RYOKO AKAMA – Inscriptions


Among other issues, modern-day “composition” expects performers to put a lot of themselves in the rendition of a set of written/graphic instructions/suggestions designed as a “score” by a “composer”, as in the case of Ryoko Akama here. Those who know my opinions about this artistic sphere are aware of my opposition to groundless multitasking, especially if the concepts become more important than the sheer momentousness of the auditory communication.

Still, over the last years I have sincerely liked albums that, on paper, could have been casualties of a firmness that goes against the “dictates of freedom” championed by many current practitioners, mostly in the holy name of John Cage. In essence, playing the zealot with a composer’s purpose (and, sometimes, undeserved renown) is useless if the results are persuasive enough to these ears.

Inscriptions offers two entirely different pieces of 27 minutes each. On “A Proposal, Six” Will Montgomery starts from a simple acute wave and rarefied piano notes in the lower register to gradually increase the levels of impurity – via electronic defacement – in the instrument’s resonant qualities. By doing this, he also belittles the “minimalist” aura characterizing the initial part, shifting the overall balance towards a noisier type of spell. “A Proposal, Seven” finds Joseph Clayton Mills superimposing clinking sounds, diverse types of whirring permanence and field recordings; this communion is interrupted for a while as Mills remains alone with his manual activities halfway through the track. It’s a positively human, if not immediately striking piece.

This record is perceived as a mere presentation of frames, leaving possibilities to the listeners to decide what is best for them to exploit some of their acoustic features. From a strictly emotional point of view, the impression was not huge; even the trademark attempt to use it as a complement to the surrounding echoes of a rural summer did not disclose additional values, much less reminiscences of any kind.

On the whole it’s not a bad release and, most crucial, it never suggested the impulse to stop the playback out of boredom; a plus to begin with. What’s missing is a sense of deeper introspection, having this reviewer remained captured only in spots by what was heard. Taken as an experiment, it is surely an interesting listen.

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