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Maeda Yasuyuki & Li Song
28th Dec, Arakawa Daryl Worthington , August 17th, 2023 07:51

Two artists jamming on their laptops in a Tokyo park, recorded live on a single ambient microphone, the sounds of the city, the park, the world mixing with the digital tones

My local park has signs telling visitors not to play any amplified music. Yet for the next few weeks, a substantial section of it will be cordoned off to host a series of inner-city festivals where, presumably, some people won’t have to heed the sign’s restriction. While the release notes for Maeda Yasuyuki and Li Song’s 28th Dec, Arakawa don’t reference concerns of public and private, loud and quiet, these questions can’t help but resonate with it. Song and Yasuyuki record barely amplified music outdoors, their subtle interventions unearthing turmoil in peacefulness and serenity in a racket.

Song and Yasuyuki are musicians and computer programmers, based in London and Nagoya, Japan, respectively. These two tracks were captured outdoors in Tokyo using a single recording device placed between their two laptops as they jammed with SuperCollider, the only amplification their computers’ speakers. The track names document the time of recording, ‘2pm’ taking place underneath Kohoku Bridge by the Arakawa river, ‘5pm’ at a community park. It follows 2022’s Two Laptops, which documented a similar process at sites in north-east London.

There’s a sense when listening to their music that despite it being played out loud in public, it’s also hermetically sealed, as if they’re enclosing a small piece of noisy space into a seclusion zone. Yet, despite the subtlety in their playing, it also seems to lay bare the futility of searching for quiet. Even at their most abstract and abrasive, the sounds they make are seldom as intrusive as their surroundings.

Both tracks are layered in events which it’s difficult to fully absorb in a single listen. Allow yourself to be sucked in, and they are vibrant spaces. ‘2pm’ is shrouded in persistent rumble and clang, which I assume is nearby traffic. The laptops emerge tentatively, pure mid-range tones rising into high-pitch sways through the ambient clatter. Computer generated sounds embrace rather than battle the surroundings, swirling into them to become another thread in the richly textured cacophony.

‘5pm’ is gentler, unstable drones not so much disturbing the peace as having an awkward conversation with it. Wildlife calls switch from chirpy to harrowing, while the laptop sounds come as finely whittled bleeps and pulses. Beautiful, it also seems to outline the tension that comes with tranquility. Soft white noise shrouds the whole piece, and when a passing conversation gets picked up by the recording device, it’s a disruptive relief from the stillness.

Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening practice is perhaps a reference point, but Li and Yasuyuki’s interventions amplify soundscapes as sites of instability. They induce attentiveness to surroundings as sites of stasis and flux. Song and Yasuyuki create situations where even the barely audible can be momentous.