Yasunao Tone makes the kind of music that hi-fi buffs have nightmares about. The septuagenarian composer and sound artist has spent the past two decades pushing digital audio equipment to its limit and reveling in the wonky results.
Born in 1935, Tone was part of Japan’s first improvisational ensemble, Group Ongaku, and a key player in the 1960s Fluxus art movement. After moving to New York in 1972, he composed scores for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company using the chance compositional techniques pioneered by John Cage. He then began his infamous work with CDs. While others cooed at the possibilities of the new compact disc format when it was launched in the early 1980s, Tone saw only its potential for failure. He stuck pin-holed strips of Scotch tape to the shiny plastic discs and used these stuttering, “wounded” CDs as performance tools. Cage was apparently very impressed — as were subsequent “glitch” electronica acts such as Oval and Autechre. The belated recording “Solo for Wounded CD” (Tzadik, 1997) remains a coruscating listen to this day.
Tone will be making a rare live appearance at Kid Ailack Art Hall in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, joined by two key figures from the subsequent generation of Japanese avant-garde musicians. As a polyglot composer, guitarist and turntablist, Yoshihide Otomo has run the gamut from free jazz and experimental rock to onkyo electronic improvisation.
Sachiko M is most famous for her work with sine waves generated by a sample-free sampler, though her most recent solo album, last year’s “Salon de Sachiko,” found her summoning blurts of sound from nothing but a pair of oscillators. While both she and Otomo have played with each other many times in the past, this marks their first appearance with Tone.
Yasunao Tone, Sachiko M and Yoshihide Otomo appear at Kid Ailack Art Hall, Tokyo on Feb. 19 at 7.30 p.m. The nearest station is Meidai-mae on the Keio Line, three stops from Shinjuku on the express train. Tickets are ¥2,500 in advance, ¥2,800 on the door. For details, visit www.kidailack.co.jp or call (03) 3322-5564.