KuuMA (空⁠マ)

Another of this young year’s releases is what is in effect an LP uploaded on the Soundcloud page of a composer (presumably it’s a single individual) residing in Nagaski who appears to move in the orbit of the Sight/Sound festival organized by Daniel Rhode in Michigan and Adam Cuthbért in New York – perhaps a corresponding member in Japan whom Cuthbért first befriended during his time there? – and whose moniker on that system is evidently an abbreviation and/or an anagram, KuuMA (or, written in the Japanese ideograms, for those who understand them, 空⁠マ). Yet let’s leave the personal identity of this composer or composers to one side, for no doubt there are reasons for KuuMA’s enigmatic prosopon, and focus instead solely on this virtual LP, entitled Becoming the Moon, for in this music itself there are already mysteries aplenty – and there’s world enough and time between us to permit me to delve briefly into one or two of them here.

In the LP’s second track, “What If You Were the Internet?,” it’s the sounds of that invention in operation that we’re first given to hear – but not exactly the actual sounds made as our fingers strike the keys and the keys the keyboard, for instance; rather, this is how the moving parts in the totality of the technology that is called “the Internet,” if any such still exist, might be registered by a listening device small enough to be inserted somehow amongst them.

Listening, it’s as though we’re transported into the inner recesses of the Internet, set down in medias res in a realm we have never before experienced in such a way (and thus we are inclined to practice as far as we can what Henri Bergson, in Matière et Mémoire, termed “la perception pure”) – and then one shakes one’s head in momentary disbelief, for suddenly one notices that it’s not only the moving parts that are making the noise, but all the others as well! And what noises they all emit! The bottom line, we hear increasingly clearly as the track progresses and these cogs in the machine cease their mechanical operations and, as it were, begin to raise their voices: they are no more pleased with the tasks, the pace, and the hours demanded of them than are we human beings in all our various places of employment; and before we know it, we interlopers find ourselves right in the middle of a work stoppage, a general strike, or even an entire insurrection of technology . . .

Moving on to the title track of this LP, which is rather more enigmatic and whose rhythms are considerably more dissonant, it seems to ask of us a rather different kind of auditory absorption – that is, if the implicit grammatical subject of the phrase “becoming the moon” is the listener.

Well, whether or not listeners are invited to “become the moon” for the duration of the track, by virtue of concentrating in pure perception on the music itself, we certainly are given a taste of what its surface is like, so cold and unshielded as it has been left without any insulating atmosphere, so far removed from everything that makes our life possible that one is inclined to shake one’s head at the practice of calling that forlorn sphere “der Mond” and “la lune” or at all the ideas that ever have been entertained of visiting or of worshipping it. And yet . . .

In closing – lest I leave the impression that KuuMA is a composer who tends to the dour side, which is far from being the case, I should also credit him, her, or them with having composed some works that clearly know how to have fun; the LP’s fifth track, “Luminous Squares of Orange and Green,” stands out in this respect, for in the hands of a contemporary choreographer it could easily accompany a short jeu d’esprit for one or two dancers.

Postscript. The three tracks have been removed from the Soundcloud page, and so I have turned to its fellow on Bandcamp to make good, substituting them from that source in the above.