Field recording a cacophony

I got to Tokyo Station an hour or so early for my Shinkansen booking, so I went & chilled out on the fairly deserted platform and listened… A technique I sometimes use is to close my eyes & listen to an ambience & try to imagine reconstructing it from elements – how many layers would I need?

After listening for a while I came to the conclusion that even though this location was currently not that loud, it was dense and some of what I was hearing felt like looping voice announcements – insistent loops, almost meant to drive people away from incorrect areas…

Inevitably I got my Song D100 recorder out & did a bit of recording



Soon the density was increased by PA announcements – distortion plus!

And then a Shinkansen/bullet train arrives at one of the nearby tracks and a mass of commuters disembark


By then it was getting closer to my trains arrival & departure, so this chap gets on the microphone & starts making slightly lower key, less distorted announcements…


It always amazes me just how dynamic & LOUD trains can be in Japan – sometimes you can be standing about one metre away from an express train passby & the sound is overwhelming… but the same applies in some of the subways, where sound is contained & funnelled straight into your brain!

While I was sitting waiting, another train arrived & some combination of the train & its tracks let out an unearthly shrill screech – straight out of a horror film!



Shot some beautiful footage out of the window of the Shinkansen


Wouldn’t have got anything useable if it wasn’t for the lens skirt – its basically a cloth surrounding for the lens, and attaches to a window via four suction cups. It eliminates reflections from the window into the lens and is super sueful for any shooting through glass… I usually bring mine with me as its very light, and easy to pack/carry… but I forgot & ended up buying a new one – seems they are out of stock but still had some…

A day in Tokyo

So I am in Tokyo for a few short days… Having stalked the TokyoArtBeat site for the last week or so, I had worked out the essential exhibitions that I wanted to see but unfortunately the weather was worse than yesterday = rain!
First stop, as always, was the ICC Gallery in Shinjuku – in the past I have just caught the Yamanote line to Shinjuku & walked from there, and I’ve done that 20 minute walk enough times I dont even need googles help… but this time the rain just wouldn’t stop & I didn’t fancy 20 minutes of rain on my umbrella, so google maps connected me to Keio-Shin line and I managed to make the entire trip underground, taking an underground exit directly into the building that houses the ICC Gallery!


I wasn’t quite sure what this sign was warning me of, but up four floors and for the nth time I was back at the ICC Gallery…

My god – the ICC gallery always, ALWAYS inspires me! I somehow came here on my first ever visit to Tokyo a decade or more ago, and I have visited every time I come to Japan since. Sometimes I have lucked in & a major exhibition has coincided with my visit, but even when it hasn’t the constantly evolving OPEN SPACE exhibition has always been profoundly inspiring in its own right.
A few of the works are permanent, but most are not… and as I only visit once a year, it means I am always in for a treat. Before this visit I started reading the ICC site and the descriptions of the works…. But I soon stopped myself – discovering such works with no information is a bit like seeing a new film by one of your favourite directors; you just know it will be great, and not knowing anything other than that is a blessing. Sometimes any information is too much.

First stop was the anechoic chamber, to experience a truly minimalist work by Filament (Sachiko M and Yoshide Otomo) involving two turntables playing locked exit grooves accompanied by tones & percussive glitches delivered via a series of spatialised speakers. I’m not going to try to describe the experience any more than that. LOVED IT!

Next I spent an hour sitting in front an array of eight huge TV monitors, as a work Toposcan / Ireland 2013 by Shiro Takitani played. I found and will embed a preview below, but unless you have eight large monitors attached to your computer this just wont do it justice! GORGEOUS!!! LOVED IT SO MUCH!!!

Next I ventured into a room featuring a Johnny Cash remix project…. Gave it the benefit of the doubt and was rewarded – check the website here – the project basically asks people to redraw frames from a music video… and then rebuilds a new music video featuring the drawings… heres where the project was at as of 2013:

The Johnny Cash Project from Chris Milk on Vimeo.

Next was a trilogy of work by Norimichi Hirakawa consisting of a huge video projection and two monitor arrays based on:

1. Strings of alphabetical letters are continuously generated up to a point where the computer’s memory can no longer handle the amount of data, and the program crashes, whereas names of actually existing persons are highlighted as they appear in the text.

2. In video footage of 26 interviewed women, each of which is assigned one letter from A to Z, 1-pixel sequences extracted from each image (A to Z) are rearranged to correspond with program-generated strings of 16 alphabetical letters, and thereby reconfigure the facial images in 60 different patterns every second.

3. Through reverse playback of video images of the irreversible phenomenon of accumulations of points dispersing with time, the reversal process from calculation results as displayed in the beginning, to the respective initial state, becomes visible.

While each of these three elements is an independent work in its own right, here they are combined into one installation. The works represent such “knowns” as the massive irreversible phenomenon of computer programming based high-speed, high-precision calculation up to its eventual collapse; such “unknowns” as abstract models of not actually existing “human beings” made based on unique individual faces; and “the irreversible” in the form of visuals creating a supernatural flow of time by realizing a reversal of time as it can never occur in the existing universe or even in computer programs.

It was quite mind blowing!

Amongst the other works I was drawn to one by the outlandish sounds emanating from the room, “Crab Leg Denrin Tower” by Ei Wada was like a totem built from shortwave radios and analogue CRT TV sets: “The visuals are created by directly feeding audio signals into the monitors’ video input terminals, whereas the width of the stripe patterns changes according to the audio signals’ frequency. It is commonly known that tube TV monitors radiate small amounts of electromagnetic rays, as do flashlights mounted to the top of the tower. The radios receive the electromagnetic waves from the monitors and flashlights and convert them into sounds. Although only one type of audio signal is used, a variety of tones can be extracted from it depending on aspects such as the positions of the radios’ tuning dials, their individual features, and their distance from the “denrin” tower.”

Wild! I could have sat & watched/listened all day… and it made me miss my modular synth a bit….

While in the building I visited an exhibition at the Tokyo Opera House Art Gallery: “Stream of Consciousness” by photographer Risaku Suzuki. Two works really struck me, one set was the white series, incredibly beautiful minimalist winter photos taken in snowy landscapes:


The other was a part of the water mirror series, and it was the staging of one the video works that I thought was incredibly beautiful


Next? It was 2pm by this stage and I was super hungry! Thanks to google maps suggestions I found some great sushi in Ebisu


Then through the rain to NADIFF/Apart bookstore, where I added to the loot from the ICC Gallery bookstore… and then headed back to the hotel past an octopus slide and what appeared to be a ginger cat cafe!?!



The rain didn’t stop…


Tomorrow = Motion Science exhibition (motion graphics) at 20/20 Design Site in Roppongi, then Artist File 2015 Next Doors: Contemporary Art in Japan and Korea at The National Art Center…. then to Ginza to see “Camera Obscura Study” by Takashi Homma at Maison Hermès and also TeamLab “Walk Through the Crystal Universe” at Pola Museum Annex… before catching Shinkansen back to Osaka in the evening.

Tokyo you are exhausting but I love you!

Detritus 361

nice ad promoting new drink Shuchu Regain by Suntory


▶ ever had someone say “i could do that” about a work of art? this


▶ (why) shouldn’t copyright be infinite?


▶ While the production values of House of Cards are excellent, the quality of sound is no accident – check out this fascinating article about production sound on the series and digital boom removal aka busting the frame! (thanks Rene)



▶ love these glitched tree photos


▶ if you’re considering attempting to crowd fund a project i’ve posted Craig Mods great analysis before but here is another useful read: Marian Call crunches numbers


▶ Differences between eye and camera and the practical implications


“It’s possible to travel thousands of miles to the other side of the world, to take a plane, three trains, two ferries and a bicycle, in order to stand completely still. It’s possible to see something so beautiful that your hyperconnected, over-informed thoughts calm into a wordless lullaby… – that is me in a nutshell!


Monorail long exposures – Tokyo







A bit like in Osaka I set out to experiment while waiting for the sun to set, and all the best shots were from when I was experimenting – it unfortunately started raining soon after dark and the fully automated Yurikamome Line mono rail has no windscreen wipers – doh! Moral of the story – don’t wait for the ‘ideal’ conditions, they may well never occur…. but that wont stop me from trying again tomorrow night!

shot in Tokyo this afternoon with Canon 5DmkIII, Zeiss Distagon 18mm ZE and Lee Big Stopper – most exposures were around 5 seconds, although I was doing bulb exposures so each was unique…

Peace Park


It hit me as we travelled along the tramway & got a first glimpse of the dome of the building partly destroyed 70 years ago, after an American B29 bomber carried out the world’s first atomic bombing at 8.15am on August 6th, 1945. Similar to some deeply disturbing video art by Bill Viola that we’d seen earlier in the day, the significance is impossible to ignore and hard to turn away from.


A visit to the Peace Memorial Museum soon after was similarly deeply effecting – the museum was very crowded but the crowd very subdued, the displays outlining the timeframe of the event, and the endless suffering. I only took one photo inside the museum, of a piece of wall containing some of the black rain that occurred as hell rained down.



In the same park was another structure, the Children’s Peace Monument. As with the recently much posted image of the drowned refugee boy it is a sad reminder that the greatest casualties are also the most precious & innocent. “The monument stands in memory of all children who died as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The monument was originally inspired by the death of Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb at the age of two. Ten years later Sadako developed leukemia that ultimately ended her life. ”


The inscription on the stone block udner the monument reads: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in the world.” On the surface of the bell hung inside the monument, the phrases “A Thousand Cranes” and “Peace on the earth and in the Heavens” are carved in the handwriting of Dr Hideki Yukawa, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics.

Here is a short recording of the Children’s Peace Monument bell as it was chimed by people saying a prayer (it was gently raining, so the recording also includes rain on my umbrella)


One has to wonder about the motives and what was actually learned by those with the power to create such horror – apart from the claims of the ‘need’ to end the war, using the atom bomb was a carefully managed experiment, with much (in) humane data collected. An experiment for future reference? Undoubtedly.

At least some attitudes have changed over the years, as this polling indicates – we live in hope, but that hope feels somewhat tenuous when the casualties of current wars wash ashore and little is done to help or prevent such recurring horrors.


the floating Torii at Itsukushima Shrine 2


This was shot before dinner – thanks to the cloud cover there was no sunset, despite us being present just incase.. but such a different feeling to the bright grey light earlier in the day…

the floating Torii at Itsukushima Shrine 1


caught the Shinkansen to Hiroshima on Saturday morning primarily to visit this location: the floating Torii at Itsukushima Shrine… a bit of research pre-warned me the ‘floating’ aspect was dependent on the tides… at low tide there are a whole bunch of tourists walking around that huge Torii…. so we timed our travel & caught the ferry over from Hiroshima so we were there early afternoon – high tide was 2pm… And my god there were a lot of tourists, this island is a popular well-known location – its like there was a big rush on to the ferry… and then a big rush off it… where exactly these people were rushing I have no idea but any number of times I had to just frame a shot & wait for people (or people in boats) to get out of my frame! It was a grey, drizzly day which played into my ideas of shooting it for B&W… but as next few shots will show that Torii is a Torii of many moods