het Poortgebouw, 1st Floor, Tolhuisweg 2: Oorsprong Curator Series, start at 20 o’ clock. Free-improvisation with flutist Mark Alban Lotz and guitarist Bram Stadhouders and vocalist Mark van Tongeren, and several other exciting music/dance impro-combinations in two other sets that same night.
Thursday 21 November, AMSTERDAM, Mediamatic/Fabriek – Echokamer, 20:30, Superstringtrio (Rollin Rachele, Mark van Tongeren) and Daphne van Tongeren (light/performance).
Echokamer is a series of events during which composers, musicians and other sound-makers experiment with sound at, and with the sound of, Mediamatic Fabriek. The giant industrial hall reverberates and erodes, and produces quite a bit of sound all by itself. The perfect place for noisy experiments. Read more details about Superstringtrio’s sonic excursion next Thursday on this link: http://www.mediamatic.net/357851/en/echokamer-12-superstringtrio
Sunday 24 November, KRAKOW (Poland), Audio Art Festival/Bunkier Sztuki, 19 o’clock, Superstringtrio. We have been invited by Marek Choloniewski, founder of Audio Art Festival, one of the most long-standing festivals dedicated to Sound Art in all its beautiful, radical and weird manifestations, to join the ranks of many artists who have performed there in past decades. Superstringtrio will present an updated version of its performance Incognito Ergo Sum, premiered in Amsterdam earlier this year at the occasion of the PhD-defense of Mark van Tongeren’s Thresholds of the Audible- thesis at Leiden University. See a short clips of it on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/64866998. For the full program of the festival, which has already started yesterday and continues next week, check this link: http://www.audio.art.pl/
(with our thanks to Horst Rickels, who gives a workshop and concert in Krakow tomorrow with his Lesley-speakersystem, together with Robert Pravda).
In a couple of hours I am leaving Taiwan. If all goes well I might join Oorbeek tomorrow, Saturday 16 November at the opening of The New Institute in ROTTERDAM. Set 1 at 17 o’ clock, set 2 at 17:45. 6th floor, Museumpark 25, 3015 CB Rotterdam,
Proudly presenting: this Saturday’s performance in Beijing, together with my old friend, artist Serge Onnen. Serge currently resides in Beijing where he is producing the follow-up of his extensive work on shadow/performance, much of which was done with the collective Oorbeek that we are both part of. With a residency in a hutong in the heart of Bejing, Serge is now immersing himself in the ancient art of shadowplay in China.
During the past few weeks we have exchanged ideas about our ZaJialab performance from our respective homes in Beijing and Taiwan. Through skype, Serge has shown me sketches and drawings of objects he will use, and several of his new lamps and lighting set-ups. He has even enlisted the help of some traditional puppetmakers to realise his own designs in the slightly transparent, dried leather that has been used for centuries.
I have dug out the remainder of my musical instruments and sound objects, and an old companion, the second-generation Korg Kaoss Pad (the first generation gave up many years ago). After a break due to moving, it is exciting to find out that my instruments, voice and Kaoss Pad are capable—again—to create a nicely organised chaos when all used together.
The title of our performance is Dingen Doen, which is Dutch for ‘doing things.’ For an hour or so, we are going to transform the small, atmospheric temple that nowadays is ZaJialab into a place that is both real—and surreal.