Improvised Music from Japan / Aki Onda


Aki Onda is a self-taught electronic musician, composer, producer, photographer, and multi-media artist. Onda currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Onda was born in Nara, Japan, on August 27, 1967. He was brought up in an unusual and eccentric environment that stimulated him artistically. His mother was a painter and his father was a university professor and former Olympic hockey player. Onda studied painting, textiles and photography from an early age, although he dropped out of formal education. Onda started his career as a photographer when he was 16 years old. His first assignment was to take photographs of musicians for magazines in Osaka and Kyoto. Through numerous photo shoots he became acquainted with many well-known musicians and decided to become a musician himself. He started making music with the sampler and computer, and formed Audio Sports with Eye Yamatsuka and Nobukazu Takemura in Osaka in 1990. After releasing the group's first album, Onda moved to Tokyo and established himself as a producer. He soon became a sought-after studio technician because of his in-depth knowledge of music production. As a result, he was involved in nearly 100 projects in Japan while still in his twenties. From 1996 to 1997, Onda set up a base in London and recorded his solo albums Beautiful Contradiction and Un Petit Tour, which reflected his visual and poetic sensibility. Soon he released two more albums: Precious Moment, in 2001, and Don't Say Anything, in 2002. All four albums are personal soundscapes that he calls "radio dramas." Each contains a different story, with or without text.

Onda is particularly known for his Cassette Memories project--works compiled from a "sound diary" of field-recordings collected by Onda over a span of two decades. He released the first album of the series in 2003, under the title Ancient & Modern, followed by the second album, Bon Voyage!

Onda has also been working on his audio-visual project Cinemage--"image for cinema," or "homage for cinema." It is composed of slide projections of still photo images, shot by Onda, set to live guitar improvisation.

Since 2002, Onda has been manipulating multiple cassette Walkmans and electronics in his performances, presenting his audio-visual projects at festivals and venues on four continents. He has performed at The Kitchen, Roulette, Sculpture Center, Tonic (New York), Time-Based Art Festival (Portland), Lampo (Chicago), Images Festival (Toronto), Send + Receive (Winnipeg), Transitio_mx (Mexico City), Tokyo Performing Arts Market, Off Site (Tokyo), LMC Festival, Atlantic Waves (London), Présences Électronique (Paris), Argos (Brussels), Vooruit, Gent Film Festival (Gent), STEIM (Amsterdam), Impakt Festival (Utrecht), Tesla (Berlin), Fylkingen (Stockholm), and many others.

Onda has collaborated with such artists as Alan Licht, Loren Connors, Michael Snow, Ken Jacobs, Shelley Hirsch, Ikue Mori, Marina Rosenfeld, Noël Akchote, Jac Berrocal, Jean-Francois Pauvros, Dan Warburton, Jean-Jacques Birgé, Bernard Vitet, SFT, Steve Beresford, Linda Sharrock, Oren Ambarchi, Akio Suzuki, Yoshio Machida, and Tujiko Noriko.

Between 2000 and 2003, Onda was a visiting composer at the Electro-Acoustic Music Studio at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, of which composer Jon Appleton serves as director.

Along with his activities on the music scene, Onda has been exploring expression through photography. In 2001 and 2002, he had two photo exhibitions at Anthology Film Archives in New York, which is run by filmmaker Jonas Mekas.

Onda's critical thought and unique sensibility in understanding music are manifest in numerous articles and reviews he has written for Japanese magazines such as Improvised Music from Japan and Studio Voice. Many underground musicians and composers have become acquainted with each other in Japan through his writings.

Onda is also active as an independent curator. He has curated several major performances and exhibitions throughout North America, including events of Japanese artists at The Kitchen (New York), Images Festival (Toronto) and Time-Based Art Festival (Portland).

Last updated: May 17, 2008