*Copyrights of some photo materials belong to: Kai Bienert, Tsukasa Yajima and Sho Niino
“The L and R Problem”
Duration: 40 min/ Video collage, slide projection, Voice , Music live performance in 3 chapters.
“The L and R problem” is a complex journey through Japanese history, using music, sounds, clips from documentary films, quotes from various compositions, ceremonial sutra singing, playing live instruments and electronic sounds asking crucial questions about society, ecology, politics, responsibility and the role of the individual being challenged by all this. The piece has been premiered at the Festival “Relevante Musik” in 2013 in Berlin. It is the second part of an ongoing series of works dealing with issues related to the Fukushima power plant desaster in 2011. As a Japanese musician living in Berlin for some years I felt the strong need to react to these events in a personal manner but in connection with a number of topics being important not only for Japanese but for human beings in general and deploying various artistic elements to bring together a multimedia performance with live elements.
From the time nuclear power plants began to operate in Japan up the year 2003, an estimated 400,000 people have worked in them as day-laborers. This number is approximately the population of medium-sized cities like Bochum or Manchester. Looking back not only at the history of those modern slaves and social outcasts, but at Japan’s history in general, I realized: The rather depressing situation that Japan’s society is facing right now – scientific authorities trying to brainwash people with absurd theories, politicians keep on saying nuclear energy is without alternative, even though this technology has produced an enormous number of victims – this whole disaster started not just in March 2011, but already way back during World War II. Still, some people think that Japan’s problem is electricity- if we shut down nuclear power plans there will not be enough energy ( = light) for a rich and highly industrialized country. In my opinion, the key question in Japanese society is not about energy problems, it is one of human rights. The title of the performance ironically refers to a typical problem of spoken language ( sometimes also the subject of numerous racist jokes) – Japanese native speakers very often are not able to clearly differentiate between the pronunciations of ” L” and “R” … That makes “Light” and “Right”, sound the same to us. A homophonic confusion with serious consequences.
Part I/ Introduction (video collage + music performance)
A short audiovisual travel through some sensitive parts of Japanese history, following the path of war crimes up to modern slave workers. Economy, technology, politics and society are in a fragile balance or rather in a strange bias. Our mental state of mind has been infected with the notion of victimization and the worship of technical supremacy. Like most Japanese, I quite naively didn’t see any connection between Hiroshima, Nagasaki and nuclear power plants. I just believed, that with our high technology, nuclear energy is clean and safe. But when doing research after the events of 2011, I realized that there are thousands of radiation-exposed workers and they are literately on the bottom of the social hierarchy. A documentary film from 1984 portrays the life of these under-class workers in Japan. It describes how these people are exploited from everyone, from the Yakuza, the companies, and even in the hospital from doctors who use their corpses for experiments after their deaths. This exploitation has roots in history. Unit 731 was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during 1937–1945. Under the name of science and medical research the members committed most horrible crimes against humanity. When Japan surrendered US officials indemnified those military doctors in order to get and exploit the research data. Most of the members of 731 became authorities at medical science sections and occupy high positions – until today, unpunished, and unquestioned.
Part II / Little boy and a worker (music performance)
“Little boy” is the well-known name of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It is also the title of an electronic music piece for Hiroshima composed by Jean-Claude Risset in 1968 . In this piece he used the Shepard–Risset glissando a technique of auditory illusion of a tone. It was said, that using this illusionary continued tone, Risset might have wanted to describe the moment of the A-bomb falling from the sky to the city of Hiroshima. In 1999 there was an accident at the Tokai Nuclear Power plant and one worker died after 81 days. The radiation destroyed his DNA, which had the fatal consequence that basic functions of his body did not work properly anymore—skin, muscles, organs did not recover and heal—at the end he passed away. The doctors stated that most of his muscles were heavily damaged except one— it was the heart’s muscle. Although his entire body functions collapsed until the end his heart pumped strongly for sending blood to whole body. The Shepard tone as a reference to the victims of the atomic bomb and the heart beat as a reference to the victims of nuclear power plant. For those who suffered from “nuclear technology”, I am reading the “heart sutra”.
Part III / Money is the best lawyer in Hell (music performance)
Whenever I think of the political and economic elite in Japan, I am reminded of this old adage: “Money is the best lawyer in Hell”. People in power today don’t seem to take any responsibility in regard to the next generations. What counts whatsoever has always been and will always be the profit and the social status. The dialogue of this piece is a conversation between the older and the younger generation spoken in old fashioned manner of Japanese. The banal lesson told by the elderly is simply that money rules everything. Regardless of the realistic danger of another major earthquake in the future, the government has decided to switch on a certain number of nuclear plants, driven by profit expectations, ignoring all risks and possible harm to the population.