This interview was held with each artist after the event. It covers a wide range of topics: the project, the two artists and their visit to Hiroshima (the Atomic Bomb Dome), their thoughts on the current music and video art scenes, and their future plans. Through this interview, it is possible to grasp how the two artists approach the project, and what they are normally thinking as they create their own works.
- How was the project this time?
- All in all, considering the short time we had to put this together, we succeeded in offering a powerful and influential work that attempts to look deeply into the human condition. I would say, Mr. Kangawa's work and my work, could be described, as ”one river of experience” rather than a collaboration, in which two flows of thoughts merges with unified intent. It was a very interesting process and I think it was a success, although we only had one day to rehearse. I was very inspired by the environment and the way the screens for the film were set up at the sides and the back of the venue. It gave the image of very compelling movements throughout the room. It’s a very powerful work and it deserves to live on.
- It has been about 10 years since you came to Japan last time. What’s the deciding factor this time?
- Well, I think Masashi-san's (Note: Eugene’s manager. He first sent an email telling Riley about the details of Eugene’s works, its concepts and messages) serious sincerity about me coming, the fact that I liked Eugene’s work and made me want to participate in creating this picture with him. It was an interesting project.
- I have heard that you have got a couple of offers from Japan before.
- Yes, last year or 2 years ago, but I was not wanting to travel on either times. My health was not good during that period so I didn’t travel.
- What kind of image did you have in your mind when you saw the actual film for the first time?
- I got the HDD last summer and that was the first time I really got to see them. I especially liked “from the future” because of the kind of slow rhythm that the film had. It was very poetic. The movement and the flow of the images matched the music that I usually create. It was a great video from a musical perspective, and I was amazed. And I also was impressed with “After the War” because of its concept, its philosophical concept, which I took to be trying to awaken people to a human condition, which is condition that human’s are spending a lot of time towards catastrophes and wars.
And also about “After the war” I thought it was very interesting that it has so much historical material that Eugene had really researched very well. Eugene told me that people were actually adding to the archives. So I thought that was very interesting, that it is a project that involves collaboration with other people on the internet.
- I’ve heard you’ve got two ways of handling filmed images when you work with them (Note: They are when the music is performed along with the image and when the music and the image are performed completely separately.)
- Yes, I wanted to talk about this. I used a different approach for each sections of the film. I think Eugene is probably aware of this, that I played different kinds of music. For “After the War” the music was much more I think uh…assertive or aggressive. And “from the future” I was thinking of more dream-like kind of music that is viewing a disaster or something from a distance and time because that’s what I thought this film was doing. And I thought for me it was a little more difficult to do “After the War” because the images were coming very quickly one after another. I thought of using the synthesizer more as a sound making atmospheric device rather than I trying to play it. I was using more of the electronic aspects of the synthesizer. I felt like, with that I could build up an intensity, so the feeling kind of like when you have something threatening like war or a threatening tense feeling.
*Two Films by Bruce Conner/ Crossroads & Looking for Mushrooms
(2005,Sri Moonshine Music)
- What do you think of the collaboration with images like we did this time?
- I actually did my first film when I was in my early 20’s. Start working with film. So I was still in school writing music for films. And I think that.. for me I feel like that the music is mainly made to listen to and it creates its own images in the mind. I felt music was a very powerful image stimulator. But music is also very influential in a way, it influences the way we view images. You could have a difference with different music and it would be a different affect, you know. If you did the same movie with the different music, it would have a different effect. So music creates a back ground and atmosphere in the mind. So I think of this kind of process when working together with a film maker. You could have many different kinds of music and they would all give a different kind of context to the visual images. So the 2 nights we did, that we performed recently were quite different I thought. Different from each other. The first night was different from the second night.
- Regarding a young artist, Eugene Kangawa, I hear that you felt a sympathy with him and with his creating process. Where did you feel them?
- I think it was from his precision in his works. He showed a lot of attention to detail. Also, it’s such a big work for one person to deal with. It’s hard for me to imagine how he gets this all together, I mean it’s a very big process that he’s working with. Because it’s not only just film, it’s also the environment. He’s creating an environment and there’s an amazing amount of detail in this work that has been done. I’m sure he works 24 hours a day to get a project done alone. It’s enormous. And you know, the fact that his work involves traveling to other countries and filming and spending a long time, planning the right.. like “from the future” has the all the pledge from Cambodia to find out where the right places are to film and to get the right atmosphere to film. I’m sure he has a very fine sensibility about “place”.
“For 'After the War,' I used powerful, aggressive music, while in 'from the future,' I expressed a more dream-like image. This is because the film was viewing disasters from a distance, overcoming barriers of time and place.”
- What did you think of this project?
It turned out a very beautiful, yet violent space filled with ambiguity where the opposite atmospheres coexisted "from the future" and the performance by the prepared piano were somewhat disturbing, but beautiful. The installation of "After the War" with synthesizer possessed strength, something close to violence. I guess, these showcases would give a significant aesthesis which is very important for our age by interwoven with Riley’s music.
“After the War” which I started from 2011 individually, is an archive project in which short found footage was cited automatically under a set of rules. I used special edition of this installation which follows a repeated pattern. I saw this version for the first time on the performance day. Especially on the first day, it felt like it could go on forever.
“from the future” depicts the scenery in Fukushima and Phnom Penh combined with a sentence of the imaginary story in broken English that generated in the process of filming. These texts that are untranslatable or incomprehensible in Japanese, are shown along the compelling music by Riley’s prepared piano in a serene manner. These two of my artworks are minimal practice for me, so Riley’s music empowered them by appending captivating emotion. *See details
- Please tell us a little more about the performance.
- We initially hoped to create a performance that extended over two days, so we switched the order of the program between the first and second day. (the first day started with “from the future” while the second day started with “After the War”). That included, the program went along as planned with Riley. Overall, it flowed from the cold feeling of despair and absence, to a slight sense of hope at the end. Also, there is a distance between music and image that is neither too close nor too far. At times, they progressed in a parallel manner, while other times they coincided. It is present in my original video for this project, and it was in Riley’s music, too.
Either way, it went positively ‘bankrupt,’ falling apart over time, where phrases, languages, and theories were being distorted and starting to break down. I cannot determine whether it was a music experience or visual experience, it was thrilling and very interesting.
- This attempt seemed to have portrayed a strong message such as War and Fukushima. Why did you decide to do this now?
- For one thing, I had a feeling that I should do it before something happened. Unfortunately, above two tragedies have been already pushed to the back of one's mind; however, it will suddenly happened again. The impetus of “After the War” and “from the future” might be from the sense of concern which something should be done before the day come.
Riley has been doing similar activities from long ago, so it seemed quite natural. For example, he has done “Looking For Mushrooms, Crossroads” with Bruce Conner. The Japanese audience who are familiar with Riley throughout his works such as “inC” may have been taking by surprise, though.
“After the War (projection) (2012),4KProjection installation view.
- In terms of space, the theme of “After the War” takes inspiration from the third movement of “Different Trains” by Steve Reich. I think it came out when I was 21 years old, and I still remember the image of a scary, vertical space that came to my mind at the time. The event was held at a reclaimed site with D. Judd lining up. In a way, it was a projection of past urban space, and it was close to the initial image in my mind.
- What kind of preparation was involved in making this project happen?
- As Riley has told you through various interviews, we mainly exchanged our ideas through e-mail, references on PDF files, and FaceTime. Of course we discussed in advance in technical terms, like the work's structure and context and they were originally a part of our common language. So it all went very smoothly, and there was really no need for us to make detailed arrangements beforehand. Everything else, we planned to change that day, depending on the situation.
- What do you think about collaborating with music?
- It is difficult to separate images and sound. First of all, there is a question of quality. But it is not just about whether it is beautiful on the surface. There are various elements to consider, such as the working process, the composer, and the context of the sound.
“The theme of ‘After the War’ takes inspiration from the third movement of ‘Different Trains’ by Steve Reich. I think it came out when I was 21 years old, and I still remember the image of a scary, vertical space that came to my mind at the time.”
Here we post part of the messages exchanged between Terry Riley and Eugene Kangawa up until the performance day. Their communication began with discussing general information about “from the future” and “After the War”, which developed into exchange of thoughts towards each of their work’s structure and context.
The archive includes footage from recent events such as the Gaza and Ukraine conflicts as well as very old videos, so most of the images in the <archive page> will play chronologically. It could start from the day of the event and eventually return to that day.
If the concert for After the War is an hour long, I would like to squeeze one year into the one hour. My idea is to depict one year in one cycle over the course of one day at the installation.
It may be difficult to do something as All Night Flight, but I think it will be a wonderful thing if both footages and the music were to be automatically generated all through the two days.
To have them playing in an empty space, even after when the audiences had gone home after the first day.
Considering your concept and the nature of your songs, I believe that there is a wide range of possibilities for collaborating. “After the War” is a work, which encompasses history and in that way is similarly important as “from the future.
Thank you so much for your suggestions for the program. They are very much in line with what I am thinking and relate to the idea of creating a dream-like capture of my performance using video/audio looping and other effects to give a different perspective on the live performance. I also plan to create some soundscapes to bring to the event that I will make here before leaving. I assume these happen during the periods you designate as "rest/interval" and it would be possible to have some overlaps with my live performance to make the whole event seamless and continuous.
I look forward to getting the videos of "After the War" and "from the future" to help me plan my contribution and absorb the atmosphere of your creation. I am hoping the music will bring a very special vibration to the imagery.
Your video on the external HDD arrived yesterday and we watched it last night. The imagery is quite atmospheric and is beautifully shot. The pacing of the slow panning of images gives a magical touch to the landscapes.
…I read through your long PDF with your ideas about some of my music that you feel work well with your images. That is good feedback for me. I am sure when we are together rehearsing for the shows we can work together to get a result that we will both be happy with.
You mentioned you liked "The Harp of New Albion”. The effect of that piece is created by the special tuning of the piano. In order to do that, we would have to fly over my piano tuner which is possible if you wanted it to happen. He is available. Also I have some special ways to prepare the piano to give it a more exotic sound which would be useful so I will bring the tools for the preparation of the piano.
If I were to play the Harp of New Albion, I will be playing it for the first time in 30years. I am looking forward to it.
The Harp of New Albion
…(With respect to The Harp of New Albion)
WI am thinking that the creating process for this project will be similar to that of The Harp of New Albion or the Autodreamographical Tales. For instance, in The Harp of New Albion, one large story is constructed from an imaginary tale. For the Autodreamographical Tales, as suggested by the title, there are elements of automatic writing and the dreamlike nature of moving across different worlds.
I think it may be interesting to have you play your music, read the text on behalf, speak something regarding/ something appropriate to the text for example.
(In The Royal 88, so perhaps seemed to have been a very personal story, this time the might mean is too strong ... I think you want to respect your will)
“I believe music can help uplift people's spirits and get them through difficult times.”
- I have heard that you went to Hiroshima after you finished the concert. How was Hiroshima?
- Going to Hiroshima was something that I had long hoped to do, to experience that land, to experience the place where this terrible bomb was dropped. I thought about that my whole life. So it was like a realization for me of something I thought about for many years and this experience has powerfully effected me.
It made me sad but it also made me realize how people brought back life to that area even after this happened. I had very wild dreams while I was in Hiroshima. I had the feeling like there were many spirits there - you know they are still in the town, not released yet. It was like an image after the blast, with all these souls and spirits in it. After the blast, there was an after image. It’s something that happens. It stays in the air and you can feel it. It’s like a vibration.
- Were there anything particularly interesting during the Hiroshima trip?
- The whole thing was interesting for me, I mean every part of it. The Tori gate in the water where we went, I hadn’t seen anything like that. That was quite an impressive view, you know coming in the harbor with that gate. Then I walked all around. I really loved that. It reminded me a little bit of California there. You know, because of the mountain there. I think Japan and California have a lot of similarities in the interface with the water and the mountains. Because California has the mountains arising out of the bay too, just like in Japan. I also enjoyed the castle we went to in Hiroshima, the castle we went I think that had 5 stories. That was amazing.
- What was your experience seeing the Atomic Bomb Dome after “After the War”?
- Well, the Atomic Bomb Dome, of course being the centre.. it was a very emotional experience for me being there and knowing that it was the centre of the bomb blast and that it had survived as a symbol for Hiroshima of its rebuilding. I felt like this because it still wasn’t destroyed and also I have to say that when we walked down and by the bank and there was a performance with dancers. That was one of my best experiences as well because the bank was still standing too after the bomb had hit. And here was just great music and dance being performed and I felt that we were really lucky that we just walked there at the right time, because we were going to take a taxi but decided to walk and then we got to see this great performance.
(Note: “Hiroshima Yorukagura”, which is a type of Iwamikagura, was held at the former Bank of Japan, Hiroshima branch.)
- This may be a sensitive question, but what do you think of war?
- War is the worst solution to our problems and disagreements. War is something we do out of ignorance. War is not creative. I love creative things. We could actually, instead of war, create something together with the people we are in conflict with by working together. But now we always go to war first in today’s world. The first option is to go to war. It’s ignorance. It’s not using, you know, intelligence or our heart. That’s using aggressiveness or need to control and our need for power. War today is also a business. People make money from it.
- What do you think the solution would be?
- If I could come up with that, I would definitely offer it right now to the whole world. hahahaha
Well, I think what we do as artists and musicians is to try to uplift people’s spirits so that they are happy.. So that they are peaceful and happy. And that’s the only thing we can do but that doesn’t mean we can control what the governments and the rulers do to create war. We can’t control that. They do that. They’re more powerful. But music uplifts people’s spirit and help them to survive these times.
- How do you feel about the world’s music scene today, especially the electronic music that you have been influencing?
- Well, I don’t know. I always hoped that all musicians find their own way to create their own voice and music, so I don’t feel too much of out my influence on them because what I want to see them do is to create their own voice, their own music. And I would like to advise them to stay away from the commercial control, being controlled by commercial interest.
Did you know today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor? In the United States, December 7th, 1941 (December 8th in Japan) is the actual anniversary.
I’m sure he had it in his film. It’s interesting we’re talking about this on the anniversary.
- Are there any Japanese composers you are interested in?
- I made a list because I was afraid I would forget somebody’s name. I actually have many composer friends in Japan. People who I know. Toshi Ichiyanagi, he is an old friend. Yuji Takahashi and Aki Takahashi - they are brothers and sisters; I’ve known them for many many years. Toru Takemitsu, great composer, he was a friend, too. I met him on my trips to Japan. Joji Yuasa, now I think he’s 88 or 89, still living. I just looked him up on Wikipedia and see that he’s still active. And I met Akira Ifukube, the Gozila composer, I met him and had lunch at his house one day and we talked about Ainu music from Hokkaido. He gave me lots of contacts in Hokkaido for people that knew about Ainu music. And Ryuichi Sakamoto, I met him in New York. I didn’t meet him in Japan. He came to a concert that I gave in New York and came up and talked to me afterwards. And when I played at the Pan hall in Tokyo in around 1990's something, I used his piano. Mr. Sakamoto’s piano was what I played with at Pan hall. He was very kind to loan it for this concert. He’s a very inspiring composer I think, playing some beautiful music.
- How’s everything with you these days and what are you interested in most these days?
- I’ve just been working all week. I had 2 concerts, Thursday and Friday nights here in California. I was playing with my son, who’s a wonderful composer, Gyan Riley. I think what I’m most excited about right now is doing concerts with him. because it involves a very intuitive process.
And we finished that project with the Grateful Dead, which we were talking about. So we recorded for a week, last week. Right here in this room. Came out very good. We recorded right here.
- I think the time is almost up. Thank you very much.
- Okay, see you in America next time then. I will wait for you with Chai tea!
“I haven't seen much of the recent music scene, but I hope all musicians find their own way to create music. My advice would be to stay away from the commercial control.”
“We stayed in Hiroshima for quite a while, so we talked about a lot of things. Akira Ifukube, Stravinsky, etc...”
- You two went on a trip to Hiroshima together. What were some memorable moments there?
- Everything was a wonderful time. We talked about all sorts of things, from serious topics to fun conversations with jokes.
A memorable moment during the trip was at dinner on the day we visited the Peace Memorial Museum. We were talking about “After the War”, and Riley told me how this attempt could serve as a way to always remember the tragic reality, such as atomic bombing and revisit past memories, adding that it was something worth continuing to do around the world. From there on, we started discussing many other things.
Riley asked me that whether we would try it in America perhaps a month later, or if not, in a year or two. There may be regions with a greater demand for “After the War” It will be nice if it becomes that something similar to “After the War” can be done by anyone, anywhere eventually.
- What kind of topics did you two discuss besides the event?
- Besides that, our conversations covered a wide range of topics: marijuana and oligopoly, the 1995 sarin attack, David Mitchell's novel “Ghostwritten,” and Riley's encounter with Akira Ifukube while studying Ainu culture in Sapporo. We talked about Godzilla, Stravinsky's “The Rite of Spring,” and the fact that I resemble young Stravinsky - he must have met Stravinsky himself when he was young. We then talked about Toru Takemitsu, Toshiro Mayuzumi, La Monte Young, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and how Toru Takemitsu and Ryuichi Sakamoto are well-known in the US. Also, Riley and Ann (Ms. Riley) apparently had very similar dreams after going to the Atomic Bomb Dome.
When I told him about my work “iEmmigrant,” which is filmed only by iPhone, he joked saying he could also give a great performance just with iPhone …in fact, I believe he was using an iPhone app during his live performances.
We stayed in Hiroshima for quite a while, so we were able to talk about a lot of things.
front:Desport / middle:i Emmigrant / back:from the future , (2014),
Installation with iPhone6,Oculus Rift DK2,Projection.
Installation view at SUPER VISION.TOKYO,2014.
- What do you think about the video expression and production scene in recent years?
- I believe that what I am making are not just films, but are instructions and scripts. I have never been a genuine video artist, so it's hard for me to say, but I believe in the potential of videography. I think the interactive use of 8k high resolution and the sequence of abstracted film semiotics is very interesting. Meanwhile, it seems inevitable to adhere to this form. That is why there are many cases that end up becoming a simply “beautiful display,” just like most of the media art today. In a time where anyone can record videos very casually, I am interested in the transformation of the process and the treatment of the footage and film as a performance archive of reality, which is based on scripts and instructions.
Video curation media, in particular, fosters the undesirable situation of video to the public. This way, there is an emphasis on the exposure of visually surprising content, created just for the ‘buzz.’ If that is the destination of video, film, and advertising, I feel like that is a very difficult problem.
Top:Diversions of tools (2014) Film & Screen Installation,20m25s
Mid.:breakdown / relation (2014) Film & Screen Installation,08m06s
Bottom:Deport Project(2014) Installation with desk system,found objects,and 5 screen Projection Installation view at TOKYO FRONTLINE,2014.
- What are your thoughts of what you have just mentioned in relation to your own works?
- For instance, “After the War” is the flip side of that idea, because the most provoking images continue on and on. People tend to prefer this kind of images in social media, and they see visually stimulating videos every day. When shown continuously, these almost ironically fashionable images are able to cause paralysis of the senses. This time, however, the footages are played endlessly in 6-second or 4.5-second parts. Besides the self-explanatory concept of putting out a performance through visualization, it is important to be aware of the fact that we are constantly exposed to these situations.
- How are you spending your days? Do you have any particular interests recently?
- I am involved in projects on urban planning, research on artificial intelligence so I'll keep working on them. Generally, they are not much different from this project.
- What are your future plans?
- I am envisaging about holding “After the War” in America or in any other places. Also, my current research includes Norinaga Motoori, the chapter on ‘Kamiumi,’ or the birth of the gods in “Kojiki,” sangaku-shinko (Japanese mountain worship), and Akira Kurosawa. I don't think there would be people who consider this as a local speculation. It would be a pity to see a ceremony only with technology and anime in 2020. I wonder if there could be some kind of movement, which can offer perspectives that are a bit deeper. As a part of that, I am considering to create a new work, which deconstructs traditional dance ‘kagura.’