Improvised Music from Japan / Otomo Yoshihide / Ground Zero


Consume Ground Zero! by Otomo Yoshihide


Consume Ground Zero!

by Otomo Yoshihide

It's easy and maybe even cool to say "to hell with copyright." But of course, things aren't really that simple. What exactly is the difference between someone using your performance on their own CD without your permission and making a load of money, and GROUND ZERO sampling a revolution-era Pekinese opera to make a CD that DOESN'T make money? It burns me that a Japanese television network rotting in money can use my music without my knowing it, and I still don't get a cent out of it. But as long as a TV network is paying JASRAC (the one and only copyright organization in Japan) I'm told it's not illegal. So am I allowed to sample that TV channel without paying a cent, and make a CD from it? And then, what happens when that CD is sampled yet again by Stock, Hausen and Walkman?

The two main reasons for the existence of copyright are this. When a work is created by someone, there is ownership in that work. And, if such ownership exists, there is the question of how to justifiably turn that into money. My problem is about the fact that not all forms of creativity can be accredited to a single entity. And if I'm correct, what about copyright?

In the general flow of things, which do not consist of mere solitary products bobbing along but of things sampled and re-sampled, how can anybody say for sure who created what? The first question needs to be directed to the idea that an artistic work is born from a single entity's creativity. And so forth and so on. So rather than to go on talking about it, the idea is to go ahead and do it.

So it comes to this. GROUND ZERO samples the musical performance of a Korean national treasure, Kim Suk Chul. Any artistic purist should fly into a rage right there. His superhuman playing is without question a product of his own creativity, but it could also be that he is in fact a vessel for the voices of gods or ancestors. So GROUND ZERO takes and samples this brilliant music sacred enough to blow away any puny ideas about copyright. Then we will have this remixed by a number of unique sampling artists and place the two versions on a "chopping board" of consumption and sampling. Call it public sampling if you will. It's up to you how you cook with it. Mke it techno or enka or anything you like. What we want to see is not style or perfection but something beyond that (that is, if there is such a thing). The jumble of criticisms and questions that may emerge should outbalance today's definition of copyright together with its messy problems and questions of creativity. Go ahead and butcher this with your own hands. We can talk later.

Written in November 1996


GROUND ZERO / PROJECT: CONSUME is a three volume series. The original recording by Ground Zero, Volume One: Consume Red, will be followed by remix/reconstruction of the recording in Volumes Two and Three. As the operational title, PROJECT: CONSUME suggests, it will be a documentary of the process of consumption. This is yet another phase in Otomo Yoshihide's SAMPLING VIRUS PROJECT. To be released from Otomo's own Sank-Ohso Disks label.

Project Outline

Volume One - Consume Ground Zero: Consume Red
Ground Zero's first ambient recording based upon samples of Korean hojok player Kim Suk Chul. Released in April 1997.

Volume Two - Consuming Ground Zero: Conflagration
Remixes of Consume Red by five of the world's most shocking and unique artists (gastr del sol, Stock, Hausen and Walkman, Masaya Nakahara, Dickson Dee, and Bob Ostertag). Released in July 1997.

Volume Three - Consumed Ground Zero: Consummation
Following the release of Volume Two, the general public is invited to consummate the operation by reconstructing the material using only Volume One and/or Two as sources. Selections from entries are compiled into Volume Three. Released in April 1998.

Produced by CONCENT Chan (Sachiko Matsubara and haruna ito)
Basic idea and adviser: Shigenori Noda (CALLITHUMP)
Manufactured by Creativeman Disc.

Last updated: February 24, 1998