Artist: Various Artists Title: Yasujiro Ozu - Hitokomakura Catalog Number: and/26 Release Year: 2007 Format: CD x 2 Status: Available
CD 1: 01. Steve Roden: Tapping The Inside Of Sitting Still 02. Hitoshi Kojo: Ka Ra Mo 03. Koura: Tadaima 04. Kiyoshi Mizutani: Two Tables (2) 05. Aono Jikken Ensemble: Tsuiso (Chasing Memories) 06. Yoshio Machida: Kaze 07. Alejandra & Aeron: Ukigusa 08. Aono Jikken Ensemble: Kodama (Echoes) 09. Haco: Blind 10. Jason Kahn: Pillow Shot 10, Ukigusa 11. Asuna: From Scene 99 To The End - Kohayagawa-ke No Aki 12. Steinbrüchel: Seen 13. Taku Sugimoto: Tengu In Linguistics 14. Sawako: Tooi Soba 15. Dale Lloyd: One And The Same, Beginnings And Endings
CD 2: 01. Bernhard Günter: Iki No Kaiga 02. John Hudak: My Windsock 03. Steinbrüchel: Waldsee 04. Toshiya Tsunoda: Similar Figure On Horizon 05. Keith Berry: Hatsu Yume 06. Kiyoshi Mizutani: Two Tables (1) 07. Michael Shannon: Hitan 08. Koura: Dakara 09. Roel Meelkop: Ukigusa 10. Marc Behrens: Samma No Aji 11. Lawrence English: Before That Tower Lies 12. Sukora: Rendered 13. Michael Shannon & Dean Moore: Jiken 14. Heribert Friedl: W* 15. Michael Shannon: Graced By Loneliness 16. Dale Lloyd: Return To Me Who Sleeps
This is the second of a series of label projects pertaining to film directors. The first one was for Andrei Tarkovsky, the third one is currently in progress and pertains to Michelangelo Antonioni's "Tetralogy" (L'Avventura/La Notte/L'Eclisse/Deserto Rosso).
This second release turns its focus upon Yasujiro Ozu's use of "pillow shots" (i.e. short poetic pauses that appear between the acting segments of his films). The term "pillow shot" was not coined by Ozu himself, but several years after his passing in the early 1960s by a Japanese journalist who was trying to draw a comparison of the intermediate scenes to "pillow words" found in traditional Japanese poetry. This is a double CD release with both CDs featuring audio plus a cross-platform compatible PDF booklet containing pillow shots (courtesy of Criterion Collection) and liner notes.
Each artist featured on this release was asked to choose one or more "pillow shots" to use as inspiration for their pieces. A large assortment of pillow shots was provided for the artists to choose from. The artists also watched the films from which the pillow shots came from in order to get a sense of how their chosen pillow shots were employed by Ozu.
The sound work featured represents a wide range of artistic approaches, but as always with these projects, the artists were chosen specifically, based on their previous work and on how it might contribute to the collective whole of each project.
Liner note text by Doug Cummings (Masters Of Cinema and Filmjourney.org) and Dale Lloyd (and/OAR).
Bagatellen (August 2008) The second of and/OAR’s tributes to film directors, Yasujiro Ozu – Hitokomakura, is an extensive work, which is to say nothing of its uniqueness. Twenty-five musicians and ensembles put to tape their interpretations of select still scenes from various Ozu films, in an instance of art responding to art. I get enough from simply listening to the comparatively short pieces across two CDs, but another experience is delivered in taking Hitokomakura as a whole. Ozu is known for his posthumously-coined “pillow shots” – those visual segues between scenes with the camera seated before a snapshot of the world as it might relate to humanity. Humanity is indeed the defining characteristic of Ozu’s oeuvre, and the music here channels the emotion and mystery well enough. Using still captures of chosen pillow shots, the assignment was to then make music inspired by what is seen. The musicians were also instructed to view the film from which the shots were gathered, in the interest of interpreting the poetic still frames as parts of the greater whole, and, I gather, to allow more perspective from which the music could be made.
As music is a living art, it is always a crunched representation of experience, no? The project’s most literal offering is the Aono Jikken Ensemble’s “Kodama (echoes)”. It’s a four-minute piece that adheres to the concept but goes a bit further by summarizing a complete passage of the subject (The End of Summer, 1961), and not just the shot itself. Live snippets of voice and acoustic instruments are laced over field recordings. In this case, a pillow shot of crows atop gravestones is the inspiration. The ensemble’s accompanying notes to the music explain that the piece reflects upon the life of family father Manbei, yet no summary may be required when studying the frame alone. The ensemble’s field recording of crows is hardly abstract, but through the additional gorgeously capture sounds – confined to four-plus minutes – there is the unmistakable sense of development, as in a miniature story. Other offerings included are from Roel Meelkop, Steinbrüchel, Haco, Steve Roden, Jason Kahn, Hitoshi Kojo, and Marc Behrens, to name a few. The discs also contain a PDF-file, which include graphics (compliments of Criterion) of respective pillow shots for each track, and, in some cases, the musicians’ personal notes on inspiration/instrumentation. A sure keeper that deserves to be heard and studied, and a lovely homage to Ozu. (Al Jones)
Bodyspace.net (February 2008) É surpreendente dar conta de que por vezes basta activar um conceito inteligente para alumiar uma perspectiva até aí desconsiderada ou pouco questionada. A partir de uma selecção que privilegiou a consistência e validade da matéria, a and/OAR, selo prestigiado de Seattle, conseguiu, através de uma dupla compilação, provocar uma reavaliação da relação a manter com o cinema do mestre japonês Yasujiro Ozu - conhecido também como o poeta do quotidiano, tal era a sua tendência para retratar a rotina da classe média japonesa do seu tempo, frisando aspectos globais como a circularidade e o carácter transitório da vida, e recusando, sempre que possível, colocar em prática acessórios ocidentais como a moral fácil e artifícios melodramáticos.
Ao longo dos cinquenta e quatro filmes que compõem o seu muito apreciado (e imitado) cânone, Yasujiro Ozu manteve-se fiel aos mesmos temas e estrutura narrativa utilizada. Sobre a última, sabe-se que progredia através de diálogos e outras vulgares ocorrências familiares, e que - respeitando a resistência do público - abria espaço a momentos reflectivos através da inserção pontual de pillow shots (conhecidos também como espaços intermediários). A funcionalidade dos pillow shots assentava principalmente na necessidade de assinalar a passagem do tempo de um modo neutro e desvinculado de um só personagem – por regra, consistia simplesmente num plano único de uma paisagem campestre ou industrial, um estendal de roupa sujeita à vontade do vento, o registo circunstancial da circulação de comboios ou barcos.
A and/OAR reconheceu perspicazmente o valor dos pillow shots como pontos de referência passíveis de interpretação livre por parte de diversos artistas sonoros - levando isso a que distribuísse por algumas dezenas desses estetas um generoso número de pillow shots, encorajando a que a imagem atribuída fosse considerada como parte do filme a que pertence. O resultado materializou-se na compilação Hitokomakura, que, além dos exercícios reunidos, contém, em cada um dos seus discos, um ficheiro PDF que corresponde cada pillow shot a seu dono e, assim, permite uma mais completa contextualização de tudo o que por aqui desfila.
A partir dos múltiplos matrimónios instigados por Dale Lloyd (patrão da and/OAR e participante directo em Hitokomakura), descobre-se então o germinar de outros enquadramentos lógicos que poderiam, porventura, passar despercebidos até aqui. Serve isso para esclarecer que Ozu dedicava meticuloso cuidado às suas composições visuais tal como às sonoras - sendo habitual escutar aos seus filmes passagens que somam ou isolam o cantar de pássaros, o ruído de transportes e o burburinho constante de uma localidade habitada (gomos de uma mesma roda dos sons comuns). Hitokomakura esmera-se por demais em prestar elegia a essa noção de que Ozu era, além do celebrado poeta do quotidiano, também um estudioso do som e do seu enquadramento na vida de cada dia. É evidente que isso cativa estudiosos das propriedades do som como Taku Sugimoto, Toshiya Tsunoda ou Marc Behrens – esses que, entre outros, se servem do mote para, à sua maneira, elaborarem um diário metódico directamente inspirado pelo tal pillow shot. A partir de field recordings e instrumentos acústicos, obtêm-se postais naturalistas que nem sequer deixam de parte a harmonia zen-budista parcialmente presente no cinema de Ozu (essa perspectiva é nitidamente constatável nas participações de Yoshio Machida e do Aono Jikken Ensemble).
Contudo, cada levantamento verificado é inevitavelmente hipotético. Hipotético porque, na vida tal como no cinema de Ozu (o corpo e o seu espelho), tudo se encontra submisso a uma relativização a que não há escape possível. Hitokomakura acaba por ser um objecto de um valor imenso, pelas tais pistas que deixa soltas em relação à composição sonora, enquanto subestimada extensão do génio de Ozu. Além disso, repare-se que funciona em pleno mesmo quando à revelia desse paralelo – assim dita o seu desdobramento em paisagens perfumadas e divisões (templos) propícias ao apuramento de uma estabilidade espiritual superior. Fica-se pelo excelente mas... (Miguel Arsénio)
Cyclic Defrost (January 2008) Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu has never so much tried to express his own thoughts as he has endeavored to help clarify those of others. Hitokomakura, a double CD comprising thirty-one tracks, may be taken as reciprocation, as a counter-gift or sacrifice on the part of the artists involved. Steve Roden, Keith Berry, Bernhard Gunter, Taku Sugimoto, and Toshiya Tsunoda, amongst a welter of others, each select a 'pillow shot' by Ozu, view the remainder of the film, and then fashion a work which portrays and carefully brings into clarity the particular investments underlying the sublime scene in question. The work thus stands as a a tribute and a festive challenge. That each artist took pains to respect the structure of each shot is evident enough, but in reflecting on the scenes in such an undistorted manner, characteristics of a personal sort seep through its pores and challenge the listener to reflect upon the ever-changing relation of this filmmaker to present-day society. A concern with sound and sonic relationships abounds. While flirting with silence, Bernhard Gunter keeps the music mobile, leading the listener through a succession of warm, often delicate, acoustic states. On a similar wave-length, Taku Sugimoto has full, harmonically rich piano notes ease ever-so gently into one another, until the piece comes to partake in a rumination on still, seemingly neutral spaces, a common theme in Ozu's works. Asides from compositions of an electro-acoustic bent, the album canvasses a good many other forms, from minimalism to sound art, and it does so with remarkable naturalness and lack of contrivance, stressing the communicative aspects linking all of these poles. One is left with a simplicity of construction and presentation which has an elegant way of being open to interpretation. (Max Schaefer)
Touching Extremes (October 2007) We owe a lot to labels like and/OAR. Not only because they present us with some of the most extraordinary environment-based aural experiences, something that Dale Lloyd's imprint releases with impressive constancy, but also for their contribution to what we used to call "culture", either in terms of "learning to penetrate both the essence of sound and the absence of it" (which, on a second thought, means much more than culture) or "encouraging new artistic interests" through cross-references to different fields of contemporary creativity.
Enter Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963), a highly respected figure in the opinion of movie connoisseurs, his art being mostly constructed upon "insights into family relations, everyday struggles and simple pleasures", as per Doug Cummings' liners. Characteristics that, in today's self-indulgent world, assume a fundamental meaning since our very life - the life outside the circles of "powers" and "establishments", the good old "regular existence" that once was a given if one just stayed on a course, and today is threatened unless you bend to not exactly explained "rules" - can keep going on exclusively by nourishing the core of normality, an extraneous annoyance for the non-silent majority ("money, sex, fame" is nowadays' single refrain). When one takes the whole under a microscope, comparing the activity of listening "in" silence and "to" silence to the inner balance that we should always maintain, and which seems to stimulate abnormal behavioural responses in a largely repressed human neighbourhood, then it's possible to acknowledge the importance of such an edition.
A double CD comprising 31 tracks - their compositional methods analyzed in the PDF booklet available as a file in both discs - whose beauty is reinforced by a series of factors that include the depth of the location recordings constituting the foundation of the large part of this music, the sensitive use of instruments and electronics complementing them, the pregnant hush that leaves spaces for the mind to add its own variations and colours and, last but not least, the earnestness of the participants (among the many, Marc Behrens, Keith Berry, Lawrence English, Heribert Friedl, Bernhard Gunter, Haco, John Hudak, Jason Kahn, Dale Lloyd, Roel Meelkop, Kiyoshi Mizutani, Steve Roden, Sawako, Steinbruchel, Taku Sugimoto, Toshiya Tsunoda). There are outstanding moments of contemplative self-collection (a personal highlight is the Berry / Mizutani / Michael Shannon consecutiveness on the second disc) and several sections where we struggle to distinguish between record and reality (until, in my case, I was brought back to the latter by the firing guns of the nearby hunters during Gunter's wonderful flute meditation, reminding that the battle against men's stupidity is definitely a lost cause). All things considered, Ozu is probably smiling somewhere, as this is a gorgeous piece of sound art that succeeds in every account, the perfect tribute to painful sensibility. (Massimo Ricci)
Furthernoise (October 2007) The and/OAR label, which mainly focuses on “environmental recordings,” has beaten the odds and delivered a highly engaging concept record in the form of a double CD, various-artist tribute to the late Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. Steve Roden, Alejandra & Aeron, Bernard Gunter, Marc Behrens, and John Hudak are a just a few of the notable artists that contributed works.
At first glance, Hitokomakura could have been a disaster; seemingly random contributions from big-name artists, 31 tracks long, a slightly over reaching selection of genres - and for us audio snobs - the apparent lack of a mastering engineer. To be fair, it would be next to impossible to sequence this type of compilation to give it a natural flow. However, this tribute succeeds because of its ability to draw implicit parallels between Ozu's film making technique and the aesthetic choices the compilation’s contributing artists employ to create meditations on environmental space.
The handsome CD packaging includes a well-written introduction by Doug Cummings that provides context to Ozu’s contributions to film. We learn the filmmaker employed “pillow shots” to provide emotional resting points or dramatic pauses in the narrative. Think of these cinematic moments as “still lifes” where the content is devoid of any meaning, but inserted to set pacing. I will admit to never having seen an Ozu film, but after reading the introduction, I went straight to my Netflix queue to fix that problem.
According to Dale Lloyd, and/OAR label boss, audio contributor, and executive producer of Hitokomakura, “…all the artists featured on this release were invited to choose one or more pillow shots from an assortment of Ozu films; then watch the film (or films) and create new pieces based on their impressions.”
Various Ozu screenshots, Lloyd’s liner notes, and other helpful reading material are included as part of the overall product in a PDF contained within the CD's.
I recommend that if you find a particular photograph or scene compelling, skip to that track first then jump to the next interesting scene or track using the PDF document as a reference. Remember, all the pieces are derivative or inspired by some meditative scene or pillow shot. This may help explain why I feel the CDs are not cohesively sequenced when listened to straight through without any visual context.
Hitokomakura contains artists working within a wide range of genres, including microsound, onkyo, minimal electronic, phonography, and acoustic ecology. In many ways their contributions feel like excerpts from larger pieces, melodic ambient segue ways, or even interesting noisy room tone recordings. Ozu’s “pillow shots” as expertly translated by sound artists provide Yoga for the ears, and present a case for more subtle, peaceful banality in our audio diet. (Derek Morton)
The Wire (September 2007) Japanese film maker Yasujiro Ozu became famous in the post-war period for his depictions of family life amid the tensions of modernity, and his influential use of 'pillow shots' - images of empty domestic space inserted between the main scenes. The latter inspired this wonderfully conceived and executed tribute to Ozu's art. Each artist was invited to select one of these shots, electronic images of which accompany the package, and compose a track to compliment it. Despite the range of idioms on display, from delicate electroacoustic tapestries (Bernhard Gunter) and meditative drones (Keith Berry) to bucolic field recordings (Kiyoshi Mizutani) and frequent uses of silence (almost all), each perfectly serves their respective image. Highlights include Steve Roden's beautiful pairing of chiming guitar and hushed percussive patterns; label owner Dale Lloyd's gently shifting gamelan shapes; and Taku Sugimoto's "Tengu In Linguistics", where he drops six strident piano notes into a reductive vacuum, reflecting another of Ozu's themes, the eschewal of action in favour of the contemplation of the surrounding space. (Spencer Grady)
Igloo (September 2007) These thirty-one imaginary soundtracks combined in a deluxe two-pack are based on the films of Yasujiro Ozu. A very diverse international compilation that includes work by John Hudak, Roel Meelkop, Steinbruchel, Steve Roden, Taku Sugimoto, Marc Behrens and many others. They've each created their own visual/visceral sound experience for the listener to explore with conceptually dramatic sequencing throughout. In a combination of field recordings, samples and electronic experimentation, most of what is contained herein is a wash of drone and ambience – especially noted in the beautiful three-minute piece "Ukigusa" by Alejandra & Aeron.
Doors creak in syncopation, a stream flows quick and softly, with a light roar from the mysterious outdoors. On Behrens' "Samma No Aji" there's a dramatic shift between understanding the listening experience as sine waves or the nature of crickets. The tone is sharp and postured like stalking prey, while incidental chirping distracts the potential of the situation. The work is dramatically dense and ordered, and not necessarily through common sense, but the shared experience, the happenstance of aural cinema perhaps. As you listen, read deeply into the well-written liner notes from Masters of Cinema's Doug Cummings, who truly gives a quick, yet rounded historical interpretation of Ozu's film work and how it can possibly endure through recordings such as this. The shaking feedback in Asuna's short "From Scene 99 To The End - Kohayagawa-Ke No Aki" alludes to the never-ending buzz of the fixed machine age. It changes the continuum of energy here, but is much needed grounding.
Kiyoshi Mizutani presents two pieces titled two tables (1 and 2) where field recordings of domestic scene, watching television in the kitchen are layered with exotic birds and the hiss of a light rain. Part 1 sounds like the bass roar of a waterfall combined with the delicate gathering of well water, or bathing. There are voices and knocking (industrial or 'peckers?). Rustling through woods can be heard over a fine din of more rapturous rain, along with vehicles whizzing by and a few cawing birds. It's all quite noir, really. "Tooi Soba" is Sawako's unusual free-form ambient noise contribution. Sauntering in slippers, perhaps prepping breakfast with the clink of teacups, it's definitely morning. There's a frustrated bit of pacing, and a few sparse words as familiar birds call. This is the morning after (what though)? Dale Lloyd contributes one of the few truly melodic pieces here called "Return To Me Who Sleeps" which closes the set. Strumming on strings, with the echo of a gong-like instrument, there's a distinctly Japanese quality to the timing of his playing as it fades softly. (TJ Norris)
Aquarius Records (August 2007) Yasijiro Ozu was a Japanese filmmaker (1903-1963) who had emphasized restraint throughout the 54 films of his career, offering emotionally rich, if purposefully understated narratives about the simple pleasures and pains of everyday life. This compilation is a tribute to Ozu's tableaux; and given that Ozu quietly punctuated his tales with shots of clouds, arrangements of bottles, industrial landscapes, and other environments, the tribute features a handful of suitably quiet sound artists who often use field recordings or environmental space within their work. Steve Roden is the perfect artist for such a tribute; and fittingly, he opens this compilation. His circular softness for chimed guitar and tapped drum patterns is a wonderful departure in which Roden pushes his sound design closer to the post-rock elegance of Bark Psychosis. Roden's piece is one of the better tracks on this compilation, with other highlights including Keith Berry's mournful grayscapes of drone and slow-motion crackle, Toshiya Tsunoda's impeccable recording of aerated hiss, a series of lilting lullaby chimes from John Hudak, There's plenty of raw phonography from the likes of Hitoshi Kojo (aka Spiracle), Kiyoshi Mizutani, Michael Shannon, and Ralph Steinbruchel. Taku Sugimoto's piece has to be noted for its sheer blankness except for six piano notes that emphatically emerge after 3 and a half minutes of silence. This happens to be the second tribute to filmmakers from and/OAR, following the now out-of-print compilation homage to Tarkovsky Another Kind Of Language.
WHITE_LINE (July 2007) From a very simple premise, that of inviting experimental musicians and sound workers to interpret the film work of a renowned Japanese director, comes a startling and invigorating panoply of sounds and visions in the form of the and/OAR double CD release,“Hitokomakura”.
Interlocking at the threshold of perception, “pillow shots” are a device that film directors utilise to cut away between “action” or narrative, a discrete segue that mainstream directors and audiences alike invariably attach little significance to, in preference of the more meaty intricacies of production, plot, narrative, action and acting . Yasujiro Ozu, famed in the main for his intimate portraits of the everyday, a series of seemingly mundane occurrences finely wrought in hyperreal detail, and a gentle, enveloping pace, (his work seemingly composed entirely of overlapping pillow shots in themselves) has become the focus of attention for label curator, and cinephile Dale Lloyd.
Hitokomakura is without doubt, Lloyd’s labour of love, and like the recently released Extract booklet by NVO, shares a similar, towering roster of some 25 artists,of varying pedigree. To focus attention on any one artist from such a wealth of talent would be to relegate others of equal stature, so I will save any kind of musical analysis or critique for those braver and better than I.
One unique selling point of this scintillating double CD pack is that it is enhanced by the addition of a series of Windows and Mac compatible pdf files, that house some of Ozu’s images, and gives the artists an opportunity to describe their approach. Very often, source material is gleaned from the most obtuse and elliptical angles, and each artist defines their approach concisely, elevating this release way above it’s contemporaries for sheer entertainment value alone. Needless to say, most of the soundworks on display here are subtle workings and reworkings of pillow shots, or in some cases take the pillow shots, or other fundamental elements of Ozu’s ouevre as the point of departure, a catalyst for musical inspiration that in most instances touches on beautifully nuanced, meditative works of Zen-like ambience.
No longer a fledgling label, and/OAR has gained ground and reputation on a series of releases with an almost obsessive focus on field recording, and it’ s associated personnel, and on Hitokomakura, Lloyd simultaneously reconfigures the definition of what field recording actually is, and in turn presents us with a simulacra, a second hand field recording at a distance, but nevertheless, a singularly beautiful collection of sounds ,images and texts..this is the kind of stuff that I live for…exceptional. (Baz N)
Smallfish (July 2007) When an album of this calibre drops onto the Smallfish doorstep it's really a rare treat. Based around the idea of legendary Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu's 'Pillow Shots' ('still life or neutral images in films that serve as visual and emotional resting points') the artist were invited to choose a Pillow Shot by Ozu (and you can see these in the accompanying PDF documents on the discs) and then compose a track to accompany it having watched the entire film that the shot came from to give it some overall context. The range of styles is, frankly, marvellous and features some real heavyweights from the world of contemporary electronic music, electro-acoustic sound and field recordings. Steve Roden, Steinbruchel, Sawako, Kiyoshi Mizutani, Alejandra & Aeron, Lawrence English, Roel Meelkop, label owner Dale Lloyd, Heribert Friedl, John Hudak, Keith Berry and plenty more all feature and from that list alone you should be able to get a sense of how expansive this double CD is. From micro-fine minimalism, through to deeply beautiful sculptured sound and on into cleverly adapted field recordings that seem to capture the essence of the frames perfectly. A brilliant work of musical art (literally and otherwise) that really deserves your attention as work of this calibre is something to savour. Remarkable. (Mike Oliver)