Toshi Ichiyanagi / Takehisa Kosugi / Michael Ranta

Improvisation Sep. 1975

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Following the solo electro-acoustic masterpiece Catch-Wave, recorded in late 1974, Japanese avant-garde legend Takehisa Kosugi's next work grew from a radio session recorded at NHK-Radio's Tokyo studio in September 1975. Featuring Kosugi alongside former John Cage disciple Toshi Ichiyanagi (also first husband to Yoko Ono) as well as Karlheinz Stockhausen percussionist Michael Ranta, the two untitled improvisations -- just under 22 and 23 minutes, respectively -- drew from much the same cloth as Kosugi's earlier work, with a new emphasis on small-ensemble interaction. Though drawn from live playing, the music -- especially owing to Kosugi and Ichiyanagi's ring modulators -- feels more akin to the musique concrète experimentation of Catch-Wave, recorded almost a year earlier. Sources (seem to) include gongs, piano, a bass piano, melodica, dripping water, violin, and traditional Japanese instrumentation. The first side is based around a Kosugi violin drone, building into a series of interruptions and resolutions before a passage driven by Ranta's melodic percussion, in some places recalling some of Ranta's work with microtonal composer Harry Partch. By contrast, the second piece begins with heavy percussion, before thinning into a long, leisurely space. Kosugi was no stranger to collective improvisation. He was -- between 1959 and 1963 -- a founding member of the Fluxus-collaborating Group Ongaku, the first improvising unit in the Japanese avant-garde. Following a stint scoring a sci-fi cartoon, Atom Boy, for Japanese television, he founded environmental jammers the Taj Mahal Travelers, who preferred playing on beaches and hillsides to clubs and festivals. A step back from the grand, transformative scale of the Travelers, Improvisation Sep. 1975 is no less encompassing and enchanting.

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