In the autumn of 1995 AMM engaged in their first tour of Japan, details of which seem to have escaped much documentation on the Internet. The only two confirmed dates are October 13th at the Nagoya City Art Museum in Nagoya which is the bootleg in question and October 22nd at the Egg Farm in Fukaya. This later concert was released as From a Strange Place on PSF Japan. It is interesting to have these two documents from nine days apart, to compare how AMM is sounding at this point in 1995. Any additional information on the Japan tour would be appreciated.
From a Strange Place begins immediately with piano work from Tilbury and a restless working of the strings on the guitar from Rowe. Taps and hits of the drums from Prévost interject here and there but are not dominate. He does move through objects signifying the full percussion setup, but unlike the previous. The beginning of this piece is rather helter-skelter with a worrying behavior as a dog at a bone. Sounds come in and stop but aren’t developed for long without a gap or a change. Rowe seems the most persistent, working his strings again and again without manipulating the electronic aspect, but with a wide degree of variance. When it does build into a denser structure it includes Tilbury’s arpeggios and grumbles and percussive string manipulations from Rowe’s guitar along with more vigorous drum work from Prévost. While overall this is a restless piece of music and it varies from silence to aggressive outbursts as a whole it seems less dense then the show from the week prior. There is a great section of a sustained spoken radio grab that Prévost responds to with more aggressive drumming, both rolls on the drums and singled pounded events that demonstrates the effectiveness of more muscular drum work (in contrast to the set under consideration today). The center of this piece is a long, spacious very tentative feeling section, made of squeaky bowed metal, oscillating but low intensity guitar feedback interspersed with string manipulations and chording from Tilbury whose decay takes far more precedence then the attacks. The weakest part of this show though was a Prévost led assault on the drums, but here (and again in contrast to the boot) Tilbury and Rowe match him in density and volume. But the gesture, that of a jazz drum solo, pulls you out where pure sound, however loud or ugly does now. But this event was short lived and the ending of this set, culminating with a Kabuki like clapped object amidst far away scrabbles on Rowe’s pickups, softly grinding metal and rumbled chords is among the best in its uncompromising yet stunningly beautiful nature. Here it feels as if all the musicians are finding their way, working through something which I think is characteristic of the best AMM sets. In that regard this recording is a think a nice example of a “typically great” AMM set if not as transcendent as the absolute top tier pieces. It also has my favorite of Keith Rowe’s painted covers :)
AMM October 13th 1995
Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya Japan
AMM has always been about searching for the sound in the performance.(5)
The recording begins with applause, presumably as the musicians took the stage. It begins quiet, with Prévost bowing some object and then rubbing on the surface of a drum. Apart from maybe some occasional moans from Rowe’s electrics the beginning sounds are all Prévost and move on to include short snare rolls, the occasional taps on a larger drum and at one point the shaking of some object. Even so it is spacious and tentative with good gaps as Prévost’s stops or switches objects. Tilbury eventually comes with a a very prepared piano sound, chords on strings that have been muted or had objects on them. A few of these and it goes silent again, followed by Prévost stroking a metal object and letting it ring. He seems to have had a kit here as he seems to be playing a kick drum with a pedal whilst scratching the surface of another drum and bowing something – rather active if still a bit subdued for a short burst. A very quiet, very thin electrical sound come from Rowe and the single piano notes from Tilbury on heavily muted strings. This is really one of the more exploratory openings with severe restraint from Rowe and Tilbury and Prévost almost seeming as if he is playing head down in his own space, not worrying or listening to anyone else, not concerned with sudden flurries of sound widely spaced out. A near drum solo comes from him, in that scattered jazz style that is all drums, but seems to just skitter over surfaces. Of course being AMM there is no obvious rhythm. Rowe is now letting a ripping static come from the radio, sometimes resolving into garbled speech, but all at a super minimal volume, just barely present. And then with a rip of feedback it all explodes, with Prévost pounding the skins and several abrupt big chords from Tilbury. More volume and more active now, it is still quite stilted though Prévost seriously flirts on drum solo territory rolling across all of his drums and even working a cymbal at the end of some of these gestures. Rowe is more aggressively attacking the strings, but in short bursts. The spaces between events widens a bit but with no decrease in intensity for a minute or so and then it becomes spacious and soft.
Oscillations on prepared strings from Tilbury, skittery bowed metal from Prévost and a warbling sound from Rowe, perhaps a knife under his guitars strings all of this allowed to run for a bit a kind of sickly stasis. Low end radio added to the mix, plus additional groaning sounds, purer bowed metal and tapped drums from Prévost with almost buried repeated gentle high registered piano chords from Tilbury continue this queasy miasma, that even a few big drum hits from Prévost can’t resolve. Most of this slowly fades away, leving a dentist drill wine and gentle piano playing, almost music box like from Tilbury. Finally it all fades away.
From a short gap, piano notes, now more mid-register and some of them prepared return joined shortly with brushes on the drums. A quiet electronic grinding whine whirls in and away, followed by gently tapped drums. Mallet work on the drums now, picking up the pace and as Tilbury begins to roll out big arpeggios on the ivories Prévost begins to work the cymbals, back in drum solo mode. The occasional roar and groan from Rowes electronics are buried under this assault, which even as it drops in intensity does not reveal it any clearer. Short, spaced out events now, squeaks from Rowe’s strings, shorter spaced out drum assaults and a tenacious working of a few piano keys all stops and now a whine, thin and upper mid-range from Rowe dominates the nearly empty soundfield. Prévost begins to rub a drum head, contrasting the higher pitch whine with short, low interjections, Tilbury works the piano strings directly.
Everything fades away leaving just Prévost working a drum head. After a bit of this the sound of Tilbury striking the pianos strings with an object is heard along with a low, quiet oscillation from Rowe. This continues apace until as it all fades away Prévost returns to gently and then not so gently pounding a floor tom. The brings Tilbury back to the keys, restless working a few bass notes. An uneasy tone come in, almost more felt then heard, just at the threshold of audibility amongst the other sounds. When it goes it away its absence is more obvious then its presence. As Tilbury rolls chords Rowe returns now with a more persistent buzz, restless and more at a volume with the others. Things become wobbly: the bobbing sound of a spring or utensil on strings, Prévost drumming arrhythmically, fragments of chords from the piano. This fades out, almost into a false AMM style ending, with Tilbury’s chords getting quieter and quieter, Rowe’s rumbles being turned down, and very soft bowed metal.
But the bowing of the metal picks up a bit in intensity and the piano chording is still quiet, widely spaced but persistent. Tilbury now playing quiet fragments of little melody’s and Prévost adds the odd strike of the drum to his bowing. Background roars and amplifier hums from Rowe come in and out, very widely spaced and then a grinding sound. Things keep pausing, as they seem to struggle to bring it back up. Now its that hurky-jerky style that is so oft driven by Prévost – start/stop little rolls on drums, hitting of other objects, short gestures. Rowe, as also is pretty common, with turn up a guttural roar and just as quickly cut it off sometimes seeming to work these sounds in parallel with Prévost’s staccato style. Vigorous rubbing of the guitar strings now and definitely the most aggressive from Rowe as Prévost now vigorously works the skins in true drum solo mode. This section played blind for most people would just sound like a jazz drum solo, not very AMM like at all. Prévost eventually backs it out, fading away on a long roll, Tilbury and Rowe now silent. A very quiet sound, perhaps a rubbing on Rowe’s strings, or a metal object of Prévosts is all that remains.
An electronic buzz comes up, a broken chord. Steady bowing now, quiet and thin. Rowe’s background hum. The last 8-10 minutes of this piece are beautiful – very spare with low end rumbles coming in and out, Tilbury putting in these deep chords that seem to come from the very depths and lots of space and silence. Out of this a little Feldman like broken chord, or a single stroke on the metal edge of a drum, or the the buzz of Rowe’s electronics. Very, very nice ending to what overall is a pretty mixed set.
This set is one of those that rather defies the ethereal floating nature so oft ascribed to AMM in the 90s. Taken along with From a Strange Place one can see that this is fairly typical for AMM at this point. The trio in fact constantly worked with eruptions of volume and density even in this configuration. The sounds are just a lot more recognizable, usually being piano chords or big drum assaults then the more pure noises they’d have used in the 60s. While I enjoy the roller-coaster nature of this period of AMM, I find that whenever Prévost has a full kit there is often a bit too gestural drumwork for my taste. When it becomes like a typical jazz drum solo, my interest wanes a bit. Interestingly the other members tend to just let these events play out, laying out (as it were) until space opens up again. I do feel that I should note that it is quite possible that Rowe was lost in the mix as I’m not sure what the sourcing on this one is. However being pretty familiar with AMM boots at this point I do listen for his playing as opposed to its relative volume and it clearly was not present at many points. Tilbury was pretty audible when he chose to be and I can more confidently assert his more withdrawn performance. As always when the music seems the most ego free it was immediately familiar as AMMMusic and as powerful as ever. As the decade would wear on it would seem that Prévost would pare down his tools and this I think would lead to the more austere final phase of the trio AMM.
1) AMM From a Strange Place (PSF Japan) 1996
2) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
3) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
4) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
5) Keith Rowe Interview, Paris Transatlantic, Jan. 2001
Robert j Kirkpatrick Sounds from the Floating World
1) Ten Ten Kyoto Overlay…………..(10’10”)
2) Ryoan-ji (for John Cage)…………(13’13”)
3) Tokyo Electric……………………….(33’33”)
4) One Ten Over Kyoto………………(01’10”)
Hollow Earth Recordings are pleased to announce the immediate availability of our tenth release: Sounds from the Floating World. This compact disc contains four tracks assembled from recordings that Mr. Kirkpatrick made in the parks, public transportation, gardens, temples and various other venues in the environs of Tokyo and Kyoto Japan in the fall of 2008. The pieces contained within are examples of what the artist refers to as assemblages and overlays. An overlay is a field recording which is used as a sound source for a new recording along with an additional performance. An assemblage is a piece constructed from field recordings to form a new narrative in which this individual recordings are single elements, sometimes layered, sometimes allowed to play out on their own. The compact disc comes packaged in a vinyl sleeve allowing it to present the artwork in an ideal five by seven format. Each of the three major pieces on the compact disc have an associated photograph which can be best appreciated in this format. For additional details on the pieces and their associated art please see the Sounds from the Floating World page.
Considering the integrated nature of the artwork and the music a physical copy of this release is the ideal way to experience it. Thus this release is being initially offered as a limited run CD-R with handmade packaging by the artist. As with all of our releases it will be made available for download, in this case after it has gone out of print. As per the artists intentions these will be sold for little more then material and shipping costs: US$5.00 domestic, US$7.00 international. For inquiries or to order via PayPal please contact us at mgmt AT hollowEarthRecordings DOT com or use the PayPal buttons located on the Sounds from the Floating World page.
So this is my latest CD released on my own Hollow Earth Recordings label. This one is pretty different then my usual abstract experimentation’s in that it is constructed pieces sourced from field recordings I made in Japan. Each of these pieces has a narrative arc which in itself is fairly abstract especially considering that this arc is fairly removed from the source recordings. It also works as a sketch of parts of modern Japan, I can’t be help reliving my visit there every time I listen to it. Anyway it is harder for me to assess the potential audience for this one, those who aren’t as into my purely instrumental music could find more to like here, but perhaps some that do like that music will have little time for lo-fi field recordings. So if curious one of the tracks was created for and published as part of Bagatellen’s excellent Listen
project and can be downloaded here
. With not necessarily indicative of the entire album (its an Overlay, and the other two main tracks are Assemblages) it still makes for an excellent taste.
This was my third day in Kyoto and my last full day here and in Japan. I had been in the northern region the day before, on this day I was heading over to the Southern Higashiyama area which has the most famous (and popular) temple walking tour. This was to see the temple that friends who had been here in February told me was their favorite (Kōdai-ji) and also as the Lonely Planet had said this walk was pretty much must see. It was again a bus ride over but looking at the map I realized that I had walked further then the distance there the evening before when I went to the nightlife area. So I decided to walk.
For the third day I walked past this walled structure about eight blocks from my hotel and this time I decided to figure out what it was. This was fortuitous as it turned out to be this stunning garden practically right down town. I ended up spending several hours there and as it was about lunch time now, I ended up walking back to my hotel afterward and getting lunch at a conveyor belt sushi place (Kaiten-zushi) that was near Kyoto Station.
Southern Higashiyama Walk
After lunch I headed back out and onto my original plan. I did have less time now, but I knew I could only really do a couple of temple anyway before I wore down. Once again I took a pretty long trek, but once again this proved so rewarding. Even in Kyoto which is packed with sightseeing areas, everybody takes public transit so in between you see no tourists and you are in places where the residents live and shop. I was mostly walking along a fairly busy road but I got to see plenty of the “real” Kyoto. As I approached the temple filled edge of the valley the shops all became pottery, lacquer-ware and masonry. I had arrived at Teapot Lane.
Walking up teapot lane to Kiyomizu-dera
The above gallery contains pictures taken while walking in between various temples in Higashiyama. The first couple are leading up to Teapot Lane and then the lane itself. Teapot Lane was up hlll and the final climb up to Kiyomizu-dera was up stairs with an orange pagoda visible above the trees. Kiyomizu-dera was packed with tourists and Japanese students. Once again I was used for English practice this time it was kids from Hiroshima who asked me to write them a message of peace. The temple had a big gate and an open area with the pagoda and a shrine and this interesting shrine where you walked through a passage underground in total (and I mean total) darkness till you got to a room with a Buddha in it. There a tiny hole let a shaft of light fall on top of the Buddha. This was super cool I have to say. From this area you paid and went through a second gate to the primary temple area at Kiyomizu-dera.
Kiyomizu-dera was crowded but I had a great experience here. It was just outside the secondary gate that an elder showed me how to perform the purification ritual (which I knew by now but was sweet I thought). Inside I encountered Maiko (Geisha in training) who were doing some tourism of their own (and featuring in plenty of photos from the other tourists) and I witnessed another elder demonstrating to interested kids another ritual. This is clearly a big and wealthy temple but it was as usual packed with neat grottoes, beautiful wooded areas and so on.
The day was winding down and I wanted to get to Kōdai-ji with enough time to do it justice so I headed out. Following my walking tour I went down a much more crowded and even more scenic street which was fully lined with shops and packed with students in their yellow rain hats. Following the route I went down stairs and around corners in ever increasingly traditional and kick ass narrow streets. Eventually ending up at the “most scenic street in Japan”. From there it was up a stairway to a parking lot for several temples. You could see a gigantic (as in probably 6 stories) Buddha peeking above the wall of one of these temples. Perpendicular from this was Kōdai-ji which I headed to forthwith.
The grounds and a little building at KÅdai-ji
Kōdai-ji was another Zen temple (Rinzai) which were definitely the most appealing to me. This one was tucked into a corner of the valley and was a beautifully integrated into it’s surrounding bamboo forest. It had a dry rock garden which had mounds of raked gravel instead of rocks as at Ryōan-ji. It also had curved edges on two sides instead of the rectangular area at Ryōan-ji. This gave it a very natural, organic feel as if it was the edges of a pond (which is sort of the metaphor of these rock gardens).
I stayed at Kōdai-ji pretty much until closing time which was signaled by the booming rings of the temple bell.
I headed out from the temple area and walked around the narrow streets a bit more. I knew my temple touring was over (which was okay as I’d spent many hours in these two) but I intended to do the rest of the Higasiyamai walk, which would go past a couple more temples. This would take me north and then I’d head across the river and I’d end up at Pontochō where I had decided to get dinner. It was evening now and as I followed the walk I ended up at Maruyama-koen park. On the edge of that is Yasaka Shrine which was now all lit up. This was incredibly stunning and something I had not seen before.
From here I walked along and through the park, past a massive Pure Land temple and then through normal Kyoto streets ‘tll I hit the crossroads and headed over to Pontochō, I’d seen a Thai place there the night before and that sounded really good tonight. Alas they were closed but I ended up going to a traditional Japanese place which for my final dinner in Japan was probably for the best. I got my last taste of the amazing fresh tofu there on a balcony that overlooked the Kamo River. I walked through Pontochō and then the covered shopping area and finally the downtown shopping district before completely worn out I caught a cab to my hotel.
The last gallery above was pictures taken from all over Kyoto. Beginning at the fantastic train station and including pictures from all of the walks I did. It ends with a couple of (poor) pictures of the Shinkansen (bullet train) as I caught it back to Tokyo station the next day. And that pretty much wraps up my trip to Japan.
I was only in Kyoto for about three days with two days completely without any travel. Each of those two days I spent on long walking tours of regions that’d be just packed with temples. Evenings I spent in the shopping and nightlife districts. This entry is from my first day where I did a walking tour up in the Northwest of Kyoto. The main temple I really wanted to visit in Kyoto was Ryōan-ji which has the most famous of the karesansui (Zen rock gardens) which I’ve long been a fan of. It was also one of the more difficult regions to get to, but I figured out the bus and took it up to Kinkaku-ji temple which was the start of a three temple walking tour with Ryōan-ji in the middle concluding with Ninna-ji. It was fairly early in the morning which was good as these are some of the most popular tourist sites.
Kinkaku-ji‘s main feature is a beautiful golden temple on the edge of a pond. The grounds are stunning as well. From Kinkaku-ji I walked along the temple grounds down to Ryōan-ji. I got off the route a bit at first and walked through a more suburban route. I ended up encountering another shrine, Waratenjin, on the route that was a more pragmatic but still beautiful
I got back on the path and shortly made my way to Ryōan-ji.
Ryōan-ji‘s grounds were stunning, it’s a very old Zen temple and the grounds are just filled with neat areas all over. The lake was the most stunning one I saw and of course the dry garden was amazing. It was probably my favorite of all the temples I visited and I’d love to visit it again at a time when there is even less people there.
From Ryōan-ji I continued on the route and as I walked along the road I noticed a path/stairway into the woods at my right. Well I couldn’t resist that and took those up into what turned out to be a large and crowded cemetery. This can be seen in the Temple Walk Gallery below the shrine pictures.
From the cometary I visited the last temple on the walk, Ninna-ji. This was a large complex with many diverse buildings in it. Looking it up on the web it turns out it had huge sections that I totally missed (or were closed). But I was pretty templed out at that point so that’s okay. One amusing thing is that I encountered a group of junior high school students who wanted to talk English with me. It was clearly an assignment but cute.
View from the highest hill in the park.
From Ninna-ji I headed off on my own to intersect with the JR rail line. The route I worked out took me to this great wooded area that was a park but mostly wooded. It had paths up to a fairly high point with great views over the valley. Pictures from the park make up the third part of my Temple Walk Gallery.