Improvised Music from Japan / Otomo Yoshihide

Miira ni Narumade

(Until I Am a Mummy)

Masahiko Shimada, one of Japan's most well known novelists, based his short story in diary form called "Miira ni Narumade" on the actual diary which was discovered of a man who had committed suicide by self-starvation. Otomo Yoshihide's work combines music and dramatic monologue, with the short story as its text. This production received a great deal of attention in Japan as a collaboration between Shimada and Otomo.

Since it was first produced in 1994 the drama has been performed ten times, each time with different musicians and a different composition. The work is spun from the subtle connection between the words of the protagonist, who never explains the reason for his suicide, and the floating quality of the music. The performance develops through the improvised ensemble work by the musicians, which springs from the relationship between three elements: Otomo's conducting, the simple directions written on cue sheets, and the time progression of the diary. For Otomo, this work is not only a harbinger of the onkyo music (*) which he has been developing in recent years; it is also noteworthy as the first occasion for a true collaboration between Otomo and players of the traditional Japanese instruments which he featured prominently in his subsequent compositions, and projects such as Ground Zero.

* Onkyo is a Japanese word whose literal meaning is "reverberation of sound." The word onkyo-ha or onkyo-kei (onkyo school) started to be used about five years ago among musicians and music writers in order to refer to a certain type of music, and musicians playing the music. Soon the use of the word became widespread, and now it can be said that onkyo-ha or onkyo-kei is recognized as a genre in Japan. In short, onkyo-ha or onkyo-kei music is music which puts much more importance on sound texture than on musical structure, combining many elements of the three genres techno, noise, and electronic music.

Last updated: October 4, 1999