Sep. 3, 1996 Sep. 17, 1996 (b)

Column Index - Sep. 17, 1996

a) Being present at the site of action -Dedicated to the late Kuniharu Akiyama-

b) Dojyunkai Daikanyama Apartment House
- the problem of conservation in the city

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Toru Takemitsu, his music and philosophy

Toru Takemitsu

Fluxus Online


John Cage Reference Page

Erik Satie Homepage

Erik Satie: homepage



Being present at the site of action
- Dedicated to the late Kuniharu Akiyama -


A unique viewpoint derived from practice

On August 17, Mr. Kuniharu Akiyama, the music critic and poet who has been leading the world of contemporary music together with Toru Takemitsu, passed away after a long struggle against his disease. Following Minao Shibata and Toru Takemitsu, we have lost yet another important pillar, and the world of contemporary music has received severe damage.

Kunihiro Akiyama was different from the critics who merely gave music critique. He was the type of critic who was always involved in the action, such as starting a movement with composers. From that practice, he delivered his unique viewpoints towards reality which were based on his personal experiences and witnessing.

It is well-known that while Akiyama was studying at Waseda University, together with Takemitsu and Joji Yuasa, he established the <Jikken Kobo>, leaping into the avant garde movement, reflecting the reality of the creatiave scene in his critiques. When Takemitsu's early works were thrashed by a major critic as "something that was 'pre-music'", Akiyama took his pen and advocated the true intention of the composer and the value of the new musical movement to the world. Akiyama was never the onlooker of art, but was someone who always acted as the interested party. In New York in the '60's, when the movement by Fluxus, the Neo Dada art group, was flourishing, the "Fluxus Orchestra Concert" was held at the Carnegie Hall. Within the program containing about 30 short pieces, AIO's "Rainbow Music", a performance in which the conductor burst soap bubbles made by the instruments in the orchestra with his baton, was performed. The conductor of this concert was none other than Akiyama.

Akiyama's critiques as the man of action

Akiyama had an extremely keen nose towards new art and music. At the end of the 1940's, he already showed much interest in the activities of John Cage, and when Cage visited Japan for the first time in 1962, he cooperated in the musical performance, committed to the introduction of Cage. Also, from quite an early stage, Akiyama was interested in the writer and composer, Paul Bowles based in Morocco, who is receiving much attention recently. When Bowles visited Japan for the first time in 1956, he reported the writer's reaction in the Bijyutsu Hihyou magazine, when he visited a gay bar in Ginza.

It seems that Akiyama was also interested in the American composer, Harry Partch known to make unique instruments, from a much earlier stage. He once told sadly that he "...went to California to meet [the composer], but he was not home due to a concert tour, and soon after, he passed away, so I could not meet him in the end."

Akiyama was enthusiastic in producing concerts too. One memorable concert is the "Erik Satie Concert Series" held in Jean Jean in Shibuya in the '70 's. Planned by Akiyama and performed by the pianist, Aki Takahashi, that music with the mysterious feel was introduced one after another every month. In front of Jean Jean, there was a long queue, and that dark underground space was suffocatingly filled with the heat of the young students. As a result, the "Satie boom" was born. Together with the students of Tama Art University where he was teaching, in a concert, he reconstructed and had a test performance of "Intonarumori", the noise instrument of Luigi Russolo, the Futurist artist in Italy.

Producing a concert is a difficult task. Among the critics who mostly only concentrated on writing, Akiyama was probably the most capable producer. He picked up the composer and music which had to be communicated at that moment, and introduced the real sound together with understandable commentary. There are numerous composers, both domestic and international, who became known to the world through his efforts.

Such wide-spread activities were possbile because Akiyama maintained his attitude of always witnessing the active site together with the composers and performers. Today, where information can be easily obtained, and where cerebral understanding gains high priority, there are few who become fully involved in the practice of art. However, art is born out of practice, and nurtured by practice. Unless one is present for the live experience, the power of "criticism" itself will wane. For Akiyama, "criticism" meant activities of a wide range including the involvement in practice. What is demanded today is someone who will strongly stand in the midst of activity.

[Toshie KAKINUMA/Music Critic]

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Dojyunkai Daikanyama Apartment House
- the problem of conservation in the city

Sep. 3, 1996 Sep. 17, 1996 (b)

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