EVENT: Reminded by “Reminded by the Instruments | March 24, 2022

I have been invited to discuss Reminded by the Instruments by RISMA, a study group on electronic music with the Italian Musicological Society. I would be mostly answering questions and talking about things I wrote about and things I did not. The event is free and open to anyone, and the discussion will be in English (with partial Italian translation). 

2-3:30pm (Italian time)

Register at: https://bit.ly/3HUArcv

PROJECT: Side Project | Sapporo, Japan

I am embarking on a three-year-long project in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, to explore the possibility of realizing David Tudor’s unrealized project Island Eye Island Ear as well as any by-products and side effects such an attempt might produce along the way. We are having our first launch-up conference on February 13 (16:00-17:30 Japan time = 2:00-3:30 am EST) which is supposed to be streamed on YouTube. Unfortunately, it looks like the whole thing will be in Japanese for this first event due to budget constraints, but I will keep insisting that the output should be at least bilingual from now on, so please stay tuned if you are interested.

ESSAY : “Late Realizations” | ECHO (Orpheus Institute)

I wrote a new essay for the recent issue of the online journal ECHO, dedicated to the topic of feedback. It traces David Tudor’s use of feedback in relatively broad strokes, especially in relation to his collaboration with Gordon Mumma, focusing on the period between Bandoneon ! and Island Eye Island Ear, and connecting the argument to my own works with No Collective.


REVIEW: Patrick James Dunagan | Rain Taxi

“Reminded by the Instruments is not a biography per se, but rather an elaborately detailed consideration of Tudor’s music as a biography-of-sorts. This aim is pursued with full diligence by way of examining the many instruments (primarily electronic) Tudor utilized to achieve his works. […] While Tudor rarely left a totally clear indication of exactly what he did in every performance, or even precisely which instrument(s) he applied and how, Nakai’s relentless pursuit allows him to reconstruct much, if not all, of what Tudor was up to on such occasions. This required an impressive amount of backward-looking detective work, with Nakai drawing upon every clue possible, from receipts to audience/observer commentaries along with Tudor’s itineraries and his own (usually quizzically misleading) recorded responses to queries.”

REVIEW + AWARD: Monobirds LP, Best of 2021 | soundohm

Soundohm has chosen Monobirds: From Ahmedabad to Xenon as one of the best releases of 2021. A nice review is attached: “Stunning and creatively rigorous, allowing us to encounter an artist who was decades ahead of his time in our present – one of many possible futures the work itself imagines – Tudor’s Monobirds takes huge leaps toward dramatically expanding our understanding of one of the 20th Century’s most important, visionary creators. Issued by Topos as a double LP, complete with a 24-page large booklet offering an essay by You Nakai – When David Tudor Went Disco – an in-depth study of Tudor’s performance at Xenon and its relation to the sounds on the LP, this is Tudor at the height of his powers, and one of the most historically important records of the year. Highly recommended and not to be missed.”


REVIEW: Michael Rosenstein | Point of Departure

“While the sounds of the source tapes are integral, it is the way that Tudor teases timbral shadings and textural densities out of his setup that stand out. Weaving together the multi-channel threads of input and output, the pieces develop in complex and constantly morphing layers. At the start of “Take 1,” the chatter of Tudor and his assistants sets the stage as low rumbles and thrumming oscillations accrue, gradually shot through with high-pitched squeals and glissandos between quavering pitches. At times, waves of feedback waft through, which Tudor lets build and then breaks before it overwhelms the sound field. It’s that contemplative control and mutable outcomes that make for such exhilarating results. “Take 2,” on the second side of the LP, delivers an alternate version that works with the same components, allowing one to hear Tudor work through the sonic palette for equally distinctive results. […] You Nakai provides insightful, detailed background, archival photographs, and information about Tudor’s setups which provide an invaluable reference.”


REVIEW: D. L. Patterson | CHOICE

“It is not unusual to have scholarly books written about the output of one composer, but it is rare to find one of such length written with such passion and with such complete and extensive information. Nakai (University of Tokyo, Japan)—who is a remarkable musician and “out-of-the-box” thinker—uses primary sources from the David Tudor Papers housed at the Getty Research Institute to take the reader through the many stages of creativity Tudor explored in his life. Filling the book with illustrations of various kinds, photos, charts, graphs, photocopies of original documents, and a plethora of schematics, Nakai tries to look inside Tudor’s mind and let the reader understand his thinking and musical development. One is presented with a creative thinker who is not just a pianist/organist, not just a composer, but also an electronics genius and an experimenter with sounds that had not previously been used in the context of classical music. Each chapter stands on its own and covers one specific type of compositional “instrument” at a time. Thoroughly annotated throughout and with extensive appendixes, this book will convince the reader that Tudor’s life was rich indeed.”

–D. L. Patterson, emeritus, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.

RELEASE: David Tudor – Monobirds: From Ahmedabad to Xenon, 1969/1979

Together with Julie Martin (E.A.T.) and Jacob Kirkegaard, I am releasing a double LP of David Tudor’s previously unreleased music from the label TOPOS. It comes with a booklet of 20 or so pages containing a long essay I wrote titled “When David Tudor Went Disco,” which you can also buy separately.

In December 1969, David Tudor made a series of recordings at the Electronic Music Studio at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India, using Moog Synthesizers that he himself had brought from the United States and installed there. Ten years later, on March 1, 1979, Tudor used one of these recordings, which he now called Monobird, as the primary source track for a recording session at the New York discotheque Xenon.

This album includes two 33rpm vinyl records of these works and an essay by You Nakai, When David Tudor Went Disco, that provides an in-depth study of Tudor’s performance at Xenon and its relation to Monobird.


REVIEW: Scott E. Scholz | Polley Music Library Show

“Nakai visited the four major repositories of Tudor’s papers and instruments and strove to find the connections across the span of his career, presenting his findings in accordance with the way that Tudor would have approached his own work. That is to say, for a performer who became known in particular for his ability to interpret graphic scores during the earliest developments of graphic notation, there seemed to be a consistency of approach that allowed Tudor to excel at interpreting such works, and he seems to have applied that kind of philosophy throughout his life’s work. Nakai has distilled this approach down to a 2-step process:

“1. Observe the given material thoroughly in an unbiased way until it reveals its own ‘nature.’
2. Bias the subsequent approach to the material based on this nature.”

This seems abstract at first, but it turns out to be quite practical. Nakai used this approach on the collections and holdings of David Tudor to help focus his research, and we can discover both the hows and the whys of pieces throughout his career following this simple plan. Based on the research materials explored to create this book, it’s fair to say that this isn’t a biography. It really is a document of David Tudor’s music through and through, and to some extent David Tudor as a legendary or somewhat mysterious person will remain elusive as you read this book. But you will likely understand his work and his methods, and to the degree that he seemed so deeply invested in his work, perhaps this is enough.”

PRESENTATION: The Migration of Monobirds: From Ahmedabad to Xenon and Beyond | October 1, 2021

I am presenting a talk as part of the Archives Public Programs of National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India. The series examines the activities of Experiments in Art & Technology in India in the 1960s and 70s.

My session will focus on one particular recording David Tudor made during his stay at NID in late 1969 using the Moog Synthesizer he had installed in India’s first electronic music studio. Although Tudor personally disliked the Moog, after circumstances pushed him to perform with the instrument, he recorded what he did and subsequently used the same recording as a sound source in various performances across the 1970s. Analysis of recordings, photographs, diagrams, schematics, and recollections, reveals the unexpected trajectory of this recording he called Monobird and may offer a thought or two about putting the archive to good use.

Webinar Link