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Hans Fjellestad - "Sounding the Space" DVD

Performers include: Marcos fernandes, Carl Stone, Yumiko Tanaka, kouen Morishita, Matsutoshi Utashima, koichi Akada, Hirokazu Morikawa, Yuko Hirai, Seiichi Yamamoto Yokohama, kyoto, Matsue, Okayama 2008

This is a fascinating documentary about Marcos fernandes, a percussionist and someone who is interested in the relationship between sound and space. As koichi Yoshida, Professor at Yokohama National University says, "Architecture changes sound and sound can change with each listener."

In this film Fernandes, who is the grandson of Uheiji Nagano, a prominent architect in Japan in the early part of the 20th century, decided to perform in some of the buildings built by his grandfather. His idea is to perform music that reflects the space it is performed in. As I started watching the film, I immediately thought of two people, John Cage and Max Neuhaus. Cage, of course, is the man behind the idea of any kind of sound being music, and Neuhaus, a percussionist who created a career for himself in the 60s performing the works of avant-garde composers such as Cage, later got involved in soundscapes, where the environment played a role in how the sounds were produced.

Fernandes is shown walking around the cities with a microphone and headphones listening to the sounds of the city. He looks at the spaces in which he will be performing and in each space uses different musicians. The one constant with him is Yumiko Tanaka, who plays traditional Japanese string instruments as well as an array of electronics, as well as singing and reciting. Other performers include saxes, guitars, piano as well as dancers, whose motions also help to define the space along side how the music help to define the space.

We hear interviews with the people who now are in charge of the buildings, as well as short statements by Fernandes. And, most importantly, we get to see good chunks of the performances. Most of the music reflects traditional Japanese music, Western classical music, avant-garde or experimental music, and jazz. The music is improvised. And as I have said on many occasions, free jazz and avant-garde classical music can often not be distinguished from each other since they use the same musical materials. And that is certainly the case here.

The dancers also add a nice dimension to the work. At times I was reminded of the work Merce Cunningham used to do with Cage.

In short, a must for anyone interested in avant-garde, Japanese, or free improvised musics.

      - Bernie koenig , Cadence Magazine


A tram rattles through the streets of Kyoto. You hear it first, then see it. Sitting on board is percussionist Marcos Fernandes, wearing headphones, listening intently in real time to the sounds of the city. A little later in this thought-provoking documentary, directed by Californian musician and film maker Hans Fjellestad, Fernandes speaks of the adverse impact of the Walkman and its successors, cutting us off from the incessant flow of ambient auditory events. Intermittently, he appears on screen clutching a microphone as he wanders noisy urban streets or tunes in delicate sounds emanating from some quietly busy natural environment.

Fernandes was born in Yokohama and departed for California in his late teens. In 2008, after 35 years performing music and gathering sounds around the world, he returned to live in Japan. Sounding The Space offers a glimpse of that renewed contact with his homeland, and more specifically reflects his efforts to connect with the legacy of early 20th century architect Uheiji Nagano, the maternal grandfather he never knew. As Fjellestad's camera shows, Nagano's work (often commissioned by banks) echoes Western models, with elegantly proportioned facades indebted to the European Renaissance and a clear taste for neoclassical porticos.

In his design for Yokohama's Okurayama Memorial Hall, Fernandes remarks, Nagano came full circle, consciously incorporating Japanese philosophical values within Western architectural forms. The centre for spiritual research was one of four sites, each in a different city, where Fernandes staged concerts in 2009, involving guest musicians, dancers and body artists to negotiate through sound and movement the acoustic and physical properties and peculiarities of each space.

Using percussion instruments, sampled sounds and electronics, Fernandes entered into lively dialogue with his grandfather's buildings. The other constant presence on these occasions was Yumiko Tanaka. An accomplished exponent of traditional Japanese music, she is also an exploratory improvisor on the three-stringed shamisen. Other participants were laptop maestro Carl Stone, pianist Masatoshi Utashima, saxophonist Koichi Akada and former Boredoms guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto. Footage drawn from their concerts provides the main substance of Fjellestad's film, but he mixes it with clips of the buildings, some vintage and monochrome, and a selection of eloquent talking heads outlining the significance of Nagano, interspersed with shots of urban flows and trajectories, nature imagery and atmospheric field filming.

These assorted elements and shifting camera angles evoke multiple points of view – visually, sonically and conceptually – from which to witness encounters of tradition with innovation, West with East, the city with rural tranquility and art with the practices of everyday life. Beyond such concerns raised by Fernandes's personal reconnection with Japan, this film can be seen as a probe into the aesthetic relationship summed up in Goethe's contention (following Schelling) that architecture is frozen music, music is liquid architecture. On a flat screen with stereo playback that tidy cliche remains an elusive and unresolved conjecture, but in recent years Fernandes has continued to pursue his site-specific project, engaging in depth with that very issue.

      - Julian Cowley, The Wire


"Ich bin mehr an Sound als an Musik interessiert", meint Marcos Fernandes zu Beginn des dokumentarischen Films, den Hans Fjellestad produzierte. Marcos Fernandes ist Improvisator, Komponist, Instrumentalist und Phonographer. So ist er hier zu sehen, wie er mit einem Mikrophon und Aufnahmegerät in der Stadt unterwegs ist, die umliegenden Geräusche aufzunehmen.

Marcos Fernandes hat einen portugiesischen Vater und eine japanische Mutter. 1973 zog das Elternpaar mit seinem in Japan geborenen Sohn nach Kalifornien. 2008, 35 Jahre später, kehrt Marcos Fernandes an seinen Ursprung zurück, Wurzeln zu ergründen, aber auch, um die Arbeiten seines Großvaters Uheiji Nagano zu sehen, der als bedeutender Architekt vielfach klassische Gebäude entwarf und baute.

Die Dokumentation enthält Konzertmitschnitte improvisativer Musik, historische und aktuelle Aufnahmen japanischer Gebäude, von Uheiji Nagano entworfen und gebaut, teilweise von Historikern und Architekten erläutert; da sind Straßenszenen mit Marcos Fernandes und Mikrophon, Interviews mit mehreren Personen, darunter Marcos Fernandes selbst, seine Mutter, Künstler und Architekten.

Die Musik ist überwiegend frei improvisierte Avantgarde, die starke (japanische) folkloristische Bezüge hat, überwiegend von japanischen und amerikanischen Musikern auf verschiedenen Bühnen gespielt und live aufgenommen wurde. Da sind starke Ansätze zum Free und Avantgarde Jazz, indes weniger präsent als die klassischen folkoristischen Muster. Die Musik, die Konzerte samt Tänzern und Performern sind stark abstrakt und intellektuell, dabei sehr erfüllend und überraschend. Die Aktion der Musiker auf der Bühne, die Tänzer davor, das entspannte Publikum - die Dokumentation ist großartig gefilmt und produziert.

Der etwa 60 Minuten andauernde Film ist sehr kurzweilig ‚komponiert' - für Freunde abstrakter Musik und Interessierter an Marcos Fernandes Arbeit sowie japanischer Architektur. Nichts wirkt überladen oder aufgedrängt, Filmemacher Hans Fjellestad lässt Musik wie Bilder und Interviews sprechen. Da ist nichts, was die ‚Kunst' oder Qualität der Musik, der Gebäude, der handelnden Personen hervorhebt, nur die schlichte Präsentation.

Die nüchterne Bildsprache, die verrückt seltsamen Tänzer, die abstrakte Musik und die Arbeit der Musiker auf der Bühne, die Häuser und Interviews - als Film ebenso erfüllend interessant wie der Inhalt an sich. Großartiger Film!

      - Volkmar Mantei, Ragazzi!



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