The luminary of electronic music and visual arts presents an analogue performance during Rewire 2022 in collaboration with Les Percussions de Strasbourg. 100 Cymbals gives a fascinating insight in the tension between the digital and the physical and is a prime example of the electrifying sensibilities of the Japanese master.
The mathematical precision of 0s and 1s fuses with the ecstatic in the remarkable world of Ryoji Ikeda. The Japanese-born artist remains one of the most pre-eminent figures in contemporary electronic music and visual art, a sculptor of sound and light that transforms the binary nature of computer code into complex and overwhelming sensory experiences.
His breakthrough album +/- (1996) opened up a new world of electronic music with piercing sound design, complex rhythmic arrangements and enveloping compositions that can bridge the entirety of the sonic spectrum, from throbbing sub-basses to near-inaudible high-pitched frequencies. It’s a fascinating and hypnotic work that sits comfortably between the art gallery and the club.
Ikeda’s complex sonic arrangements already evoke grid-like visuals, so it comes as no surprise that the artist has found a unique aesthetic for his installation and film work. You could say that Ikeda’s visual art exposes the wiring of his sonic machinery, but that would be too much of a functional description of his staggering work. Rather, Ikeda has found an audiovisual language to capture the frantic processing of computers, ferociously producing and consuming data. Computers, however, are no indifferent entities in the world of Ikeda. They can be merciless machines that devour code, sure, but within that electronic aggression may reside a sense of beauty and a glimpse of the sublime.
Ever prolific, Ikeda has released over a dozen albums, produced even more solo exhibitions and has worked on a wide-range of collaborations and performances with other musicians, performers, dancers and even orchestras. These collaborations draw out a different aspect of Ikeda’s art, as he’s invited to combine his highly distinctive, digital sensibilities with a human factor, which often leads to an exciting clash between the digital and the analogue. In 2016, Ikeda premiered music for percussion, a collaboration with Swiss percussion ensemble Eklekto. The first half of this acoustic performance applies Ikeda’s compositional methods to the purely physical realm, transforming the human body into a music-generating machine. The second half sees Ikeda exploring the sound-generating qualities of metallic percussion through the triangle, crotale and cymbal.
Ikeda intensified this exploration of analogue sounds and physical performances by collaborating with contemporary classical music percussion ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg. During Rewire 2022, this highly renowned ensemble will perform a piece by Ikeda that explores the sonic range of the cymbal in even more extreme forms. Employing ten percussionists in a geometrical set-up consisting of one hundred cymbals, this captivating performance subverts the audience’s expectation of the metallic instrument that’s often used for its rhythmic signposting. Here the cymbal becomes a site of harmonic tension, producing alluring and hypnotic sounds that verge on droning synthesizers. In the process, 100 Cymbals is as much a stage performance as another example of Ikeda’s overwhelming, grid-like audiovisual installations. It’s a highly compelling hybrid experience that invites us to rethink the overlap and differences between electronic and analogue music and art. As such, it’s a fascinating way to approach Ikeda’s electrifying application of sound and vision.