Reminded by the Instruments: David Tudor's Music
BY YOU NAKAI | 768 Pages | 300+ illustrations | OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2021 | $74
You Nakai fabricates music(ians), dance(rs), haunted musical houses, nursery rhymes, and other forms of performance as a member of No Collective and publishes experimental children's books and other literary oddities as a member of Already Not Yet.
He is currently affiliated with the University of Tokyo where he teaches "Other Musics," "Archi-Choreographies," and "The Archaeology of Influence," as well as with Kyoto City University of Arts, where he teaches “Fake Western Music History” and “Experimental Pet Sounds.”
David Tudor is remembered today in two guises: as an extraordinary pianist of post-war avant-garde music who worked closely with composers like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and as a founding figure of live-electronic music. His early realization of indeterminate graphic scores and his later performances using homemade modular instruments both inspired a whole generation of musicians. But his notorious reticence, his esoteric approaches, and the diversity of his creative output—which began with the organ and ended with visual art—have kept Tudor a puzzle, strangely befitting for a figure who was known for his deep love of puzzles.
Reminded by the Instruments sets out to solve the puzzle of David Tudor by applying Tudor’s own methods for approaching the materials of others to the vast archive of materials that he himself left behind. You Nakai deftly coordinates instruments, electronic circuits, sketches, diagrams, recordings, letters, receipts, customs declaration forms, and testimonies like modular pieces of a giant puzzle to reveal the long-hidden nature of Tudor’s creative process. Rejecting the established narrative of Tudor as a performer-turned-composer, this book presents a lively portrait of an artist whose activity always merged both of these roles. In simulating Tudor’s distinct focus on what he called “the specific principles which exist inside each material,” Nakai undermines discourses on sound and illuminates our understanding of the instruments behind the sounds in post-war experimental music.
"You Nakai's book is a remarkable achievement that illuminates the breadth and depth of David Tudor's life and work as a composer-performer. Based on extensive analytical research and interviews with Tudor's surviving creative associates, it charts his evolution from organist and virtuoso pianist to his innovative live-electronic music, ending with his final explorations of sound and space. Engagingly written and eminently readable, this extraordinary study offers fresh insights into Tudor's reclusive personal life and elusive creative complexities."
- Gordon Mumma, composer, Professor Emeritus, University of California
You Nakai, 2020-21, All rights reserved