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.