“Inanimate Nature” and “Action Direct”, noise and table guitars by Takayanagi Masayuki on #neuguitars #blog

“Inanimate Nature” and “Action Direct”, noise and table guitars by Takayanagi Masayuki on #neuguitars #blog

When we talk about free jazz guitarists, musicians like Sonny Sharrock and James Blood Ulmer inevitably come to mind. However, their approach to sound and the conceptual mode of expression they have established within free improvisation are not easily comparable with the approach and vision embodied by Takayanagi Masayuki and with the ardent malice and intransigence that have always characterized his music (also during 1969-1972). Other names of his contemporaries also emerge, such as Keith Rowe, Fred Frith and Derek Bailey, musicians who did not use the expressive modalities typical of jazz and who tried to elaborate new musical vocabularies, but once again Takayanagi’s approach to deconstruction, and consequently to the recreation of unpublished structures, was different from those adopted by the names indicated above. Applying a different methodology, Takayanagi wanted to free himself from the rigid connotations linked to jazz, focusing on the gradual extraction of the sound prerequisites and essential elements that make up jazz, replacing them with his own personal musical theories.

As the 1970s concluded their downward path towards the coolness and greater musical marketability of the 1980s, Takayanagi Masayuki continued inexorably to advance into the realms of an uncompromising form of musical expression, deliberately confining himself to a solitary existence on the fringes of the arts. of the show and the more established jazz community. His recordings under the name “Inanimate Nature” and “Action Direct” are two perfect examples of his devastating and fiery solo performances, extremely conceptual works that have dominated the latter part of his record production.

The hostility of many music critics towards those changes that characterize modern art and music is traditional. Art does not progress in the sense that science and technology do. But the arts, music is no exception, evolve and change. I think that, for Takayanagi, music was a new type of tool, to modify consciences and organize new modules of sensitivity. Music critics mistook his innovative ideas for relentless acts of sonic terrorism and condemned him to an exile beyond the confines of musical and social tonality. I believe they were unable to limit, to frame his daring maniacal fury within a clearly defined sub-cultural style or even a sonic micro-cosmos such as those that make up the majority of jazz and rock society, being trapped in the quicksand of one’s own insecurities. Takayanagi, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about being ostracized by the jazz establishment and instead continued to churn out a mass of deadly sonic chaos, carrying out several projects including the “Angry Waves” group.

Slowly freeing himself from the constraints of the bands “New Direction” and “Angry Waves”, Takayanagi began a series of solo performances from January 1985 onwards. These events, mainly staged at Aketa No Mise, allowed him to show and map the entire process of his exploratory solo improvisation sound to its maximum extent.

[Aketa No Mise (“The Open Store”) is in the west of Tokyo, not far from Nishi-Ogikubo station. The Ogikubo area was well known in the 1960s as a meeting place for hippies, artists, political dissidents and the marginalized. It’s a basement jazz club with no pretensions or attention to current trends, a space that is solely concerned with creative expression through music. Live performances are geared towards the more experimental and free aspects, which unfortunately is all too rare these days. Owner Aketagawa-san, who runs the ocarina shop across the street and oversees independent label Aketa Discs, keeps the program diverse and interesting.]

By freeing himself from the sometimes cumbersome role of band leader, Takayanagi was able to focus his attention on perfecting his radical solo performances, which took place under the banner of “Solo Improvisation Action Direct”.

The instrumentation he used at that time consisted of two walkmans, a mixer, various pedal effects and two guitars, one of which was wired with contact microphones, while the other was lying on the table, manipulating the sound with effects. , striking and tapping the ropes with tools such as knives, screwdrivers and chains. To further liven up the sound palette, Takayanagi also used tapes of music by Wagner, Sergei Pro-kofiev and Eimert, fragments of speeches by Mishima Yukio, Hitler and accompaniments of Nazi marches, recordings of industrial machinery and other heavy industries, even if hardly recognizable due to the heavy transformation they had undergone. He also used raw sound sources such as pre-recorded children’s voices, recordings of various foreign languages, Morse code signaling noises etc.

The sounds emitted by his guitars stroked by a bow or tortured with other tools, along with the pre-arranged tapes containing a wide variety of sound materials, were passed through a mixer, altered with multiple effects to be regenerated again as a “creative sound. “, as he called it. This reformulation of the sound molecules through the selection of sound fragments was conceived with a “cut and paste” technique in real time, putting together and overlapping a multiplicity of sound groups and modeling them in a collage / sound montage that included all of these different elements. I believe that Takayanagi’s main approach parameter was the element of tonal color, bringing to the stage the birth of an infinite sound space. This exquisite and finely tuned sense of his sonic coloration and tone was so conspicuously realized that finer elements and radiant counterpoints could be detected, even as he deployed powerful strokes, laden with abrasive sound. Elements of a certain ecstatic refinement manifested themselves at the subliminal level. His sound seemed, at the time, to orient itself towards tumultuous cacophony and industrial noise music, while still managing to overcome the superficiality of senseless bursts of noise by placing them with almost surgical precision where they were needed most. “Action Direct” and “Inanimate Nature” represent the materialization of an out-of-the-ordinary artistic expression, where the space of sound widened as if it had been engaged in trench warfare, a strange infernal soup, a maniacal fury accompanied by damage collateral sound, emanating a high-tension musical form that caused an intense emotional reaction when brought onto the stage.

Towards the end of his life, live performances moved to the “Jean Jean” live house in Shibuya, Tokyo. [Shibuya Jean Jean was a small theater in Shibuya, Tokyo, which opened from 1969 to 2000. It was the venue for regular performances by Takahashi Chikuzan until his death, Nobuo Nakamura from The Lesson and live appearances by Noriko Awaya and Akihiro Miwa .] By then, the unleashed volume had become tremendous and overwhelming, in part due to the extra materials, tools and gadgets it had brought to augment the high unrefined energy charge. Two tabletop guitars roared and howled like a low-frequency motor while four or five cassette decks lined up to perform a variety of sampling functions. Attached under the table was an iron block hung, with contact microphones attached. When hit, it emitted a deafening roar similar to an impact. By now Takayanagi had completely rejected the ordinary way of playing instruments. Where “New Direction for the Arts” used to download and direct the energy of sound in a vast and immense space, “Action Direct” seemed to want to change the density of sound in space. The method of “Mass Projection” and “Gradually Projection” was mixed, used simultaneously and made abstract. The ripple and color of the sound veered towards an immense spatial kaleidoscope, of heavy and deep density. Takayanagi set out to transcend and enhance the physical identity, reality and meaning of individual sound atoms. By transposing the subject into contrast with the object, he aimed to dismantle the meaning of the symbols. and this seemed to be best done through a solo performance rather than through a collective group experience. His extremely noisy adventures aimed at a musical result that conventional sounds were unable to create. With “Action Direct”, Takayanagi also embodied a critical attitude towards the sociological and technological development of the 1980s, distancing himself from the visionary scientific and industrial concepts that the bubble economy had brought with it. His musical systematization of noise was in a sense a new theoretical form that aimed to address this new reality. It reflected on the very structure of society.

Jim O’Rourke writes in the booklet accompanying the CD “Three Improvised Variations on a Theme of Qadhafi” about how strange it can feel to hold and play an instrument intentionally in the wrong way. It is considered bad manners to put the guitar on your back, or play it on a table, but there have been those who have stepped back and said “why not?”. Thus expanding the language of the “most popular instrument in the world”. At the end of his musical adventures, Masayuki Takayanagi had made the same decision, almost as if he were forced to look at his six strings from an other side.

Like Keith Rowe, who played guitar resting on its back, but whose pedals and home-made electronics were more reminiscent of the electronic setups of the 1960s by David Tudor, Gordon Mumma or Takehisa Kosugi. But Takayanagi didn’t sound like any of them. His personal “Mass Projection” created a dense constellation of moving sound bodies, expanding gas and exploding stars. Although the activities of “Action Direct” and “Inanimate Nature” constituted the majority of his transcendental sonic excursions during the 1980s and early 1990s, this did not stop Takayanagi, even towards the end of his life, from facing any challenge. music that crossed its path. Takayanagi represents a man’s ambition to do alone what, to be accomplished, would require the efforts of a whole generation, of an entire sub-culture. His music traverses endless corridors of possibility and discovery, and when we revisit it, we discover that it is still an unmapped territory, an elaborate field full of detailed signs and images … and to think that, some people, still think he has played the guitar in the “wrong” way.


Masayuki Takayanagi, “Action Direct Live At Zojoji Hall 1985”, Tiliqua Records, 2005

Masayuki Takayanagi, “Inanimate Nature”, Jinya Disc, 1990

Masayuki Takayanagi Action Direct, “Three Improvised Variations On A Theme Of Qadhafi”, Jinya Disc, 2002

Masayuki Takayanagi, “Action Direct 1990 Tokyo”, Jinya Disc, 2002, DVD