NEO-SHAMANISM--Towards a Culture of Ex-stase
The Appearance of Intensive Expanse in the Digital Realm


ITOH: Last year, I saw a television program featuring HOSONO Haruomi called "Be Still, Sit And Listen Well" [NHK Broadcast Satellite Channel 2, from the "Travelling Our Splendid World" series]. It was a show about visiting a Pueblo [indigenous North American] tribe. As one can infer from its title, it was an inquiry into what it means to listen, or perhaps what it means to travel into "intensive expanse." It was fascinating as a TV program, but when rethought in terms of "Portable Sacred Grounds--Telepresence World," it offers a number of important keys to reading the issues at hand.

For example, Haruomi's travels took him to Chaco Canyon near Santa Fe, the traditional home of the ancestors of the Pueblo Indian nation, the Anasazi people. Brenda LAUREL [author and pioneering researcher of interface design] explains telepresence technology using the images in the stone carvings left by the Anasazi in this very canyon in a demonstration video she produced. It is yet another example of telepresence technology being used to understand the sensibilities and memories of ancient peoples. The work of Dutch artists Tjebbe van TIJEN and Fred GALES, <<Neo-Shamanism>>, installed as part of the Portable Sacred Grounds--Telepresence World exhibition, features stones that speak, or rather, sing. This phenomenon of "singing stones" is something that also appears in Haruomi's documentary.

Until recently, I had considered the correct translation of the word "telepresence" into Japanese as "enkaku sonzai," [tele-existence] and yet now I understand that a more appropriate translation might be "enkaku rinzai," [tele-presence] because the issue at hand is the paradox of something that is not apparent to our senses is actually before us. We are connected to something which transcends reality. Just as Haruomi says in his documentary, "I am haunted by a feeling that, despite my years, there is something essential to human nature that is evading me." The ability to experience a trip into intensive expanse, to--through these, in some sense symbolic, songs, drums or stones--experience a connection to this unapparent world, and explore what there is to experience there. I'd firstly like to ask about this experience.

HOSONO Haruomi: Well, most of what I experienced were reconfirmations of what I'd already glimpsed through music. For example, Larry LITTLEBIRD, my teacher in this voyage, asked me, "That sound which comes from within you, is it a good sound, or is it a bad sound?" Most musicians would read that question as "is it an interesting sound or an uninteresting sound," but I have to believe that at a deeper level there are such things as "good" and "bad" sounds. I've used computers and just about every other electronic instrument as well as many non-electronic instruments at one point or another in my work, but I consider everything I've made to have originated from within me, and consider sounds from this vantage point. And when you look at music like this, it is easy to come to the conclusion that most of the music in our world is just too cluttered. It's just an environment to avoid. So you might say that if it weren't for my experience with the Pueblo Indians at their sacred grounds, this is one thing essential to human nature that might have evaded me.

Another might be related to the fact that since the beginning of 1990s I had been doing mostly ambient music, which was like an ocean of music to me. The people from the younger generations of the pop music world began creating their music from an "oceanic feeling" sensibility from the beginning of the '90s. Ambient was originally associated with a more ecological context, but this was mistaken. Ambient is the musical form with the greatest reach, or periphery of attraction--in short, from the expanses of one's deeper interior. And in making ambient music I came to the realization that it is definitely not an external environment, but rather the internal ambience that has this "oceanic feeling." I don't even think that this is something that is limited to music, even if music is perhaps the easiest way to encounter it. In the middle of the trip a man named Andrew AHSONA said, after beating a drum, "This is the answer to everything." And it's true, music is something that is there at our essence.

NAKAZAWA: What do you personally think of the relationship between music and shamanism?

HOSONO: There are two things. The first is the music which has been mediated. This thing that we print onto CDs and other media and distribute to people. When I make music, I'm having my memories and feelings being printed and distributed--I am "telepresent" in a way, but you can't really call that "shamanism," because, at some level, I'm certainly aware that I'm producing something professionally. And after all, the music isn't going to leave that CD.

These imprints, however, are not as perfect as we might imagine. For example, even though a CD may be digitally recorded, the technology is still in an imperfect state, and it's still easy to have noise enter into the process. If you leave this noise in when you're mastering to CD, the finished product will sound defective. Lately, in Japan there are artists who employ this degradation, called the "Onkyo-ha" [acoustic school]. Right now, such noise is spreading. I don't know if you can call their work "shamanism" either, but this first element that I wish to emphasize is the way that this mediated framework is overcome, and destroyed. At first I didn't understand. I thought, "this is just noise." I reacted by denying it.

The other thing is that music "only exists in a specific place." This is something I'm putting more of my energies into now. I make my CDs in the studio, in this medium that anyone can hear anywhere, but on the other hand, I also make music that only exists in a specific place. There is no need to record this music, and anyone is free to forget it, even in the place where it exists.

Backleft rightNext