Self-described "transboundary sound and visual artist" Yoshio Machida (b. 1967) is the adult mind behind Kindermusik: Improvised Music by Babies. Each of the ten performers on this collection were less than 18 months old when these unusual recordings were made between 2003 and 2005. This is not a vanity project for doting parents, like so many horrifically bad toddler karaoke albums. Instead, Machida has chosen to take seriously the sounds created by the very young. This project reveals at least as much about his mindfulness (and willingness to hear music in everything) as it does about the players and the instinctual creativity that is given free rein in complete indifference to their lack of conventionally recognized skills. Presented within the context of improvised music, these episodes in time become art works rather than entertainment. Silence is used as a structural element on most of these tracks, as young minds constantly stop to savor the wonders of the present moment. Benjamin Deutsch delivers a dramatically paced abstract etude using a toy that generates "ding" tones. One of five performers who were personally recorded by Yoshio Machida, Myona Sonobe was fortunate enough to be placed in front of a steel pan (also called the steel drum), which happens to be Machida's own preferred instrument. Her improvisation has a magical quality similar to what is conjured on the electric piano by little Alyssa Elliott, whose ruminative ritual is ultimately curdled by the addition of prefabricated techno beats. Erophy Dobrovolski uses brute force on the zitar, a five-string descendant of the 20-string sitar that was designed by Niladri Kumar. Dobrovolski's brief contribution is splendidly dissonant, and includes at least one wordless grunt. While Goh Yokota might deserve the title of inadvertent genius for his nearly four minutes of pointillistic improvisation, perhaps less creativity was required of Hinata Miyazaki, who operates a teething ring hooked up to a sampler. The gums of the child, working in busy unity with this hi-tech device developed by Naoko Kubo and Kazuhiro Jo, create sound patterns not unlike John Cage's "Suite for Toy Piano" (1948). The least "musical" sections involve the primal, infantile voices and incidental noises of Maya Konishi and Kristina Postic. Furthermore, Aoi Sato had not a lot of opportunity to be creative while playing with a noisy, heavily programmed toy. The effect is that of a kid fiddling with a battery operated game. Yet most of these recordings have relatively substantial artistic merit. Perhaps the most awesome performance of all was perpetrated using organ and tape recorder, as Bela Elektra Brillowska growls and moans in a sort of monster trance over a repetitive tone that seems to create a rift in space and time. It is powerfully weird and very funny.
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