AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Bore – Issue 3

The compositions of Japanese composer and sound artist Ryoko Akama are featured in this third number of Bore, the publication of predominantly text-based new performance scores edited by Sarah Hughes and David Stent.

Akama, whose multi-dimensional background encompasses the study of traditional Japanese shamisen and vocal music as well as sound engineering and installation and performance art, creates sounds layered into significant tracts of empty space, often using electronics, objects and/or the VSC3 analogue synthesizer as her sound sources. Language plays an important role in her work, whether as an underlying concept for electronic sound art or, as the text-based work assembled here demonstrates, as a compositional medium.

Akama’s scores tend to be made up of sets of instructions couched in economical language. Although worded in a fairly direct manner, all of them embrace indeterminacy of some variety. Some of the instructions are unambiguous and only require the performers to set the values of certain parameters, such as duration or instrumentation. Others call for a greater leap of interpretation and ingenuity. For example, the score to Object Performance consists of verbs scattered across a page, each of which names a specific action to be taken in relation to the objects, but the types and the exact number of objects each performer should use are left open to the performers’ discretion. With a wry touch of humor, Akama also throws in the instruction “whatever” as a kind of open variable for the performer to fill in. Less ambiguously but still leaving choices up to the performers, Fade In consists of a single page of instructions for a twenty-five minute additive/subtractive performance in which four or five sine tones are faded in sequentially and then faded out in reverse order. The duration piece asks its three or more performers to select and play three sounds they consider soundless. Here Akama sets up a koan-like paradox in calling for a medium to represent something that by definition defies that medium. Akama’s taste for enigma is further displayed in tada no, a set of eighteen cards each of which contains a simple instruction for an action, a formula in need of creative decryption, or a description of a situation.

As with previous issues of Bore, the scores are printed on high quality paper and come ready for use.