ASUNA & JAN JELINEK
Watching the Japanese sound artist ASUNA playing the organ, some people might be surprised. ASUNA is no virtuoso flying over the keyboard in a rage. Instead, with the calm gestures of an office worker, he cuts strips of adhesive tape to the correct length before sticking them onto the keys of his instrument. In this way, large clusters of keys are held down, creating a dense and sustained range of frequencies, while the sound artist continually prepares further sets of keys or removes tape again. I have rarely seen a more convincing performance concept, with such a power to fascinate.
"I first met ASUNA when we both gave a concert at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, his home city. He performed the organ drones as described above and I immediately knew I wanted to collaborate with him. Six years and five meetings later, we completed Signals Bulletin. The album includes both joint improvisations and compositions, recorded in Berlin, Kanazawa and Kyoto.
Whether using prepared organ, Casio keyboards or mechanical plastic toys, ASUNA creates rich textures of sound that barely change over long stretches of time. It is a music without breaks. For a while, I was unsure how my loops made using modular synthesizers and live sampling fitted here until I realized the role I had to take in this duet: I would provide the rhythmically pulsating foundation over which his dense continuums could unfold.
The result is harmonically drifting superclusters that put us into a meditation-like state. It can perhaps be compared to Automatic Writing a mode of creative expression floating somewhere between concentration and distraction. Both the structure of our pieces and our approach to our instruments allow a similar absence: we let the machines play and repeat themselves while we, in a mild form of trance, adopt the role of observers, intervening only occasionally.
It is no coincidence that ASUNA owns a collection of Doodle Art drawings jotted down during conversations or while talking on the phone. It is said that works made like this point to the unconscious and reveal pet motifs because a doodler always inadvertently returns to his or her favourite themes. The artwork for Signals Bulletin features pictures from the collection, in this case sheets of paper from the pads provided in stationery shops to test out pens. The special quality of such doodles is that the jumble of drawings is the work of a collective whose individual members do not know each other. Layer by layer is added, by someone different each time until it becomes a dense cluster of lines and symbols ..."
Jan Jelinek, Berlin 2018