Music Without Musicians
Otomo Yoshihide

When I was organizing the Ensembles Asia Orchestra project, the first thing I thought about was how to make music with amateurs, especially children, rather than specialists living in each region. Of course, I could have probably done this without giving any special thought to it and simply making music with the people I met there. But in researching the music in various areas, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Ogijma (a Japanese island in the Inland Sea), Thailand, and Fukushima, and preparing to make music with the people in these places, I began to have the feeling that this approach would merely result in me applying my own concepts to the people there. If I simply reused the same methods I had used in the past, I would end up forcing ideas that I had unconsciously adopted on the people I met. To make music with people I had never met, it was necessary to have a concept unlike anything I had ever used before.

In the midst of my travels, I was struck by the terms “vernacular music” and “music without musicians,” the first of which had been used by the photographer Ishikawa Naoki and the second by project director Arima Keiko. Arima was inspired by the architect Bernard Rudofksy’s phrase “architecture without architects.” Both of these keywords promised to be useful in the project. The term “vernacular” suggests the native or natural features of a place and though it tends to be associated with traditional architecture, the improvisational performances and noise that I am involved in might also be seen as “music without musicians,” or fields in which the distinction between pro and amateur is blurred. The music that I have come across in Indonesia and other areas is certainly vernacular music, so it seemed to me that the orchestra we were setting out to create in these various places in Asia could also be seen as a form of vernacular music.

I am not entirely sure whether the concept of “music without musicians” is a good one or not. But at the very least, it served as a way into the project.