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Group Ongaku: Automatism (1960; excerpt)

From the album Music of Group Ongaku

The decade of the 1960s witnessed the sudden proliferation of groups specializing in improvised experimental music performance.  Collectives such as AMM, Musica Elletronica Viva, and Gruppo di Improvvisazioni Nuova Consonanza (to name just a few of the better known) all charted bold paths toward the fusion of various convergent musical Zeitgeists of the era: post-Cageian notions of aleatorics and indeterminacy, extended instrumental techniques deriving from avant-garde European concert music, live electronics, Afro-American-inspired free jazz, and cybernetic theories of feedback and self-regulating systems of action.

Perhaps the earliest such collective was the little known Group Ongaku (“Music Group”), started in 1958 by Shukou Mizuno and Takehisa Kosugi, two undergraduates at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. They were soon joined by many other members, but the group, like many others of its kind, was riven by disagreements over aesthetic principles, and it disbanded in 1962. Several Group Ongaku alumni would later join the loose collective of experimental performance artists known as Fluxus.  One member, Yasunao Tone, would attain notoriety as the founder of glitch music thanks to his experiments, beginning in 1985, with physically altering the digital information of CDs  (Tone’s work can be heard on his 1997 album Solo for Wounded CD.)

Recorded at Mizuno’s home in 1960, “Automatism” makes use of both conventional musical instruments (piano, organ, cello, and alto saxophone) and everyday objects (vacuum cleaner, radio, dolls, and dishes).  The music was created spontaneously by performers moving about between the various rooms of the house.  In addition, one of the members manipulated the reel of the tape recorder by hand, adjusting the intake speed and thus the overall pitch and timbre of the recording. 

The three tracks on this album can be downloaded from UbuWeb.

Played 79 time(s).

January 25, 2011, 10:28am

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