Soundscapes Volume 3: A conversation with Kazumi
Soundscapes Volume 3: A Conversation with Kazumi Sakoda
Kazumi Sakoda is a Japanese artist currently based in Barcelona, who investigates sound through gathering samples from the city streets. She is curious and inspired to blend landscapes, as if to create a bridge between her past and present home. Interested in the auditory differences gathered between Barcelona and her home city of Tokyo, Kazumi meticulously hand-transfers her collections of sound to analogue cassettes, where she is able to recontextualize, loop and transform her recordings into musical compositions which blur the boundaries of noise, ambient and experimental music.
We connected visual artist Diana Lynn VanderMeulen with Kazumi to learn more about her practice. This conversation offers insight into Kazumi’s fascination with the analogue cassette, community, and the inspiration that comes from listening to the world around us.
LD: Hi Kazumi! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me further about your work. I am curious, why are you drawn to cassette tapes as a medium to meticulously record and archive sound? Is there a nostalgia to the medium that you are drawn to?
KS: I was born in the 58th Shouwa generation which is a juncture of the time. The entertainment industry at that moment was growing after the collapse of the bubble economy. I got to have a lot of access to music when I was a kid. And the cassette was the most accessible resource that I could get. I used it to record music in front of the TV when music programs started. I was very excited when the original mixtape was successfully recorded, it was like the very first time I made my own creation. I also listened to a lot of electronic music. For instance, Cluster, Bryan Eno, YMO, Susumu, Yokota, etc. It was so innovative and so shocking how the sound could be transformed into various ways with just a single press. As I grew up, the world has become dominated by electronic music. I think it is cool that the sound is so clear and performs in three-dimensional. But if it continues evolving, something will be lost for good. Which is why I want to keep the sound of the cassette. Its sound changes depending on the model of the tape, the age of the cassette, and the decrease of the battery. It doesn't always sound the same. just like mankind. I also like the rubbing sound the tape makes. I like the sounds of friction the tapes make, which reminds me that I like the warmth of human relationships and those personalities in Showa generation.
LD: Last year you launched a project for Mutek inspired by a novel called "Lantern" your classmate Yuzuki Asako wrote. Could you tell me a little bit about that novel and why you felt called to create music in response?
KS: "Lantern" is a symbol, which represents the beacon to show the road. lt is a project to share
knowledge, culture and the universal spirit of helping each other, regardless of gender, selflessly and without paying attention to whether something is lost or gained. The world will remain in the dark if there is no shared common sense. In which the mere competition of strengths and qualifications will dominate society. In this case, “Lantern” means that we should not just be focusing on the light in front of us, but to share a larger part of the spectrum of lumination with the others to light up the world. This project is the original of Kawai Michi, the founder of the school where I graduate from. She was a pacifist and continued to call for peace throughout World War II. Also, she wrote a book called "My Lantern". To inherit that spirit, Yuzuki Asako, a classmate from my school wrote a novel "Lantern". And I was inspired by her novel and followed this path by creating my music as a self-expression, thus taking over from her. like a relay.
LD: You have created a delightful online space, turning your website into a simple instrument which encourages visitors to mix and layer environmental samples to create a custom soundscape. How did you come to create this interactive interface for your work?
KS: I would like visitors to get into my outlook of the music world, and then they can create their own piece of art by interacting with the fragments that I proved, and then enjoy the chemistry that we created together. By enjoying the interactions on my website, they can get to know my idea through their own interpretation of the sounds of my neighbor.
LD: How does your process flow between field recordings into musical creation?
KS: For me, the sounds around are very important. I enjoy being alone and having my own moment, and those sounds always reminded me of those special moments throughout my lifetime. That’s why I love field recording. And the mixture between my music making and field recording came very naturally, which is combining cassettes and the sounds around me
LD: Are there challenges you encounter when working with a medium like handmade cassettes & do you perform live using your cassette archive?
KS: Of course I used cassettes to perform in live, it is a way of my self-expression. And the challenge that I have, probably is that I have to record the sound constantly, because the idea is to show my life in Barcelona, so it is necessary to demonstrate the change withintime, and it takes a lot of effort and patience to accomplish.
LD: Are there particular places that you revisit to compare differences as time passes?
KS: In Tokyo, the famous Yamanote Line has different announcing sounds in different stations, this is to remind all the passengers where the train departed without the need of looking at the sign. It is very interesting for me, and I have a lot of memories with those sound effects. This is why I am also recording the sound I have heard in Barcelona Metro, because it represents the daily life of everyone including me, and it is changing every single day without dragging people’s attention, and I archive that once a while. I sense that your capturing of audio moments tells the narrative of a place as well as a personal narrative.
LD: What type of feeling do you seek to share in your blended landscapes?
KS: The fact is that I was wandering in my mind before I started a new concept or a new project. First I record the sound I like or I need, and then I listen to it again and again, let my mind fully indulge into the sound, and then I create the melody based on the sensation I have at that moment. Sometimes it was cheerful, sometimes it was just calmness. That is why most of my music doesn't have any rhythm, because it fluctuates all the time.
LD: Urban centers are constantly evolving - do you consider your recordings to be an archive of transient sounds?
KS:I am archiving the things that are important for me, so of course I think it is.
Find Kazumi on