“You Nakai is a performer, writer, and musicologist whose interests in all areas include intermedial overlaps and the processual and ephemeral aspects of artistic communication, with an emphasis on the American music and dance avant-garde. He has taught and researched at the University of Tokyo, Kyoto State University, and New York University, where he teaches courses such as “other musics,” “history of fake Western music,” “archi-choreography,” “archaeology of influence,” and “experimental sounds for pets.” The mere offering of these competencies reveals that David Tudor’s interdisciplinary and processual art has found itself in the reflective crosshairs of a vocational performer. And indeed, Nakai’s monograph, at 753 pages (!), is a superlative scholarly achievement. […] Indeed, it is remarkable that Nakai has managed this alone, since the scale and nature of Tudor’s colossal oeuvre rather calls for a team-based interdisciplinary approach.” (Original in Czech)
You Nakai will be part of Unexpected Territories, a ten-day festival on David Tudor’s music in Berlin from July 1-10, participating in a round table, a lecture workshop on Island Eye Island Ear, as well as a performance of Monobirds with Jacob Kirkegaard, Phil Edelstein, and Julie Martin.
“Nakai’s book is monumental in the detail with which it ruthlessly rewrites the dissertation to thread a meticulous tracing of the development of the majority of Tudor’s projects, systems, and recordings, into an awe-inspiring assessment of the humor, mystery, and earnest weirdness with which Tudor operated.
Nakai elucidates the complex, ad hoc development of each piece, and in doing so achieves the rare elucidation of technical or physical decisions as a source of audible results. As an in-depth analysis of the majority of Tudor’s pieces, the primary accomplishment of the book, therefore, is to make what Tudor left behind legible to the investigator and reader. It can be considered a shift, taking a musicological focus from sound, notation, and recordings, and extending it to technical objects (Simondon 2016) and their associated abstractions (diagrams, schematics, patching notes, etc.). It can also be considered a recontextualization of the object of study, acknowledging the deep musicality inherent in those technical objects and abstractions. I leave this discussion to future publications, but regardless of future discussion, the grace with which Nakai operates this shift shines as a reference to which future scholarship on Tudor and the music “implicit” in technology (Collins 2007) will inevitably and necessarily be compared. That Nakai managed to do this without Tudor present to answer further questions adds to the shining achievement at hand, and holds promise for other research on artists whose technical legacy remains to be investigated post-mortem, such as that of Tudor’s close friend Pauline Oliveros. It will also stand as, more generally, an epistemological tour de force, making the highly idiosyncratic technicality of Tudor’s legacy accessible to humanists.”
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
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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.