Prada Mode Created Soundscapes at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teiein Art Museum Gardens
By Yoshino Yoshikawa
Published on May 18, 2023
Last week, Prada Mode Tokyo, the ninth iteration of Prada Mode, was held at a unique venue: the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, connecting indoor and outdoor space in a two-day event bringing together bright minds from contemporary art and music. The schedule was packed with talks, workshops, and music performances, and the programming also included sound installations. Connecting leading voices of Japanese architecture, contemporary art, and music, the event was hosted and curated by Kazuyo Sejima, the director of Teien Art Museum, architect, and a long-term collaborator of Prada.
As a musician, PRADA Mode the event not to be missed. It's rare for a fashion brand to feature music to this extent. I had the pleasure attending the first day of the two-day event (May 12th). While I wasn't able to cover all the performers, I'll jot down some notes.
It's rare for a fashion brand to feature music to this extent.
Upon arriving at the venue after checking in, a special stage was set up in the European garden of the Teien Museum, where talk shows and live performances were taking place. Speakers seats were arranged on stage, and multiple speaker systems accommpanied the set up. Surround systems in enclosed spaces, such as cinemas, are usually calculated on the number of speakers, actively creating a virtual space to ensure a sense of presence. However, the approach of constructing a soundscape aligning with the landscape inside a real garden created a different experience from what we might usually expect.
The approach of constructing a soundscape aligning with the landscape inside a real garden created a different experience from what we might usually expect.
The venue was divided into an exclusive area and a general public area. Within the Japanese garden of the general public area, Keiichiro Shibuya, an electronic musician who runs the electronic music label ATAK, performed an ambient live set. The sound was sent directly to the venue, creating the overall soundscape of the space.
After his performance ended, Tomoko Sauvage dropped an underwater microphone into a bowl filled with water, hung a container filled with water above it, and mixed the dripping sound in real-time, creating a soundscape that was live-broadcasted from the countless speakers set up throughout the venue.
A DJ booth was set up at the bar counter away from the garden, where DJs like Craig Richards and Ivan Smagghe played slow-tempo music. It was a somewhat unusual experience for me, as I'm used to seeing places where people gather in front of DJ booths to dance to music.
After attending two talks and as the day began to end, I danced to Ivan Smagghe's setlist without knowing it was him, with the fader controlling the playback pitch at its lowest limit.
When it got completely dark, the BPM increased and the thick electronic bass, giving a techno vibe that was probably produced by an analogue synthesizer, gradually changed the mood as sunset began to settle to dusk. I couldn't help but anticipate that we would move into a late night transition to dance music, but the next DJ on the schedule returned to ambient music.
When it got completely dark, the BPM increased and the thick electronic bass gradually changed the mood as sunset began to settle to dusk.
As I went to the main stage, Gigi Masin, who performed at WWW in Shibuya when he visited Japan in 2017, was playing a mellow piano over electronic beats. The accompaniment turned towards the edge of dance music but never fully reached its peak, and with no kick drum ever entering the set, captivating the audience. It was only at this point that I realized that the sound system of the stage, which had just been used for the talk events, actually had the quality to play music.
The finale of the main stage was illuminated by Polish musician Hania Rani, who performed a live set consisting of a grand piano, an upright piano with its cover disassembled and the microphone brought as close as possible, a Roland FP-7, an MPC, a rhythm machine, a laptop, and her own vocals. While operating three keyboards according to the situation, she also handled the playback and development of beats herself, which was interesting to witness as performing art. Her ambiguous song set, accentuated with its unique equipment, made me reminiscent of the cloudy sky of Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, her clear vocals resonated with the night skies of Meguro, reaching even people outside the venue.
In regular music events, it is common for the audience to visit the venue to experience the performances of famous musicians. However, this time, information such as the performer's timetable and set list, normally easily accessible to the public, was not posted at the venue at all. Instead, a loose "Music Performances 11:30 AM ~ 9 PM" schedule was available, designed to let visitors (or "Members", as Prada Mode likes to call them) – spend their time as they wish, strongly reflecting the design philosophy of the event.
Prada Mode “Members” could spend their time as they wish, strongly reflecting the design philosophy of the event.
Just like the interpretation of a story is always left to the reader, I tried to write this review in line with my musical background in mind. Prada Mode was certainly successful at bridging multiple facets of contemporary culture: visual arts, technology, and music blend in today's age, one cannot exist without the other.
Yoshino Yoshikawa is a Tokyo-based producer. As a strong advocate of Ultrapop, he uses of synthesizers and gadgets to make music made of intricate layers of electronic sounds. He released his music since 2009 in collaboration with Tokyo-based Maltine Records and LA-based Zoom Lens. Japan Times reviewed his music as “hyper-chirpy dance music with ample drops” and he has garnered worldwide audience of electronic music, anime and game music fans. Yoshikawa contributed remixes for artists such as Japanese idol group TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE and female singer Shiho Namba also he has composed soundtracks for the video game “maimai” and popular anime “Kinmoza!”. His latest album “Ultrapop” was released in 2019 from Not Records, an electronic label founded by leading pop musician Dé Dé Mouse. The album includes tracks featuring local talents such as Azuma Hitomi, LLLL, Noto, Onjuicy and Yunovation and presents his aesthetics in sound. Instagram
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