|Masashi Harada defines the music contained on Enterprising Mass of Cilia as music of body, which in his definition “belongs to the pre-lingual area and stimulates the more primordial part of the brain, connected to spinal memory”. This music of body is directionally oppositional to Harada’s definition of music of memory, “which is connected with aesthetic judgments”; a music, for Harada, which is limited because of its relation “to language and its governing hemisphere of the brain”. Music of body, conversely and advantageously, “dwells in the relations among the human body and musical objects and those between the human body and acoustic and physical space”.
Besides some interesting and presumably unintentional parallels between Harada’s construction of music of body and notions of primitivism—an idealized, “raw” music providing a pre-lingual, primordial train to the center of our primal brain—and Harada’s heavy reliance upon language to explain, according to him, the values of a “pre-lingual area” (surely a complication Harada must be aware of), what is the relationship between such knotty theorizing and the music played? Fortunately for the listener, very minimal, as the theoretical foundations this music apparently rests upon translate into an auditory experience far removed from the Byzantine words that threaten to ensnare it.
Enterprising Mass of Cilia is episodic music, not dissimilar from other conduction exercises—here given a slight twist to include, presumably, dance, and renamed “condanction”. As a whole, the music moves rather gracefully through a series of explorations of timbre, phrase, and rhythm, with a heavy emphasis on varieties of collective sustain. Among the sounds is a strong reliance upon strings (a violin, viola, two cellists, and a double bass) and electronic manipulation courtesy of theremin and the now ubiquitous “electronics”. Oftentimes taking a decisive lead (if only due to sonic differences) is the work of Greg Kelley on trumpet and the consistently compelling Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion. Jonathon Vincent, on accordion, also makes his impact felt.
“Procession of Echo” is a quietly restrained piece, hinting toward white noise and threadbare strings, with Nakatani finessing the most out of the moment. Bhob Rainey, on soprano saxophone, adds breaths of air and the sound of fingerings to the affair. “A Room” is much thornier, with Kelley blowing away at the beginning, while a plucked cello vies for attention. Both quickly give out to a burning Rainey in mid-range sputter and a fairly straight eighth-note pounding from Nakatani, which ever so briefly emerges. It’s a fine statement, and its brevity, at just over three minutes, makes it even more compelling. “A Room” manages to both make a claim and do so before wearing thin.
“Element of Resistance,” the longest piece at over 13 minutes, fares nearly as well, with enough modulation going on to retain interest. Again the sound of breath (and perhaps this is truly “music of body”) sets up the piece, with a sustained accordion defining the ambiance. Everyone has a turn to play the surrounding silence, with a twitter here and a burble there. That eleven musicians all manage to contribute without the piece ever feeling claustrophobic is a testament to Harada’s skills of “condanction”.
Indeed, the entire album is a striking listen, and easily commands continued attention. Don’t let the opaque liner notes scare you. There’s much more bite to their bark.