CCTP-725: Fall 2011

Week 11 Discussions


I am really looking forward to Yoko’s performance this week, and so I just spent some time looking at her website and reading her bio. I was really intrigued by the hybrid genre that her work represents, and as a music novice, and I am excited to see where her “journey” will lead. I am not sure if we will be seeing an “aphrodizia” performance, but in reading on their website, I am fascinated by the use of drawing, painting, and other artistic media along with music. It reminded me of the work of one of my MFA peers at SCAD, Tari Berozi. This exhibit “Seeing Sound” has traveled, most recently in Paris I believe, and here it its description:

“Seeing Sound” is an exploration of sound and image. I use photography as a tool to translate the language of music into abstract images. Music, more than any art form, triggers my emotions in an immediate and powerful way. I am utterly intrigued by the fact that a certain combination of sounds can make me feel sad and another combination can elevate my spirit. Photography is my language. I am a visual artist that is inspired by music. I isolate its emotion in images. Perhaps this comes as a desire to hold something that is ephemeral, that lasts just for a few minutes, the limited time of a musical composition.

Tari-Beroszi.jpg

See more pieces from her exhibition in Paris- http://www.speos.fr/galleryspeos/201104tari-exhibition/index.html


Serene Al-Kawas

Yizhou Zhang


“Essentially, for me, music is a metaphor, a tool for reflection. We need to think of music as information, not simply as rhythms, but as codes for aesthetic translation between blurred categories that have slowly become more and more obsolete.” - DJ Spooky


Three days ago, Asian pop king Jay Chou released his eleventh album. For those who started to listen to Jay’s music from the very beginning of his career, like me, feel quite disappointed with his new songs, either because his style has changed, or because our own taste has changed. However, it’s still undeniable that Jay is the one who maximizes the so-called “remix culture” in Chinese-language pop music. When I heard Jay’s song for the first time, I was a 13-year-old middle school girl practicing the piano and preparing for the exam of my Level-10 certificate. Jay also began to play the piano since childhood, and piano became his primary tool of composing in his later days. When I played the CD of Jay’s first album at home, my dad totally couldn’t understand it and even asked me “how come you have such a bad taste and listen to such songs after learning classical music for seven years”. For me, although my knowledge of pop music could be traced back to playing the cassettes of my father’s favorite rock bands when I was three or four years old, Jay’s music was an inspiring breakthrough in my perception of music, which let me realize that “music can also be like this”.


56a77485265d18a21ac59585ee0cf64f.jpeg

While many of Jay’s works contain contemporary R&B, hip-hop, rap, and rock genres, it’s hard to explain his personal style by any existing terminology of pop music. Therefore a new term was developed exclusively for him - the “Chou Style”, to describe his unique cross-cultural music as well as his special “slurred” singing style. Based on his formal musical training (piano and cello), Jay is good at combining the elements of classical music and his pop music. Together with his dedicated lyricist Vincent Fang, who is skilled in using a lot of beautiful ancient vocabulary of Chinese language and creating a strong visual and narrative style of text, Jay has produced a mixture of old/new and Western/Eastern culture. One of the biggest achievements in Jay’s music career is the creation of a new genre called “Zhongguo Feng”, literally “Chinese Style”, which is a artistic hybrid of traditional Chinese instruments and styles with R&B or rock. Such songs are written in the Pentatonic Scale to imitate an oriental style. Jay also incorporated many musical elements into his works, such as Spanish guitar, American techno/electronica, Bossa Nova, etc. Moreover, sound effects from everyday life, such as ping pong balls, shooting bullets, helicopter blades, and radio noise, are also woven into his music. Jay also loves making “remix” of language - blend of Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese Hokkien, Japanese, Italian and English. Although Jay’s latest album has been criticized for its strong electronic style, honestly speaking, he is still “being himself” in his own way and practicing the “remix culture”. In a word, Jay’s 11-year music career is a perfect interpretation of the remix trend of pop music in terms of technology, genre and globalization.



This is the music video of "Mine Mine" in Jay's new album. The song itself is an interesting piece of remix: the melody is derived from the accompaniment of another song in his previous album, and the lyrics are subtly intermingled between three languages.



Yu-wei Wang

Internet has become a medium that allow digital contents be transmitted instantaneously and globally. With the advent of digital technology, sound is able to digitalize and can not only be sharable, downloadable, but also remixable. These features also move to the democratization of music, in that one does not necessary to have a set of expensive instruments to compose music. This also increases the conversation of exchanging ideas across different cultures, in that it allows various cultural elements interweave into the production of music. This phenomenon can be perceived by the practice of popular music, for example, Geisha Dream sang by Rollergirls is a song that embedded the sounds of traditional Japan music instrument. In actuality, even in Asian region, the remix of Chinese popular music and Korean popular music style or the hybridity popular music styles of various countries are more and more proliferating in recent popular music domain.



Geisha Dream-- by Rollergirls
The opeining of the song embedded traditional Japan instrument, and the traditional Japan music scales interweaves in the whole melody of the song.



迷魂曲 (Mi Hun song, litterally means the Ecstacy Song) sung by Jay Chou
The song shows a remix of Chinese pop music style and Korean pop music style.



青花瓷 (Quin Hua Thzi, litterally means Blue And White Porcelain) sung by Jay Chou.
This song shows a classic Chinese Pop music style.




미인아 (Bonamana, litterally means Beautiful Girls) sung by Super Junior.
This song demonstrates a typical Korean Pop song style.



“We are the proof that love does exist across ethnic divisions.” – noted by Yoko K

The statement is the central idea that Yoko tries to blend in her music—organic electronic—sounding of nature. Yoko K, a Japanese musician who received her musical training in the US after high school and now living in the US. With her Western and Oriental hybrid cultural background, the electronic music that Yoko is playing can perfectly reflect this feature, in that electronic music as mentioned by Yoko has a potential for contradiction and the harmonization of differences. In the project that she demonstrated in the performance, she records many different languages while saying the same sentence or more precisely expressing the same notion “We are the proof that love does exist across ethnic divisions” with the pure vocal without lyrics sang by her. This as a whole becomes a synthesis, a synthesis not only of musical genres but of various cultures. As I see it, electronic music here turns into a meeting platform for all these elements, and the fusion of these differences turns into a universal language— music, in which shows our perception about the world.




Remix Innovation, Creativity, and Market Constraint: King Tubby and the Dancehall-- Erica Harp



I have often been concerned that tight economic considerations int he music industry hinder creative work--for example, I have wondered that in the age of "piracy" popular artists sacrifice craft in the efforts to compensate lost revenue through product representation or signing on for a reality show. Of course, this thought hasn't really been validated through much proof--just a possibility I have considered. Also, I am well aware the competition in the marketplace often does led to innovation. That said, coming into this weeks readings, I did hold reservation towards monetized creative work.



After reading about the background of dub and the work of King Tubby, I really called this false assumption into question. Here, it was the very need to be cost-effective that led to dub. It was precisely the conditions--the high risk of producing physical recordings, the importance of dancehall, the avoidance of paying artists--that allowed for the ingenious emergence of dub. In truth, I am unsure as to where this leaves me in my own opinions regarding he economics of creativity--on one hand, I dislike the idea that money driven industry that is reluctant to pay artists is a good thing or good for creativity, but on the other hand it does seem that necessity is the mother of invention and it was the oppressive constraints themselves that led to a revolution in music.



Additionally, I am curious how this notion fits into the financial side of the current music and property debates. Money is certainly at the heart of music production and its contemporary contentions--both as a blockade on creativity (GirlTalk) and a cause of it (King Tubby).

king-tubby-dub.jpeg



Music, Memory & the Human Experience - Jess Steele


“What you do as a DJ is to breathe new life into [music] and see what happens, and that's what sampling's about. It's speaking with the voices of the dead, playing with that sense of presence and absence. If the mix doesn't evoke something, it doesn't work." - Paul D Miller, http://www.djspooky.com/articles/erikdavis.php


In the post-digital, post-globalized era, the concept of memory is central to the multiple levels of remix and hybridity in music. Composer John Adams in his compilation On the Transmigration of Souls not only applies the issue of memory through technique and genre mixing but as the central mission of the work as a “memory space”, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks (“The Many Faces of Ives”, http://bit.ly/vdZrTr). Sampling from multiple genres/sounds and deploying advanced technical “orchestral alchemy”, Adams’ process resembles a remix, or how Miller would describe sampling, “creating with found objects…New contexts form from old…The sound of thought becomes legible at the edge of the new meanings”(Rhythm Science 25). Adams creates a new collective memory through music.
on-the-transmigration-of-souls.jpg
On the Transmigration of Souls YouTube playlist: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B7C22A69CA2A5AB9. For a full list of the layers/fragments within the 25 minute piece see: http://www.earbox.com/W-transmigration.html.

Whether Dub or classical, the cinema or new media, we see the relation between memory, communication (whether word, sound, image, or moving image), and technology continue to evolve on a global scale. While Miller describes music as “pre-linguistic stories” (Rhythm Science 21), Adams adds “extra-musical” elements to his compilation to communicate a history. As technology becomes globalized and increasingly complex, the relation between identity and machine does so as well – we see a global conscious represented through images, sounds, logos, etc. in innovative representations. However, Miller draws on Edison and phonography, or “the memory machine”, to remind us the idea of “prosthetic realism” (32) is hardly new. Adams, almost in an ode to the phonograph, entombs an assemblage of human voice and sound:

First we hear only street sounds, as if the walls of the concert hall had been blown away. In place of Adams's usual percussive groove a taped boy's voice repeats the word "missing," a verbal heartbeat that gives the unformed sound of cars and footsteps a rhythmic undertow. The chorus (at first wordless), strings, and harps enter, playing slowly rocking lines that sound like a medieval chant. Are we in the street, a concert hall, or a cathedral? The choral syllables slowly become stammered words and phrases: "re-mem ... re-mem ... re-member," "you will ... you will ... you nev ..." Noises, words, prayers…” (Faces of Ives).





With a constant flow of remixes for every pop single and, as we see in Adam’s category, composers often seeking to mix genres in an appeal to a wider audience, we begin to wonder what makes a remix something new. Through Adams, Miller, and the remix, we learn the power of technology and music to re-contextualize experience/perception through layering and erasure techniques:

Without sounding in any way like popular music…the work has no memorable musical theme or melody—it is more successfully populist. Its sound-over-sound texture connects it to the mass media. We know this ambiance from Ken Burns documentaries, from CNN, from rap music, from the movies. Like Ives but in an entirely new way, Adams extends our sense of music—there is music in the sound bites and the street noises, music in our own state of sensory overload(
Faces of Ives).

Such fragments of sound are reflective of Miller’s remix theory, where “Dub speaks from erasure, the voice fragmented and left to drift on the shards of itself that are left when its body is taken away” (Rhythm Science 53). Whether capturing an African-America Diaspora or the 9/11 attacks, technology and music leverage layering and presence and absence to create and re-create new collective experiences/memories.
In this sense, Miller and Adams draw on the subtle balance between the “psychedelic”/dream world and the collective/associative to (re)create:

By taking out the vocals and emphasizing the rhythm, the focus of the music shifts from conscious awareness and cerebral stimulation. Instead, it centers around the resonant quality of the rhythm, and the emphasis lies in the emotions that it conjures in the listener and the body movements induced by it. However, by constantly reshuffling the various instruments and vocals of the whole mix, the mind remains occupied as different aspects of the music are constantly being pointed out to the listener (http://remixtheory.net/?p=51).

Not simply for art, as art sake, but to communicate, both artists both relate the need to transpose individual memory/dream/sense to a collective experience or memory. Adam attempts to draw from Ives, a predecessor who captures the sinking of the Lusitania as a “vision of a spiritualized democracy, a community brought together by music at a time of tragedy”; as Adams:

Like a true romantic, he [Adams] often found his music in dreams, and in his own spiritual conflicts. The "memory space" of Transmigration, however, had to be public, not personal, and Ives—uniquely in the history of music—created imaginary utopian venues, usually by layering different sounds(Faces of Ives).

Miller also notes the need for associative chains to pull his individual memory to the collective, “At the end of the day, you still want to communicate with your fellow human beings. Otherwise it becomes a subjective implosion”(http://remixtheory.net/?p=51).

By drawing on the collective, both artists seek the power to (re)create and debunking the myth of an objective, linear history and memory. For instance, Miller writes “as an artist, writer, and musician, it seemed that turntables were somehow imbued with the art of being memory permutation machines. They changed how I remembered sounds and always made me think of a different experience with each listening” (Rhythm Science 45). In Adam’s “power to offend” in his ability to give “the symphony orchestra, that nineteenth-century artifact, a twenty-first-century sound” (Faces of Ives), we see the same disruption of hierarchal thought and cultural myth Miller speaks of when describing The New Science, “a theater of memory”, where “sound works as a kind of zone of aberration, a place where many of the cultural motifs that ‘the ancients’ used were able to be passed down through time in a process of continuous cultural combat between the elements of the new and old” (Rhythm Science 73).
51a5Tmk5pLL._SS500_.jpg


One critic notes the civic pride that Transmigration captures, “The heroes were policemen and firemen, not soldiers; a mayor, not a President. The names read on television and the short biographies in the Times reminded New Yorkers of their diversity and their commonality” (Faces of Ives). In the process of the mix, “Adams breaks down the divide between the high-bourgeois culture that created orchestras like the New York Philharmonic (and the repertory they play) in the nineteenth century and the mass culture that took its place in the twentieth” to create “a music that mirrors and exalts the public wisdom” (Faces of Ives). Perhaps, then, just as Miller links Emerson and Edison, the romantics and the remix scientists are not so far apart in their lofty ambitions to capture our imaginations and emotion to show us just what it means to be human.
For more information On the Transmigration of Souls: http://www.earbox.com/W-transmigration.html


Helene Vincent


I have always known that “electronic music” is an umbrella term containing many, many different sub-categories that are constantly being edited and re-combined in order to create fresh new genres of electronic music. It was not until I spent some time going through the tangled web of “Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music” that I realized just how many different kinds of electronic music are out there and how different those genres can be. From French Funk House to Detroit Experimental Techno to Minimal Downtempo, there are so many different kinds of electronic music to explore. Some argue it all sounds the same, but there are some electronic music artists who emerge and stand out from the rest thanks to their uniquely crafted sounds that can lull a baby to sleep or make the laziest person want to get up on their feet and never stop dancing.

A musician I kept thinking about as I listened to some of Yoko K.’s music on her site is Nicolas Jaar. Nicolas Jaar is a 21 year old studying at Brown University. Oh, and he also has a full album out which has received extremely positive feedback. Totally standard for someone my age. Listening to Jaar’s music is a deeply relaxing experience, he makes the kinds of tunes that make you want to close your eyes and drift off into another world. It is difficult to believe that someone as young as Jaar makes music infused with that kind of soulful sound. What I find so unique and wonderful about Jaar’s music is his dependence on silence as well as on beats in creating his sounds. In Jaar’s songs, silences are just as important as pianos, guitars, and voices. It is hard to pin the genre of Jaar’s music, but Jaar refers to it as “blue-wave,” perhaps hinting at the melancholy aspect of his music. Jaar is an example of the democratization of music that we have discussed in class and was brought up in many of our readings. He did not have a studio, a producer, or a room full of instruments. He was armed with a digital platform necessary create beats (nowadays that can be just a laptop) and nothing more. Jaar is an example of a young person taking the music industry into his own hands: he creates music he believes has purpose and releases it on his own record label Clown & Sunset. In an interview with Tony Naylor for an article on guardian.co.uk, Jaar states, “I honestly feel we’re at the beginning of a renaissance in music. It’s an amazing time. Mount Kimbie, James Blake, a lot of underground LA hip-hop—it’s happening. We’re all kids making music without studios, producers or other musicians—without anyone giving us money or telling us what to do—because we want to make really honest work. That’s different. That’s never happened before.” Though Jaar is certainly wrong about this never having happened before, he touches very aptly on the idea that young people are now using all of the tools at their disposal to create new hybrid works and show them to the world.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/7AbgPPR5Nls" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>




The Temporal Level of Hybridized Global Music
Time is central in music. A basic definition of music is the arrangement of sound in time. Though this definition can be significantly complicated, suffice it to say that time is fundamental in music. This week, I want to call for the possible addition of a temporal level of hybridization to add to the categories already presented by Professor Irvine (macro-cultural, technological, subculture and genre, globalization, and intellectual property). Various musics require different temporal approaches from the listener and composer, and these temporal conditions are subject to mixing and overlapping. In other words, the experience of music is directly linked to the experience of time, and certain codes are employed in music to evoke different experiences of or notions about time. As a cultural construct, our notions about the amount of time devoted to listening to, creating and enjoying music vary considerably, but are shaped by general cultural categories as to what music is appropriate at what time.

A few examples might help ground this temporal framework and the temporal codes embedded in music. From the Looper's Delight site, I found one of the earliest examples of looping from Eric Satie's 1893 composition, Vexations, which repeats "two lines of chromatic, diminished triads" 840 times. In actuality, the performance can last about 24 hours. Here is an excerpt:



Satie undoubtedly intended to explode traditional notions of musical composition. Wagner's epic Ring Cycle opera series was intended to be spread over four nights with a total playing time of 15 hours. Yet Satie's piece defies genre altogether and brings the performer and listener into a varied state of consciousness based on repetition.

Serialists, minimalists, and experimental composers throughout the 20th century explored notions of time and repetition. Whereas classical music had been based on chronically linear chord progressions, (and romantic music based partially on narrative), these modern composers looked at time differently. John Cage's 4'33" is a famous example of a piece that toyed both with audience expectations and time in music. The composition instructs the performer to go to the piano and sit silently for four minutes and thirty-three seconds.

But these experiments were largely limited to the "art music" world. Popular music evolved along a different path. Have the two met? Arguably, musicians like Paul D. Miller and Yoko K are exploring these themes in their music. From my days as an undergrad music student, musicians often talked about music that could be appreciated upon "first hearing." The division between "art music" and "popular music" was often described (respectively) as music which requires more than one listening for appreciation versus music that can be appreciated immediately. This definition is obviously overly simplistic, but does index notions about the amount of time spent listening to music and the value judgments associated with it.

Today, we find mixing of "classical" or "art music" and "popular music" relatively often. More importantly, we find the mixing of their time codes and aesthetics for a variety of purposes. Let's take the example of DJ Tiesto's "Adagio for Strings:"



The melody is sampled from Samuel Barber's 1938 composition Adagio for Strings. Tiesto combines the looped beat aesthetic of trance with the nostalgic popular melody, simultaneously combining not only two styles but two time codes. The result is music that is at once contemporary, edgy, driving (also invoking notions of "tribalism" and human expression through dance) (trance), and music that is familiar, linear and nostalgic. This example is rather unnuanced, and might appear "cheesy" to us these days. Regardless, the time codes evoked in the music are based on the styles employed.

My favorite (sub)genre of electronic music is drum and bass, and specifically I'm drawn to the jazzy soulful style termed "liquid funk." Stylistically, the genre combines elements of drum and bass, jungle, reggae, dub, jazz, soul, funk, computer music and more. Drum and bass generally may sound chaotic due to the relatively fast pace of the beat and multiple layers of sound and styles. Take this example by UK dnb legend, Terry T:




The remix of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On?" employs multiple stylistic and temporal categories. From the drum samples (similar to "funky drummer" samples) to the futuristic synthesized sounds to Marvin Gaye's vocals, a variety of times and senses of time are invoked. Harkening back to the great soul era of the '70s, the music also looks forward to a world of technologically oriented sound.

For some less in your face examples, here are a few of my favorite tunes. Pop music vocals embedded in drum and bass beats with dub references:







The time codes in drum and bass are multiple, simultaneous, and complex, as is the music itself. Vocal and instrumental, drum tracks, reverb, manipulated attack and delay, filters, effected bass and drum samples all operate in multiple temporal levels, simultaneously coordinated by a consistent pulse. Using programs like Reason, tracks are programmed and sequenced to a MIDI time clock. Thus, the overall time code might correspond to the consistent pulse of the snare or bass drums. Yet simultaneously blended with this pulse is a variety of other sound events. The beauty of drum and bass can then be seen in the waveforms between the beats, the textual and timbral changes that flow over and in between the driving pulse. (For example, I don't hear the treble drums as keeping time. [As many jazz musicians have argued], the drums add a timbral layer, a textural stamp to the track that acts as a kind of wallpaper for a sound space or environment. Thus, I no longer hear the music as "fast" after I've been listening to it for a while.)

A retrogressive view of music history (or the examples above) would reveal that music, like dnb, has always been experienced as multiple, simultaneous and complex, that is, music is always already remixed.

For a nice overview of what's going on in electronic music generally, check out NPR's All Songs Considered electronic edition.

Ben King


This week’s reading reminds me to think about what is electronic music. The definition provide by Wikipedia is “music that employs electronic musical instruments and electronic music technology in its productions.” However, think about the music industries nowadays, is there a song or a piece of music totally not edited by machines? After the voices recorded into the computer, the voices have already changed.

Music has the power to build people a visual image through an audio communication. Yoko K’s music is a good example of this. When we put on our headphones and close our eyes, her music comes into our eyes. Yoko K uses electronic music to describe us a three dimensional space. Her music has many layers. We can feel that some sounds are closed to us while some of them are far from us. Some are flicking while some get echos in the space. We use our ear to hear and use our brain to imagine. Where are those sounds from? How big is the space? What is the space looks like? Yoko K’s music is tridimensional. The music flows are different from the crescendo, decrescendo, fade in and fade out skills of a orchestra. The music flows very natural and the layers are very clear.

Listening to the electronic music, I couldn’t help to ask myself: where are they from? In the past, human beings make instruments with different kinds of materials and then get different tones naturally. However, many sounds in electronic music are not from any instruments. We even cannot identify whether it’s a singing or a sound made by electronic instruments. It is a remix of every sound we can hear from the world, noisy cities as well as the nature and it may be identified as a new sound.

The following song is sang by a Chinese singer Fay Wong, she use voice changer to make her voice sounds like from the radio.


Electronic music uses a lot in making the background music of video games. Video games use sounds of machines to create music. Their sound totally different from sounds from an actual instrument. They made by machines. They build a image of imagine world to audiences. In the past, people may identify it as music effects, but many people identify them as music now. Super Mario gets very popular theme music for the game. Nowadays, many musicians even begin to perform it with different kinds of instruments.

Konami’s game, Contra also got a very classic theme:

The Theme of the Game Pac-Man. Are they sound effects? or music?

Xindi Guo



DJ Spooky, aka Paul D. Miller, poses a great question that applies to this week’s topic as well as our entire Cultural Hybridity course, in his book Sound Unbound: “What can you see, hear, smell, taste, that does not originate in or is not mediated by civilized people?” Now of course, perhaps you might point to a natural object like an iceberg in Antarctica, which DJ Spooky recorded. But how many people frequently come in contact with completely unmediated stimuli on a daily basis? Everything we ingest culturally has been touched and modified, multiple times, by human hands. Nothing is “raw”, or pure; it has already been “cooked”, or appropriated, for our consumption. I believe the New York Times is right in saying, “all our present-day cultural stimuli, sampled or not, are inevitably filtered by technology.”
Reading through Jonathan Lethem’s article on “The Ecstasy of Influence” in Harper's, I came across the word cryptomnesia, which Wikipedia states is a memory bias phenomenon in which an individual believes a thought or inspiration is their own original work, when in actuality it stems from a forgotten memory. Perhaps one could define it, frankly, as innocent plagiarism. Indeed, the threat of cyptomnesia is one of the reasons I avoid reading posts from my classmates before I have a grasp on my own work; I hesitate to unknowingly reuse an idea. Otherwise we might be in the same situation as George Harrison and The Chiffons, as Prof. Irvine mentioned in class.

But in most cases with music, this idea lifting is truly inspired, and natural. Lethem points out that neurological science shows that our “memory, imagination, and consciousness itself is stitched, quilted, pastiched.” To be inspired, artists must expose themselves to all kinds of other works to form a mashup that in itself is original. This phenomenon is especially evident, and even encouraged, in the blues and jazz music scene. These musicians have been “enabled by a kind of ‘open source’ culture, in which pre-existing melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are freely reworked”, according to Lethem.






--Barry Blitch


Ashley Wei

Reflections on Yoko's performance

When Yoko talked about her experience, she mentioned the “falling water” house as one of the inspirations for her music. I loved the falling water house a lot and I understood her music better when I associated the architecture with her music. People cannot step twice into the same river” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. It’s not the same river because the water is always running and there are changes happen every second. Just like the falling water, Yoko’s music is - although composed by repeating samples and beats – constantly and subtly changing from time to time. This is really fascinating and makes a lot of scene for me to understand why she is called an “organic electronic musician.” The word “organic” means products grow naturally, that are slightly different from one to another. And they are different from the mass-produced products that are simply repeated and duplicated. For Yoko, although most of her samples are produced in studio and programmed in advanced, every live performance is a unique product. I really like the way she adopt the Eastern philosophy of “human coexisting with the nature” into electronic music, which is mostly considered as “Western”, “urban” and “modern” art. I had been to an electronic music concert, the Sonic Circuits Experimental Music Festival, a few weeks ago. There were some very cool artists performing noise experimental electronic music. I was impressed of the tension and emotions in their music but when I looked back today, I didn’t remember much of the “texture” of their music. What they did was basically using very engaging beats to create the tension, but the result was just an illusion and won’t last long. What Yoko did was quite different. She found a way out to get rid of the structure of the music, but paid more attention to the spiritual core of music. This is like an enlightenment moment for me as a designer. For quite a long time I tried hard to work on “original” design but now I realized what I really want to achieve is “organic” design – a design that remixes and composes many samples (that can possibly be not originally produced) in a unique way that is subtly changing from time to time, like the running water, and brings happiness to the audiences.

I was also impressed when she explained how she named her tracks. She gave an example of the track The Day We Became Number Three from her second album. She said one day she heard the news that GDP of Japan was exceeded by GDP of China, and Japan, after had been Number Two for decades, fell to the Number Three. But what’s really interesting was the following. “But my generation is very different from my parents generation,” said Yoko, “while they were obsessed with being the Number One, people from my generation just didn’t care so much.” And the most impressing part came: “When I heard of the news, my instant response was that I felt relieved. Why bother competing for the Number One if we are no longer the Number Two?” I was really shocked when she said this because it was something I (and most Chinese people) loss for so long as we rushed to develop the economy. Yoko said this track did not sound sad or frustrated, but pretty happy and bright. I really appreciated her living philosophy. This also reminds me of Andy Warhol’s Headlines exhibition I went last weekend. It was an “Ah-hah” moment for me when I saw different kinds of art converging with media, news, politics and other real world activities. Art is never living alone. Art is human interaction and I believe art can provide answer to problems that we are suffering in the real world.

I thought Yoko K did an amazing job and I was fascinated by her performance. After discussing electronic music so frequently in class, it was great to be able to actually see the complex process that goes into the creation of music. I had no idea how many layers of sounds and different tools that were needed to create an end product. I thought it was also interesting that she was classically trained as a pianist and continues to incorporate this in her music through sampling.

Yoko K mentioned that some electronic musicians are often driven by the technology and the music evolves as a result of the technology but for her, the music always comes first. I was surprised by the fact that while she performed, she used so many different tools; in my naivete and lack of knowledge about electronic music I assumed she would just be using a laptop. I liked how she talked about the nature of music and its initial use of as ritual and part of a site specific ceremony. In addition, her simple statement “How we experience music changes by where we experience it” further proved the point the there is still a ritual about listening to music. For Yoko K’s music, the ritual could be putting on headphones and using her music to block out the rest of the world.

Katy Schwager



siyang wu

different layers of the sound
different styles of music mixed in one song(like a lot chinese musician have done)
different elements mixed in the music


technology works as the background. when violin was introduced to the world, it is also a new technology in that age. Thus I think technology do not involved in to the music field recently, it is always there providing tools to compose music.No doubt, electronic music is the new product of the development of technology. Musicians use their keyboard as new instruments, then add new elements into their works. When I was watching Yoko’s performance , I felt that she is just like a girl playing around in an amusement, exploring new things.

I went to watch a experimental electronic concert last month, I could not say that I was into that concert, but it was a great experience. I found out how people feel their worlds, how musicians express their emotion by multiple layers of sounds. The combination of sounds created a different kind of world which sound so far away from our daily life. We are used to give every thing a definition, for example the sound of the crush of metals means industry, the voice of birds means nature, but then what’s meaning of the combination? Even more in this concert and in RJD2’s performance later, visual elements were added and mixed in. Then what is the meaning of the mixture of the audio and video elements? I only answer that jump into my mind is that it is just the feeling of the new world. Electronic music does mean the change of music, music has never change, it is alway the expression of emotion, idea and experience.


I feel really distress about these two weeks’ topics, after I stopped learning violin, I felt I lost the last chance to understand the music world.

I think there is nothing that really new in the art world, every thing is developed based on the old things, and generated to satisfy the growing need of the public. To attract people’s attention, more and more musicians mix different exist elements into their work, the most successful examples in China must be Jay Chow and Leehom Wang. Both of them are famous for their Chinese style music, they remix the elements from both Chinese opera and hip-hop music.

Even people are becoming more and more familiar with the diversified music in this special and new era, they were still shocked by Tan Te (忐忑 in Chinese). The composer of Tan Te is a German musician, and the singer is his wife, who is a Chinese singer of ballads but has a lot of experience of singing in western world. The continuous ups and downs of notes and vocals make Tante untranslatable into any language. The song hit the Internet in late 2010, and was praised by netizens as a "divine tune". Different instrumentals are used, such as bamboo flute and dulcimer. When singing, the singer, Linna Gong, uses Beijing opera troupes but at the same time she utilizes the techniques of western opera as an innovation. Since there is no actual words in the song, different people can derive different ideas from Tante, but the general understanding towards Tante is that it is really natural (原生态 in Chinese). You can kind of feel the most original desire of human beings. It seems like every so called “new” songs are actually not that new, they are the combinations of the old elements, but the different orders, and different decision of how to use these elements pump a new life to the old music.




Yoko K Performance in CopleyVictoria Hamilton
Our afternoon with Yoko K was amazing. She is a true case study in cultural hybridity. Her background in classical music, jazz, punk and Brazilian music speaks volumes to the society we all inhabit, how there are no longer rigid distinctions between genres. Why can't a Japanese woman come to the United States and mix Miles Davis' "So What" what the beautifully haunting sound of dripping water with the sound of wind whispering through trees and make it sound like something from out of heaven. I was transported to another land, another place, I was thrilled I was inspired I was at peace. I have respect and love for all genres of music, I am open. Her ability to marry seemingly unrelated sounds and modes of expression was phenomenal! As a member of the audience I was amazed to see the cause and effect of it all: choosing a sound a manipulating buttons and controls and how it affects everything else. Watching her work reminded me of watching the Cosby show episode where the Huxtables spend the afternoon in the studio with Stevie Wonder. Jammin' On the One with Stevie WonderThis was the best class ALL semester. If we had sessions like this more often with semioticians and could watch them create and bring their art to life, THAT would be boss. I will use the rest of this post to reiterate some of my favorite one-liners that really drove Yoko K's lecture and performance home for me.
"Technology and nature in harmony is related to my Japanese culture"- Yoko K
"In Japan, aesthetics and nature are one."- Yoko K
"Music is a religious reflection. But spirituality isn't tangible." -Yoko K
"Music happens as I explore---digital technology is limitless."
"Good groove is like a good barbecue sauce, you can dip anything in it but you have to master and capture the essence of taste and the deliciousness first." To do something fast first master slow."- Yoko K
"I have the highest respect for jazz pianists. The balance of structure and chaos is amazing." Yoko K
"'Healing music' is corny but if I hear something with some complexity but simple enough to take me away, that's a start."- Yoko K