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Creative Music of AntiExclusion (Japan)
By Makoto NOMURA
(I) Overture – an introduction to Makoto Nomura
I am pluralistic! How many Makoto's do I have in myself? How many different characters do I include in myself? Yes, as many as possible! I am a composer. I am a pianist. I am also known as a roof tile musician as well as the pioneer of melodica music. Some people describe me as a workshop facilitator while others might call me as a social innovator. Yes, I am inclusive and I can do whatever I like! I do not have to stay in one category. According to my passport I am a Japanese. But my musical nationality could be Indonesian, French, maybe Chinese, Italian, or perhaps Thai, because I have been influenced by music all over the world. My passport says that I am male, but of course I do not want to exclude a possibility that I will be female in future. I have included diverse characters in myself. Just as Singapore is pluralistic, so am I. Yes, everybody should be pluralistic! Every community must be, of course, pluralistic! This is the very important premise.
Music is also pluralistic! In music a variety of sounds and various instruments are mixed at once. We can harmonise different notes to make chords. Polyphonic music, like J.S. Bach, combines different melodies at the same time. Polyrhythmic music, like African drumming, has different rhythmic patterns at once. I think composer is the job to realise coexistence of different elements in a piece of music. This pluralistic philosophy guided me to explore how different people from various backgrounds could create music cooperatively. That is why I have explored "collaborative composition" for more than 25 years in various countries, as well as in Japan. Naturally my music activities, which often involve both professional musicians and amateur non-musicians, have covered wide range of diverse fields, such as collective composition with children, song-writing with elderly people, collaboration with folk music, workshops with a professional orchestra, improvising with chaotic ensemble with disabled people, inventing a new ritual ceremony based on sumo wrestling, video work in which I played music with animals in a zoo in collaboration with zookeepers, etc. Each of such multi-directional explorations is equally essential to my music activities because I am pluralistic, in another word, inclusive. Without excluding any of those different activities I have developed creative relations with different communities, which gave me chances to think about creative relationship between art and society. Here I am going to present two practical examples how I worked with community through creative music making.
(II) Collaboration between Job Placement Service and Professional Orchestra
Ever since I was appointed the director of community programme by the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra (JCSO) in 2014, I have launched several music projects with JCSO, involving different communities. Here I present a project called "The Work", which I navigated and facilitated collaborative music making between young unemployed people and professional orchestra players. Both were worried about how to make livings. Through creating music collectively, they regained positive energy to be confident in themselves.
Background of symphony orchestra
The JCSO is a professional orchestra based in Osaka and it consists of 55 musicians and 16 officers. It used to be called as Century Orchestra Osaka (=COO), which used to be managed by the local government (Osaka Prefecture), but soon after Toru Hashimoto became the governor of Osaka in 2008, he announced to cut the budget for COO and terminated the subsidies in 2010. This politician attached very little importance to cultural policy unfortunately and he also closed down the Osaka Prefectural International Institute for Children's Literature and also cut the budget for the Osaka Prefectural Kamigata Performance Resource Centre. He was not supportive to something that was not economically viable without the use of public funds. In 2011 the orchestra restarted as a new independent organisation and changed its name to JCSO. Even though JCSO tried as many concerts as possible, for example in 2014 it held 223 concerts in one year, and applied to as many grants as possible, its annual finance was still 200,000,000yen deficit budget. It was clear that JCSO had to discover a new approach to manage a professional orchestra in Japan.
The reason why I combine JCSO with young unemployed people
There were two reasons why I started a music project "The Work" between young unemployed people and professional orchestra musicians. Firstly because I thought the orchestra should not only look at music but also face the serious social problems. Recently in Japan job shortage has been one of the most serious social issues. Japan's economy has been depressed for many years and most of university students feel anxious about their jobs after their graduation. The number of young persons who are "Not in Education, Employment, or Training"(=NEET) in Japan is increasing lately. Secondly because the situation of JCSO players also looked very similar to that of unemployed young people. In a sense both were looking for new jobs, or a new way of working.
The first workshop = "inclusive orchestra"
I set "The Work" as a series of 6 creative music workshops followed by a final presentation concert. 9 young people, who registered a job placement service called "Hello Life", and 6 musicians from JCSO took part in my workshops. When I lead the first workshop, both JCSO orchestra players and young unemployed people were extremely nervous. Some of these young people were depressed and stayed at home almost all day to avoid social contact. Some had challenged job-application many times without any success. After they were not chosen by many unsuccessful experiences of job-interviews, they were not able to be confident in their communication skills with the others. On the other hand, the orchestra players were also deeply hurt after Osaka Prefecture cut all budget for it with the statement of "We do not need an orchestra any more." Both of them had to recover their self-confidence.
For the first workshop I prepared many different kinds of musical instruments, which included a hosepipe, plastic bottles, rattle, frying pans, kettles, various drums, bells, a small xylophone, a harmonica, wood block, toy slide whistles, an ukulele, ethnic flutes from different countries, etc. When I have creative music workshops, I normally prepare as many different kinds of instruments as possible. If I set only a certain kind of instrument, keyboards for instance, I will easily facilitate to unite the ensemble in one particular colour, but there is little room for other kinds of instruments to join in. This kind of ensemble tends to have a risk of being exclusive. If I prepare many different kinds of instruments, I will have difficulty in handling the chaotic mixture of various sounds, but the ensemble can become much more inclusive. That is why I have explored such inclusive mixture of music as a symphony in the 21st century and I try my best to prepare as many different instruments as possible for my workshops.
I said, "Do not worry. We just play. It is not like 'work' but just 'play'. Nothing can be wrong in my workshop." Orchestra musicians were good at playing written music but had never tried improvisation or music without notation. Most of young people did not have enough experience to play a musical instrument or read notation. At first I did not use notation nor set many rules. I just encouraged them to enjoy playing and making noises. Most of them did not choose loud instruments like drums. They chose quiet instruments like small toys, castanets etc. JCSO orchestra players didn't play their own instruments such as violin, violoncello, trombone, but tried small percussions or toys. Because I asked them not to teach music to those young people, they just played music for themselves. I hoped that both orchestra players and young people concentrated on communicating though sounds. But they were still surprisingly shy and not communicative enough yet. Nobody played loud. Nobody was active. Nobody played outstandingly. Nobody took initiative. What could we do? From this situation I got an idea to make a concerto for the quietest soloist.
Concerto for a quietest soloist
Concerto is a musical composition for solo instrument accompanied by a symphony orchestra, and the soloist has to be a virtuoso, who can play the instrument as intense as the full-orchestra, for example violin concerto, piano concerto etc. In our workshop we tried very unusual concerto, which had the quietest instrument as a soloist. A small tambourine became our solo instrument. Even a tiny castanet played the most important role. A piece of paper also became our solo instrument. Anything can be the solo instrument of our concerto. Anybody can be our soloist. At first nobody was brave enough to play the part of soloist, but one of the members called up all her courage and tried it. She still looked very shy and played the tambourine quietly. All the others improvised even quieter to follow and accompany her solo performance. After the performance, she looked still shy but just a little more confident than before, told us that she felt happy to achieve the soloist. Other members also challenged the solo. Although they felt that they had difficulty in communication and did not have energy to do anything in public before soloist trials, they succeeded in getting over this difficulty. Because the soloist was an inconspicuous non-skilled musician, everybody else in our orchestra had to play less outstanding. If the soloist played a small bell, even loud instruments such as trombone or drums had to be much quieter than it. We named it as "Hello Life Concerto", which became our first unique collaborative composition. Both orchestra players and young people got positive energy from the workshops.
Orchestra workshop without notation
Even if somebody who does not read music hopes to join in symphony orchestra, there is no room for him. Symphony orchestra is normally intended only for musicians who read music not for people who do not read western notation. In that sense symphony orchestra is not very much inclusive. Through my workshops JCSO players started thinking of the possibility how we can make an orchestra more inclusive. After the 3rd workshop I was asked to let them lead a workshop although they had never done it before. Certainly I accepted their proposal and they made their debut of creative music workshop focusing on Frank's "Symphony in D minor". Their workshop did not use notation at all even though they specialised in notated music and not experienced improvised music. This was the first step to look for a new model as inclusive symphony orchestra.
Young people started taking initiatives
Young people also started to challenge. After the 3rd workshop, they planned to go to the concert by JCSO. Most of them did not have experiences to see any concerts by professional orchestra. They were so fascinated by the symphonic sounds and energy by JCSO, they felt they should start something by themselves. They had never done anything on their own initiatives. They started their own voluntary workshops. One of them found a rehearsal studio while another planned how to lead the workshop. They got much more active than before. The manager of JCSO evaluated this project using a "Social Functioning Scale (=SFS)" of all the young people who participated. SFS is a scale to assess the ability of those with mental-health problems to engage in social interactions, interpersonal relationships, and activities of independent living. Their SFS scores in average was 65.9 at the beginning but 76.8 in the end. They also became much more confident in themselves to be sociable.
Since we started "The Work", JCSO became more and more active. JCSO and I started another community programme in collaboration with Osaka College of Music, which included Japanese traditional musical instruments to pursue inclusive symphony orchestra. JCSO also started a new business, the management of concert halls, to find a new role of orchestra in society. Just before the final proofreading of this publication, I got news that "The Work" had been nominated, as one of the 28 projects by orchestras all over the world, for the Innovation Award 2018 of "Classical: NEXT". I am really glad to realize that the expressions of young unemployed people are influential to change conservative Western Classical Music.
Interlude – or coffee break
Before going to read next chapter, why don't you enjoy environmental sounds around yourself? Music in Japanese Is ongaku ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). On ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) means sounds and gaku ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) means enjoy. If you enjoy the sounds, they can be music for you. That is why my orchestra includes various materials, such as bottles, balloons, tables, books, stones, whatever produces nice sounds as well as so-called musical instruments. Have you refreshed your ears and brains? OK, let's go to the next episode.
(III) Music on Kawara (=Roof Tile Music Project)
My music policy is always anti-exclusion. In this chapter I threw light on kawara ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], or traditional Japanese roof tiles, as my favourite sounds. Through collaboration with local kawara factories in a rural village, I developed "Music on Kawara", or "Musik Genteng" from musical and social point of view.
In 2013 the Awajishima Art Centre(=AAC) invited me as the guest artist for Awajishima Art Festival. Awajishima ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is a small island. Its area is 592.6 km2, which is about 82% of Singapore's area. Its population is approximately 140,000, which is 2.5% of Singapore's. AAC is the non-profit organisation to organize workshops and exhibitions based in Sumoto, which is a city in the middle of Awajishima.
AAC asked me to lead a music project to use materials in Awajishima. The staff took me to many different places in the island and I really enjoyed the beautiful view in the countryside. Soon I noticed there were many traditional Japanese houses, which had amazingly beautiful silver-coloured roof tiles. I had seen such extraordinary roof tiles on national heritages like Buddhist temples or old castles, but not on normal houses. Then I realised roof tiles was one of the major industries in Awajishima. AAC staff took me to a village called Tsui([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), which was one of the biggest kawara producing villages.
Tsui looked really attractive and was beautiful village. There were many kawara factories. They said that Tsui used to have more than 100 kawara factories, but nowadays it only has around 40 because recently less and less people build houses in traditional Japanese style. People in big cities tend to prefer living in modern buildings rather than in Japanese houses with kawara, and as a result the kawara industry is facing the situation that the number of product is getting smaller and smaller year after year and Tsui was getting underpopulated. In 1955 Tsui had a population of 2,919, but in 2014 it had 1,51529.
In the village I found a number of old roof tiles in a garden beside a tiny street. How unusual! They were supposed to be not in the garden but on top of houses! I had never seen roof tiles on the ground. As I thought this was a special chance to play them as musical instruments, I picked up a tile and tapped it by my hand. It sounded much clearer than I expected. I chose another tile and played it. Although it looked exactly same as the first one, it sounded completely different. I realised each tile had different pitch. Then I could make a musical scale by combining different roof tiles! The idea of using roof tiles as musical instruments came to me. I decided to start a new project "Music on Kawara", or "Musik genteng" in Awajishima and invited Kumiko Yabu, a creative percussionist, as my collaborator.
We formed a community band, in which both children and adults enjoyed playing improvised music on kawara. 22 people, from 4-year-old kid to 74-year-old gentleman, took part in our "Kawara Band". In order to start this band we started to collect many tiles. At first the local people and kawara craftmen looked sceptically at our project because normally kawara is used for the architecture not for music. Through workshops, little by little local people started to understand our intention. Some factories were very cooperative to contribute different tiles to us. Some of the members of Kawara Band did not have any experience to play musical instruments. They said that music on kawara was quite primitive and easier to start with than music at school or piano lesson because they did not have to care about any music theory. In each workshop we experimented many different ways to play kawara, for example bouncing golf balls on the tiles. After 6 workshops we achieved a concert entirely playing tiles in the Awajishima Art Festival. Kawara factory owners also participated in it with their family.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Art of Anti-Exclusion"
Copyright © 2018 Felicia Low.
Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Asia, Community and Aesthetics, v,
1. Creative Music of Anti-Exclusion (Japan), 1,
2. Play the Beat, Feel the Rhythm, Experience Unity, Celebrate Life (Singapore), 10,
3. Open Desires. Exploring difference through realities and dreams in Unseen: Constellations (Singapore), 17,
4. Art Course (3 years) - A 3-year pilot project on designing and structuring a basic and comprehensive art education for people with special abilities (Hong Kong), 35,
5. Family Portraits Project (Indonesia, Bandung, Pulosari), 61,
6. From the 'slavery of capitalism' to liberation in 'liquid modernity': The participatory arts practised by the Community Cultural Development (Singapore), 70,
7. Seniors in Theatre (Singapore), 86,
8. Project Grey: A Project with the Transgendered Community (Bangalore, India), 93,
9. In.Visible: Dance with Persons Living With HIV (Singapore), 96,