The electronic remains of Ursula Bogner

by Alisa Yamasaki

Special To The Japan Times

Ursula Bogner (1946-94) was a German pharmacist, wife and mother with a passion for the unfamiliar, which included electronic music.

At her home studio, she layered sonic textures and her own voice to create explorative, playful pieces that have a slight outer-space feel. She kept these experiments to herself, and years after her death they were unearthed by German electronic musician Jan Jelinek.

Sorting through Bogner’s countless recordings and compositions with fellow musician Andrew Pekler, Jelinek has released her albums, “Recordings 1969-1988″ and “Sonne = Blackbox” through his Faitiche label. The releases have been received favorably by critics, who have also raised the idea that the lost genius of Bogner is actually a project by Jelinek himself.

This weekend, Jelinek and Pekler will bring Bogner’s music to Japan.

“We are using a tape machine and some of Ursula Bogner’s original tape loops to partially re-create a few of her compositions, and (use them) as the basis for our own improvisations,” Pekler explains. “In order to re-create Ursula Bogner’s sound-world we are only using analog gear.”

In an aim to portray a broader picture of the late Bogner’s curious mind, the live sets will include more than music.

“When playing live, we project images of some of Ursula Bogner’s drawings, graphic scores and text fragments, as well as photographs relating to her biography and her various interests,” Pekler says. “There is also a section of the performance where a text by Ursula Bogner concerning her ideas about modern composition will be recited.”

Electronic music is historically represented more by male artists, but Jelinek disagrees with me when I suggest listeners might get a rare sense of the feminine through Bogner’s music.

“It’s probably better to avoid distinctions like ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in electronic music,” he says. “Gender ambiguity is one of the appealing aspects of this music genre.”

Pekler comes to Japan ahead of the release of a new album titled “The Prepaid Piano,” which will be co-released by the Senufo Editions and Entr’acte labels.

Meanwhile, Jelinek will be staying in Japan a little longer.

“I have an artist residency at the Goethe-Institut Villa Kamogawa in Kyoto and (will) stay for three months,” he says. “The main reason why I’m here in Japan is (for) a collaboration with (Japanese artist) Asuna Arashi. In addition to that I’ll try to work on a radio play about Hiroshima.”

The “Andrew Pekler & Jan Jelinek Play Ursula Bogner” Japan tour hits Kieth Flack in Fukuoka on June 28 (7 p.m. start; ¥2,500 in advance); Ochiai Soup in Tokyo on June 29 (7 p.m.; ¥2,500); Takumimachi Gallery in Wakayama on July 4 (8 p.m.; ¥3,000 in adv.); Kapo in Kanazawa on July 5 (7 p.m.; ¥2,500); and Metero in Kyoto on July 6 (6 p.m.; ¥2,800 in adv.). For more information, visit www.faitiche.de.