According to Adorno’s Composing for Films, the ear can seem a archaic organ, it has not kept pace the swift actively selective eye. Phenomenon seems a fitting word for such an unusual action. I’d come across the work of Tetsuya Umeda while reading a contribution David Toop made for the 400th issue of The Wire regarding a performance at Cafe Oto in 2015, “stacking up tin cans on the heat of a calor gas stove, pouring in rice then waiting for them to emit a penetrating deep lowing sound, like the conch shell trumpets of Yamabushi monks” asking him about this strange rite Umeda reply’s “I don’t do ‘performances’ actually, It’s more like some kind of action” The production of the lowing sound was inspired by a divinatory sound ritual documented in Ueda Akinari’s 18th century story Kibitsu No Kama (Kibitsu Cauldron) – “The ritual is still existing in kibitsu shrine”, Umeda wrote. “Also we still have something similar in some parts of the countryside, almost they are used to divine whether fortune will be good or bad.” So the ‘music’ or ‘sound art’ is more a complex of literary, divinatory, folkloric, supernatural, anthropological and phenomenological impulse falling neatly into none of these categories.
Such a description has sat with me for sometime, such a mystical fascination with the idea such a simple reaction lead me down an investigation into this sound and its force. Of course I had heard its appearance through youtube but naturally this just fuelled the desire to experience the sound in the flesh.
After further research, “Narukama Shinji” the name of the ritual in question, famous for Kibitsu-jinja shrine, a steaming basket with rice in it is placed inside a pot, and the sound that it makes determines whether you will have good or bad fortune. This is related to the legend of Kibitsuhiko-no-mikoto who killed an ogre named Ura and then sealed him underneath the steel pot here at Kibitsu-jinja shrine. The legend goes that one day Ura started moaning from underneath the pot, and the noise that you can hear during the ritual is the sound of the ogre groaning.
So the sound is like that of a ghostly presence, to experience this sound is unlike any other i’ve experienced yet, closer to raw feedback yet much softer and less abrasive. Its volume is subtle yet feels loud in the ear, it can be heard from a distance, while filling a room with an almost thin fog of sound. Quite phenomenal it feels as close to magic when you begin to realise this is coming from a few stacked cans, i’ve note experienced much like it and now I want to try bigger tins!!!