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“Matthew Herbert”

by Arni Kristjansson

Special To The Japan Times

Matthew Herbert can hardly be called a one-trick pony. Leaving his background in classical violin early on in his career, he has traversed many genres of dance music with his Doctor Rockit, Wishmountain and Herbert aliases. He has also conducted his own jazz big band and scored films and dance productions. This abundance of experience with different styles, however, is not what defines Herbert: it’s just his unique approach to making music.

The backbone of Herbert’s musical creative process is a set of simple rules (which can be read in full in his manifesto available on his website), and these govern his musical output. His self-imposed rules include strictly using sounds he creates or records himself (no sampling other people’s work), and placing an equal importance on both musical “accidents” and prewritten ideas. His choice of sounds is what gives his compositions that different twang: His “Bodily Functions” album from 2001 used recordings of various sounds of the human body, and 2005′s “Plat du Jour” utilized the sounds of a variety of foodstuffs, in part prepared by experimental chef Heston Blumenthal.

His choice of inspiration and sounds for his “One Pig” project is a single pig whose 25-week lifespan was documented and recorded by Herbert. Everything from its birth to its death — and its posthumous cooking and the consumption of its meat — was recorded and used during the making of the album. This has obviously upset some people, including the animal-rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has issued a statement opposing the project.

The audience at Herbert’s Sept. 22 show in Tokyo can expect a delicious, if not controversial, night of celebration of the life of this one pig. Among the instruments used to perform the album’s songs are a drum made from the pig’s skin, a “blood organ” that uses the pig’s blood, and a new musical instrument called the “musical pig sty.” A light dinner beforehand and an open outlook are recommended.

Matthew Herbert plays Liquidroom in Ebisu, Tokyo, on Sept. 22 (8 p.m.; ¥6,000, plus drink charge). For more information, call Liquidroom at (03) 5464-0800 or visit www.matthewherbert.com.