The Limit(s) of Feedback (or, How David Tudor Planned to Turn an Entire Island into a Musical Instrument) + Experiments in Art and Technology: History and Projects in the Environment | January 29 | Kagakūkan



You Nakai is making a presentation about David Tudor’s unfinished project Island Eye Island Ear at the conference “Weathering Ear, Breathing Eye” organized by Kagakūkan. Also presenting will be our special guest Julie Martin, the director of Experiments in Art and Technology, who is flying all the way from New York for this event. You will translate her presentation as well as her discussion with Fujiko Nakaya, who collaborated with Tudor on the island project. Kenjiro Okazaki is also presenting. Then we will all go out to look for an appropriate island in the vicinity in hopes to reenact for the very first time Tudor’s fantastic idea of turning an entire island into a musical instrument.

The Puzzles of David Tudor | October 11 & 25 | Jodo-Fukugo, Kyoto


You Nakai is giving a series of lectures about his research on David Tudor at Jodo-Fukugo, a new art space in Kyoto.

Puzzle 1: “March 5, 1968 (Tue), Issacs Gallery, Toronto”

Puzzle 2: “September 13, 1964 (Sun), Moderna Museet, Stockholm”

Material Bias | April 20-21 | Material Cultures of Musical Notation, Utrecht University, Netherlands


You Nakai is giving a paper called “Material Bias” at the Material Cultures of Musical Notation conference at Utrecht University on Friday.

“It was David Tudor himself who rephrased ‘nature’ as ‘bias’ on a later occasion. Talking about loudspeakers, he observed: ‘Each output mechanism has its own bias. So I must see what its properties are as a natural phenomenon, and not spend my time making it do something against its nature.’ (Tudor 1972: 26) The translation of “nature” into “bias” turns the positivity of the latter into a negativity, as bias does not determine or identify, only constrain. It thereby reveals indeterminacy as a spectrum; as a matter of degree, rather than of kind. For example, a musical score can be understood as a textual bias that constrains, through symbols usually written on paper, the possibility of what can be done––a semiotic bias, so to speak. In this view, a note on a stave does not determine the sound to be produced; it merely imposes a limit on what can be done, especially in regard to pitch and duration. Other signs on the score add other constraints, such as the type of instrument to be used which is usually specified in language. There are further constraints that are unwritten yet imposed either as socio-cultural norms or physical-physiological conditions: performers, for instance, are usually expected to not hum along with whatever is being played, or to not take off their clothes while performing; they are also expected to be constrained by gravity, or to have ten fingers and two arms, no more, no less.


However, Tudor’s approach also explored another aspect of the musical score that had been relatively ignored in standard practice. Starting from Feldman’s Intersection 3 the pianist wrote out a separate realization score instead of playing directly from the composer’s score. This added yet another phase to the process of realization. And what he focused on in this phase was the physical properties of the score: taking precise measurements of the pages and using the obtained numbers in one way or another to determine parametric values. Other materials would be employed in this task of measurement, some of which Tudor even designed himself. Holzaepfel revealed two such instruments used in the realization of Earle Brown’s Four Systems (1954) to measure the horizontal lines: (1) a template with 88 tracks covering all the keys of the piano to determine exact pitch; and (2) a pair of calipers to determine exact duration. The given material biased the universe of possibilities not only through signs and norms but also through its own tangible and measurable nature. The focus of Tudor’s realization circa 1954 thus became grounded on the material bias of the score, which was not only semiotic but also physical.”

PAST FUTURE PERFECT/PEST FUTURE PERFECT | March 3 & March 6 | Kinosaki International Art Center/Mrs. Triangle, Osaka

This gallery contains 2 photos.

We are showing the result of various human experiments we’ve conducted during our two-weeks residency at the giant theater of Kinosaki International Art Center tomorrow. Also we will travel to Osaka after this to present “Pest Future Perfect” where we … Continue reading

BEFORE AFTER EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC | February 10 | Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


You Nakai is presenting a paper at the “After Experimental Music” conference happening at Cornell University next week. It’s called “Before After Experimental Music” and talks about his work on David Tudor in connection to his works as No Collective with a criticism of Actor Network Theory (yawn) inserted somewhere in between. Come to Ithaca, it might be interesting!

Before After Experimental Music: The Case of David Tudor with Some Minor Implications for the Present

This paper presents three nested case studies. The first is an exposition of David Tudor’s experimentalism which was intertwined with the more well-known experimentalism centering around the discourse/practice of John Cage. Despite his extensive collaboration with Cage, Tudor’s focus was quite removed from his collaborator’s, concentrating on what he called the “nature of instruments,” which grounded his idiosyncratic practice as performer/composer of experimental music. The second case study problematizes the first by asking what the nature of a “case” is, and why, when scholars like myself investigate the history of experimental music, we end up focusing on “cases” to make our point, despite our well-meaning and well-funded efforts to indefinitely trace the potentially infinite network of actors. I connect the ontological status of “cases” to that of experiments in the natural sciences, depicting their necessarily biased and local nature as well as the form of closure which seems to block the otherwise endless flow of agencies in the network model. I argue that “cases” present a case of experimental objectivity that is not universal but situated, and thus related to the specific nature of objects assembled in the collective—the instruments involved. This experimental and instrumental nature of cases correlates to the biased and localized position of the particular observer of history who frames or fabricates cases as such. The third case study capitalizes on the implications of the above analyses to focus on a series of miniature expositions of more recent, relatively unknown endeavors in experimental music that I have been personally associated, including my own project, No Collective ( What arises through this meandering trajectory is the problem of who is tracing the network, with what interests, using what resources, and under what conditions, which also brings into question the seemingly neutral authority of our vista wishing to foresee what comes after experimental music.

Untitled: David Tudor’s “Never-Ending Series of Discovered Works” | November 11, 2017 | American Musicological Society meeting, Rochester, NY

You Nakai is presenting a paper on Tudor’s Untitled/Toneburst at the annual meeting of American Musicological Society.
Untitled: David Tudor’s “Never-Ending Series of Discovered Works”
In 1972, David Tudor composed Untitled, a seminal work of live-electronic music in which modular electronic components are hooked up to form feedback loops in order to generate sounds without exterior input. Tudor’s innovative approach has exercised a wide influence on the later development of noise music, and has been hailed as the precursor of the current trend of “no-input feedback” in electronic music. However, the nature of Untitled is shrouded in enigma. The configuration diagram of components employs peculiar symbols of Tudor’s own design, obstructing a straightforward identification of instruments. More critically, Tudor’s description of the piece as “part of a never-ending series of discovered works” calls into question the very delineation of Untitled as a standalone “work.” A subsequent remark that “all versions are performed live,” furthers the mystery—is Untitled a part of a series, or a series in itself? Resorting to its performance history only adds more layers of confusion. Despite his aim to perform everything live, the proliferation of components forced Tudor to record the output of an initial set-up in advance and use this as input source to a simplified configuration in performance. In 1975, Tudor created Toneburst, set to Merce Cunningham’s Sounddance, which used the same no-input principle without resorting to recorded sources. Shortly before his death, Tudor revived Toneburst for other musicians of the Cunningham company to perform, while expressing reservations for Untitled to be performed by others. Again, a mereological-ontological question ensues: is Toneburst a “version” of Untitled? Or is it yet another “part of a neverending series”? This paper presents a genealogical inquiry into the Untitled/Toneburst complex through detailed examination of extant sketches, instruments, and recordings. By decoding Tudor’s symbols, the components of Untitled and Toneburst have been fully identified. The analysis of recordings has further revealed that the same three source tapes were used not only in all performances of Untitled, but also in all performances of Toneburst after its revival. These revelations offer a key to articulate the idiosyncratic status of “work” in Tudor’s live-electronic music, and its connection to his distinct approach to composition and performance.

Musica Instrumentalis: David Tudor and the Occult Passage of Music | September 11, 7 pm- | Oslo, Anthroposophical Society of Norway (Oscars gt. 10)


You Nakai is giving an hour-long lecture at the Anthroposophical Society of Norway in Oslo on the peculiar influence of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings on David Tudor’s approach to music. It will be in the same hall where Rudolf Steiner gave lectures a hundred years ago (yay).

The abstract goes something like this:
David Tudor (1926–1996), the foremost pianist of experimental music and later pioneer of live electronic music, was also an avid follower of Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual science. While brushing off European presenters’ desperate pleas to include music from the 19th century in his avant-garde concert programs, Tudor nonchalantly performed the same kind of music in the Anthroposophical Society concerts in New York; while perusing through Steiner’s writings that chastised machines, he diligently assembled electronic circuits to explore new sounds. The question is not so much why Tudor kept a double life, but how he reasoned the apparent discrepancy between his belief and practice was only apparently so. This presentation focuses on Tudor’s idiosyncratic engagement with “musical instruments”—both acoustic and electronic—setting it in contrast with Steiner’s curious use of the term to account for the human body, to reveal an occult passage between the metaphysics of music and tone, and the physical nature of materials necessary for their production.

Post-Dance: A Primer | November 20 | Post-Dance Symposium, Panoply Performance Laboratory (Brooklyn)


No Collective is co-presenting with Lindsey Drury a peculiar theory about this thing called “(Post-)Dance” during a four-day symposium at Panoply Performance Laboratory on that thing called Post-Dance. We’ve been babbling bits and pieces of our erratic idea to friends in the last couple of months but this presentation will coalesce the primary theoretical components and many nice examples for the first time. So we hope you can come, if you are in New York or nearby. Our presentation is on Sunday, November 20, from 4pm.

Here’s a list of preliminary questions we’ve posited in lieu of an abstract:

Post-Dance: A Primer
Is the term “post” a mere prefix to indicate we are over it? What is this “it” we are supposed to be over with? If we are over dance, why do we still cling to that old name? Wouldn’t “post-it” be a better name? And even if we stick to dance, can’t we do better than resorting yet again to the facile formula of [dance + x (e.g. performance art, discourse, theory, etc)] and/or [dance - x (e.g. choreography, dancer, etc)]? Do we even know what we seek to leave behind? What is a body? What is movement? What if “post” was a verb or a noun? Where do we go from here, where have we been, and who is this “we” that we all talk about?

Toneburst Maps and Fragments by David Tudor and Sophia Ogielska | October 22 | Issue Project Room (New York)


You Nakai is part of this David Tudor event hosted by Harvestworks at the Issue Project Room in downtown Brooklyn. Michael Johnsen is performing his version of Untitled (with some cloned instruments using the schematics he and You found/drew out), John D.S. Adams and John Driscoll will be presenting their views, and Tudor and Sophia Ogielska’s Toneburst Maps and Fragments will be on display.

“In 1995-96 David Tudor collaborated with Sophia Ogielska on a visual language for representing David’s music compositions created in analog circuits. Focusing on Tudor’s composition Toneburst for Merce Cunningham’s Sounddance, they developed Toneburst Maps and Fragments — a collaborative installation work which used visual elements derived from David Tudor’s scores. The work was first exhibited at the Ezra and Cecile Zilka Gallery at Wesleyan University in 1996.

ISSUE Project Room partners with Harvestworks to present an exhibition of their selected visual works – Toneburst Maps and Fragments — and a contemporary interpretation of the works accompanied by a panel discussion. This event is presented as part of the 50th anniversary of Experiments in Art and Technology.

Described as the essence of the music of David Tudor, the event marks a unique opportunity to see and hear Toneburst. The early evening panel is moderated by John Driscoll, with context and background presented by John D.S. Adams and You Nakai. Further, Sophia and Andy Ogielska discuss details about their collaboration with Tudor.

Following the panel, a performance by Michael Johnsen highlights his current research in the circuit-level documentation of David Tudor’s “folkloric” homemade instruments at Wesleyan University. Serving as the only remaining clues to these pieces, Tudor’s exquisite score diagrams are simultaneously explicit and opaque to the would-be performer. Using electronic instruments of his own making, Michael references the “Maps,” which can be entered at any point and traversed in any direction producing multiple performances of the works.”