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S. Fujii & Otomo Y. - Perpetual Motion

Stephen Smoliar, The Rehearsal Studio


This past Thursday saw the latest release of an album featuring the Japanese pianist and composer Satoko Fujii. The title of the album is Perpetual Motion, and it documents a spontaneous duo improvisation of Fujii at the keyboard performing with guitarist Otomo Yoshihide over the course of an uninterrupted 50 minutes. It was released on Ayler Records, based in France, rather that Fujii’s Japanese “house label,” Libra Records.The album is being distributed in both physical and digital form through a Bandcamp Web page. (See the above hyperlink.) Those visiting that Web page will see that the album has four tracks, but those tracks unfold without any pause or interruption.

Those unfamiliar with Yoshihide should be informed that he is as adventurous as Fujii when it comes to spontaneous improvisation. Both of them first emerged as artists in the Nineties, but this album marks the first time that they have performed as a duo. The performance took place as part of a music marathon that was hosted by the Pit Inn in Tokyo on January 10, 2022 and was recorded by Takanori Terabe. The recording took place during the annual music marathon that Fujii and her husband, Natsuki Tamura, curate every January.

What is most important is that the inventiveness of the duo improvisation is rich enough that the attentive listener is unlikely to feel that any episode is occupying too long a duration. That said, each episode seems to arise when either one or both of the performers identify a particular sonority or phrase structure and then find themselves mutually playing with it. This reminds the attentive listener of the dual semantics of the concept of “play.”

On the one hand there is the “musical” interpretation, which basically “channels” the expressiveness of both of the improvisers. At the same time, however, there is the way in which a performer can “play with” the properties of thematic material, exploring how it can be manipulated through improvisatorial techniques. Perpetual Motion provides just the right helpings of “food for thought,” satisfying the “appetites” of both the performers and the listeners.