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Sean Meehan & Taku Unami

Sean Meehan & Taku Unami

Sean plays just a snare drum, with cymbals or forks. He produces electronic, rattling tones from them using a dowel and friction. With really impeccable timing, Taku sets off tiny motors and beaters on top of a resonant wooden board. These are two of the most interesting improvisers around, both with a really refined, personal idea of what music could be. They share an interest in structure, space and time. Expect this set to be pretty spartan, abstract, considered and surprisingly musical.


Sean is an NYC percussionist with an interest in unconsidered urban spaces produced by the entropy and disorganisation in our cities, where he often performs (Our Shadowed Spaces tour in 2007 visited places like this and was very much developed in collaboration with Sean.) along with Tamio Shiraishi (who played on Saturday at INSTAL). Taku is one of the most interesting young musicians in Japan (we think anyway) with a really admirable commitment to agitating and pushing new ideas in improvisation and composition.

What are they doing?

Sean is a percussionist. He used to use a full drum kit. Over time he’s pared that down to just a snare drum, which he sounds by vibrating it with the friction of his hands on a dowel on a cymbal, or with pairs of forks and stuff like that. It’s all very simple but (rewardingly) musical. He creates strangely electronic sounding tones, placed within a very considered amount of space.

Taku uses software to control loads of little motors, beaters and mechanical objects, which he makes vibrate or beat to create acoustic rattling. So it’s a kind of acoustic laptop music. It gives him a very limited palette of sounds, but he has this really amazing (and very musical) sense of timing, dynamics and rhythm.

Why is it interesting?

In a (maths textbook looking kind of) list:

1. They use very interesting, sometimes challenging and unusual sounds in their music.

1.1. Limited in some ways but full of rattling and vibrating, dynamic and rhythmic potential. I’m really interested in how sonorous these limited means can be, or how they call into question what kinds of sounds are normally acceptable as musical.

1.2. I like listening to these sounds and thinking about their character, the way you’d think about a number, and what properties that number possesses on it’s own, and then in combination with others.

2. They’re really considered in what they do.

2.1. And one thing I think they both consider is: when is it interesting/ acceptable/ surprising/ boring/ harmonious/ maybe deliberately difficult to start/ continue/ stop making a sound (in terms of what I’m doing in and of itself, and in terms of what others are doing, if that even matters)?

2.2. Listening in the audience, do you have a sense of when a performance can accept a contribution from a musician, and when they can sit back and leave space (for others, or for nothing at all)? And what are your own sensibilities and preferences in terms of tone, rhythm, dynamic or interaction?

2.2.1. Because Sean and Taku’s approaches to these ideas can be quite challenging to what we’re normally happy to accept.

2.3. Do these questions, and their possible answers sound musical to you?

2.3.1. For example, is a pared down music of sparse rhythm and limited sounds interesting as a listening experience? And does that matter (to you)?

2.4. I often find their tactics around and answers to these kinds of questions actually quite confusing, as well as really fascinating. And it makes me think, which is invigorating.


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