REVIEW: MIDORI TAKADA AT RISING
A single bell cast in shadows rings throughout the Forum. So quietly at first, then so loudly. The audience holds their breath as Midori Takada takes to the stage, a single star, dressed in intra-planet neo-Tokyo style, and she turns to the audience and gestures for us all to go on a musical journey like no other.
This is the epitome of Rising. Midori Takada is a 70-year-old percussionist, who by all accounts should be one of Japan’s national living treasures. She’s an expert in the field of three-dimensional sound and rhythm, and she’s come to Melbourne to challenge our aural limits. The performance is extraordinary. Evoking standing ovations from some, but not all, her work as part musician, part actor, part high priestess, sends musical notes all over the auditorium so they are not just heard but felt all the way to our toes. The full range of the musical spectrum is experienced, not just in a linear way reliant purely on complexity, composition and execution, but in a deeper, more primordial way connecting beat and breath and creating something spiritual. She’s like a conduit bringing sounds from all over the world to our unaccustomed Western ears.
Takada is known for her re-issued debut solo album Through the Looking Glass which back in 1983 received little acclaim, but upon its 2017 re-release now sells for up to $750 each. She recorded the album 34 years ago on an analogue tape recorder in two days, playing marimbas, gongs, chimes, recorders, a reed organ and Coca-Cola bottles.
After her debut concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Takada felt that playing in an established concert hall felt wrong and went to study drumming in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, and Gamelan music in Bali. She then blended her own constructions of African, Asian and Western patterns and instruments to create a unique soundscape style. While some say her music is similar to techno, Takada doesn’t. She also prefers not to use technology in her repertoire, unless, of course, it is for recordings. She previously used recordings of a pregnant woman’s blood circulation juxtaposed with the unborn child’s heartbeat to feed back into her own heartbeat and then amplified the beats at a concert. This is the kind musician you want at Rising.
The show builds from a single bell to a full suite of high-hats with a marimba, gong, piano and voice along the way. Takada recites poetry from Japanese lyricist, Rokusuke Ei, and reflects on World War 11 and Japan’s surrender. She speaks of “suffering the insufferable” and takes the audience to a very sad dark place gently rotating between strong drum work and intense gong reverberations. From the void, where we are all metaphysically hiding, she then takes about 20kgs of heavy chain and uses it as an instrument to speak the words “sound of shooting stars”. In this pivotal moment, we are released. Her music easily transports us from feelings of fear to euphoria. From heavy to light, from tangible to ethereal. She cleverly uses silence, volume, echo, movement and vibration to trick and push the audience past known musical boundaries. We are then led to a magical performance of physical theatre, meshed with sublime melodies and a stunning finale, where Takada tells us there is “no time to lose”.
But while there is a sense of urgency in her work, there is also the pace and patience that comes with being a very experienced musician. And despite having performed in front of audiences all over, Takada had the grace to warmly express her heartfelt thanks in that beautiful Japanese way that left all of us the world is a better place because of Midori Takada and her music.
Takada was supported by American-Filipino musician Ana Roxanne. Roxanne’s performance was quietly mesmerising. She enchanted the audience with spoken word and synthesised notes that reverberated to evoke feelings of enlightenment. Mixed with Milan Kundera’s writings and French cinema, Roxanne’s music was captivating and thoughtful.
This was a stunning performance by both musicians and proves that Rising was worth waiting three years for.
To find out about other tremendous artists or view the full program go to rising.melbourne