Otomo Yoshihide Brings the Noise Stateside Next Month

By Philip Trapp | Apr 07, 2016 04:05 PM EDT

Otomo Yoshihide, veteran "Japanoise" composer and free-jazz instrumentalist, will bring his contemporary improvised music project, FEN (Far East Network), to Japan Society's historic Manhattan headquarters next month.

The venue will host both a club-style session and a main concert performance from the group, featuring leader Yoshihide along with fellow musicians Ryu Hankil, Yan Jun and Yuen Chee Wai.

A longtime pioneer of contemporary classical, noise music and experimental turntablism, Yoshihide is one of Japan's most productive avant-garde performers. The innovator has composed music for multiple films, television shows and commercials while contributing to over 50 albums in the past 30 years.

Yoshihide released his first, self-titled album in 1987. The artist then spent the bulk of the '90s playing in prolific Japanese improvisational noise band Ground Zero. In an interview with Jason Gross from the period, Yoshihide described the unconventional music that shaped his early aesthetic:

"Most influence comes from French musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. Also, there was some kind of rock stuff like Pink Floyd, always tape effects. Mostly contemporary composer's tape work, also Japanese '60s music. I really loved music when I was a teenager but I had no idea about how to play any instruments."

Also an accomplished improvisational jazz guitarist, Yoshihide studied under revered Japanese free-improv musician Masayuki "Jojo" Takayanagi. Many of Yoshihide's performances combine his guitar playing with electronics and exploratory turntable manipulation.

A musical activist, Yoshihide identifies with the underground subculture in Japan and its revolutionary leanings. As he told interviewer Michel Henritzi, the artist uses his music to express his sentiments, as opposed to expressly stating them in lyric:

"I'm not interested in using music in order to send the kinds of explicit messages that can be put into words. I may have been in the past, but now I'm against that kind of thing. [...] I have absolutely no intention of making propaganda about the consumer society with music. I don't think music is something that can be simplistically changed into words."

"Sound Exploration with Otomo Yoshihide/FEN" debuts at New York City's Japan Society with two performances on Saturday, May 14 at 7:00 p.m and 9:30 p.m.

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