Sunday, July 31, 2016

New Nambu (15) "Me and Minor 1"


Though I think most of people who are reading this article could not come, but there was the event organized by Deadstock Records at Pikopikocafe in Kichijoji on May 29 th this year(2016). The event name was “Listen to Japanese extreme music ~Never Ending Kichijoji Minor & The Fifth Column”, the content was listening to mainly sound sources recorded at ”Minor”, the venue in Kichijoji which existed from 1978 to 1980.

Three member including Onnyk (me), Geso and Satoshi Sonoda brought sound sources at Minor and exposed a lot of flyers and free magazines those days. I and Geso have acted together under the name of The Fifth Column and released Box Sets recently. Mr. Sonoda organized “Free Music Space”, the series of concerts where various performers appeared some places in Tokyo later 1970’s. Harumi Yamazeki came to the event and talked, and he added information on some recordings, I felt very fast four hours have passed. I won’t report about the event again. However, I will only express the thoughts that I couldn’t talk at that time.
The year I started musical activity with my friends as The fifth column is around 1976. It was 1979 that “Minor” began a business. I can say the age of struggling music was transition period in Japan. Punk or Techno was in fashion and they were separated into fractions by regions, parties or styles. Independent labels called “Indies” sprang up like “bamboo erupts after a rain” (It’s a stereotype expression in Japanese). In Japan, modern jazz became popular in 1960’s and free jazz reared up in later 60’s. There were a group of musicians claimed anti-establishment and believed in radical sounds. That is, they would never be interested in entertainment.

I think Masayuki Takayanagi was a typical. I can say he expressed music as Ressentiment (anger). Also in the 1960s the hedonistic rock aimed hippisim was beaten in quality and quantity a more pleasant new style (it looks like promotion of idols) produced by mass media, the 1970s it was going to take a commercialism or survive in the underground.

For example I applied Mopps in the first case and Yuya Uchida in the later case. How was the movement of avant-garde or experimental music apart from these streamline? In 1970, Osaka World Expo, those abortive flowers bloomed, but after full bloom they were tapering. The 60’s avant-garde was a world of composers based on academic school ( Takemitsu, Mayuzumi and Ichiyanagi as representatives). Musicians who has the new left- wing consciousness against them appeared. An elite, Ryuichi Sakamoto who organized cutting-edge musical groups and was called around people he did the most radical saying and doing createed the group called “ Gakusyuudan (Learning Group) ”.

This was a group including various artists who were non musician. Perhaps, he might be inspired by “Scratch Orchestra”by Cornelius Cardew, an UK composer. The magazine called “Douzidaiongaku ( Music of our time )“, was published by Kenichi Takeda and his colleague. Takeda, a Taisho Koto performer, released a critic book “Music wriggled in the ground” recently. “Douzidaiongaku“ suggested the these, propaganda or methods and so on. In those texts, you can see Sakamoto who was radical and posed a fight against the establishment. However, Sakamoto changed his way completely soon after YMO succeed.

Kenichi Takeda who appeared at Minor many times, reminded those days as a close friend of Sakamoto before YMO’s success. A producer of a masterpiece “Disapointment Hateruma”is also Kenichi Takeda. It was
 co-performed by Sakamoto and a percussionist Toshiyuki Tsuchitori (Tsuchitori was playing with Toshinori Konco etc., then he went to US to be taught by Milford Graves, a one of pioneer of free jazz drumming, and traveled around the world to learn various percussions. He came up big as music director Peter Brook Company, returning Japan he played, researched, composed and recorded based on Jomon culture. He had continued to co-work with a Shamisen player of Momoyoma fraction, until Harue Momoyama died.) Yoshitaka Gotoh who fought with Takeda and Sakamoto established a unique label “Pass” under Trio Records and they realized a collaboration between Sakamoto and Phew who was a leader of very popular group at that time,“Aunt Sally”. 

Phew appeared on each medium as a opinion leader with Machizou Machida of INU ( Later, Kou Machida) who was paid attention in Kansai in the changing time from later 70’s to 80’s. A former member of Japanese communist party, an activist, a writer. a poet and a son of a noble Seizi Tsutsumi became a leader of Saison Group and produced “youth culture” which represented Parco. Everyone took into Seibu’s strategies.consciously or unconsciously. Nam Jun Pike who cut necktie of John Cage, Jospeh Beuys who said “Capitalism will finish soon” were also the puppet of such stream. The price value of a rebellious artists group“ Fluxus ” soared. It aimed Bubble economy in that age.

When I felt gloomy in the country of Tohoku Region in the middle of 70’s, “Improvisation~Free Music” appeared like revelation. As Derek Baily or Han Bennink Records, if I say more concrete. Honestly, I knew nothing about the reviews of such musicians by Akira Aida or someone. It was case that I could call a coincidental encounter. Their style and the idea of“Non idiomatic improvisation” grew up in my mind. It was very personal but it seemed to grew up as ”Response to free jazz from Europe” worldly.

I thought that Free Music is defined as the one had the distance to Jazz, Rock, Contemporary Compositions or any kind of the ethnic musics, not regarded its origin, and should be played as depending on the wills of performers or the belief among co- performers. We can’t help doing that. I thought it “Ultimate Music”. But, was it Music basically? It was important that it based on individualism and democracy in European, and it was definitely different form “ free jazz as musical expression of Afro-American’s fighting idea to the system ” or “Japanese style which imitate a surface of free jazz”. This is the reason I must called Japanese free jazz “False Free Jazz”. But, I won’t trivialize it.

Japanese free jazz was not born of race discrimination, civil rights struggle, exploitation of jazz musicians or crushing situation. Also, it was not born out of the origin regression consciousness of black music (even if it may be a kind of illusion). Japanese free jazz has been accepted as a style more than anything. So, rather than free jazz, free music could be fitted with the situation in Japan beyond Europe. Many of European free music promoters were musicians who“had learned” jazz or classic, because they were serious to complete music as Music.

It may be said that "Japanese jazz performers are serious too!" However, the level of the orchestral performance based on European classical knowledge, even in amateurs, but in amateur level it is in a completely different class from Japanese ones (as you must remember that so-called “classical music”’s origin is the ethnic music of Western europe). In that sense, I think that the omnivorousness of Japanese amateurs was consistent with the borderless of free music. However, from the viewpoint that free music originating in Western Europe had an ethnic base of so-called individualism and democracy, it can not be said that Japan had eurocentric individualism and democracy. More than anything, the economic situation of Japan was good at making medium absorbing and distributing the world's music culture. In other words. Japan was transformed into a crucible of music of the world, temporal and synchronous music. That was the latter half of the 1970s, and it was the background of "minor" being born. (cont'd)