RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Interview with Yui Onodera

img  Tobias Fischer

Cities are increasingly looking the same all over the world. Do you feel globalism is hurting our sense of identity?
Certainly. One could say that cities in various countries will tend to have a similar surface structure. They are losing their identity by accumulating various differences. They look like noise.
I do regret a little that the identity of each country can't be more clearly discerned because of the advanced information network. And it is also happening to music. I feel the possibility of progress in music is obstructed by a tendency towards leveling, because of overcovered information. The "environment" that I'm referring to isn't just our surrounding nature or factors like climate. It is also a historical context with characteristics relating to different peoples. It is the cultural context and the social climate, which we can see. Researching these themes is very important in every work I compose.

In which way is there is a “Japanese” element in your approach to music?

The aesthetics of subtraction are important. They delineate how to compose  space and time at a minimum volume and with as few sounds as possible. This principle is based on the old Japanese sense of beauty, often represented by the Japanese garden, for example. It is a very Japanese approach to think that there is not time first, but that there is time between one sound and the next. Moreover, because I am interested in architecture and interior design, their influence may be unconsciously reflected in music as my personal originality.

I was quite intrigued by your suggestion that identity can be “engrained” in sound. This seems to relate to what you just said.

Take, for example, a particular floor material. There are innumerable processes to decide on the grain and the color, the hardness of the material and so forth. When I design a space, I compose by thinking about the balance of the wall, the ceiling, furniture, and the lighting, examining it as a single material. My composition method resembles spatial design to me.

You mentioned that “to collaborate with foreign artists became a chance for facing Japan again for me.”
I didn't actually turn tor myself to make this collaboration more attractive. I turned to Celer. „Generic City“ is a work intending to express Japanese culture through sound. Almost all Japanese are very unconscious of the culture of our home country. This may be a Japanese peculiarity, because we have relied on foreign countries for a lot of generations. A lot us know even less than a foreigner who is learning about Japan - it may be an educational problem.
I found originality in Japanese soundscapes through field recording in Japan. It was a valuable experience that I could learn about Japanese culture as a real experience.

Would you say that Tokyo is representative of the Japanese values you were looking for?
I don't think Tokyo is representative of Japan at all. With a single phrase, it is "noise" and a place of various, mixed cultures. "Not to have a unique culture" is the real identity of Tokyo. I am very interested in places where you can have a clear distinctiveness of a "city". A "city" like Tokyo, however, is generated in said processes, in the same way city-like noise is generated all over the world; I am interested in it very much.

You talked about there being a narrative suggested by the material you collected.

As mentioned, I am deeply interested in the structure of the city. When we did our last interview, I had already started to research the city. Kevin Lynch's book "The Image of the City" has affected the production of "Generic City". For instance, I applied his description of how different element interrelate with each other to the composition of this work. We can say that the different soundscapes on the album make for a complex entity because they depend on each other. To me, the result looks very much like a city. This work contains not one aspect, but various aspects, which have a structure that depicts the contradiction of the current city as it is. It is like a documentary, and a story without a script, too.

How did this idea reflect in the process of arranging your materials?

My production process starts with creating sound sources or recorded sources first. The relationship between them becomes clear in the act of composition by using them, even though there may actually be no objective connections. I am, so to speak, relating them to each other, and they thereby come to gradually function as one. This music could not feel consistent if one part were missing. This idea of „assembling different parts to create a new entity" resembles the growth of a city, don't you think?

In which way did your work on the album also touch upon spiritual issues?

It's easy to communicate with people over distance because of developments in technology now, so I think it's very important to really understand your local environment. We have little sense to understand the environment, and the society that we can appeal to, to start improving it for the better. Urban people neither feel an attachment to the city, nor are they taking a very objective standpoint to the environment. If music, however, is a part of the environment, we need to participate with it with an active attitude. It is same in the field of soundscape design.

The project, judging from what you just related, certainly seems very personal. In which way were Celer the right partners to share this intimate experience with?
I felt that we had same sense of beauty, when I listened to the work of Celer for the first time. I contacted them at once, and we started our collaboration. We noticed a common feature while discussing a concept for the work, in that we were city dwellers, and we often use field recordings as an important element for our compositions. Then, we decided to approach the production using the theme of a "city".
Up until now, I used to produce my work based on a conscious representation of environment through sound. On this collaboration, I approached things with a "confrontational" attitude, although I had a "harmonious" stance towards the environment. This change is a major result of the collaboration with Celer, and I'm very satisfied that I could present a different aspect of my music. I really want to continue the collaboration with Celer in the future with a new theme.

Are there plans to become more active again with regards to Critical Path and your own work in the near future?
I'm in the middle of planning the release of a compilation on Critical Path. In it’s current state, it is difficult to secure the time for that, because I am very busy. However, I want to continue the management of the label, and the organization of concert events in sync with the production in the future. I am currently working on the production of a second collaboration with The Beautiful Schizophonic, and a collaboration with Hiroki Sasajima now. I'd be very glad if those could be of interest to a lot of listeners.

By Tobias Fischer

Yui Onodera Discography:
Entropy (Critical Path) 2005   
Punkt (Critical Path) 2006   
Suisei (and/OAR) 2007   
Substrate (    Mystery Sea) 2007   
Rhizome (Gears Of Sand) 2007   
Radiance /w. The Beautiful Schizophonic (Basses Frequences) 2009   
Generic City /w. Celer (Two Acorns) 2010

Yui Onodera

Related articles

Mathieu Ruhlmann: "tsukubai"
Intimate revelations: A psychedelic Hyper-pond ...
Tomasz Bednarczyk: "Let's make better mistakes tomorow"
Indelible images: Draping the intangible ...
CD Feature/ Seaworthy: "1897"
Nescafe and thin blankets: A ...
CD Feature/ Michael Santos: "The Happy Error"; The Green Kingdom: "Laminae"
Irresistible moments of bliss: Maple ...
15 Questions to Yui Onodera
Sound artists are often extremely ...
Yui Onodera: Upcoming soundartist of 2008?
With three new releases on ...

Partner sites