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January 24th, 2009 - click opera — LiveJournal
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January 24th, 2009
Sat, Jan. 24th, 2009 11:35 am

You know, we talk about "experimental music", but it's become just another genre term -- few musicians are making actual experiments in the scientific sense. Meet someone who is: artist, designer and programmer Daito Manabe.



When I first saw this video on olamm's blog, I thought Daito was controlling the music with his face. In fact, it's the other way around. He's controlling his face with the music. Via Max/MSP, he's causing different elements in the music to induce involuntary spasms in his facial muscles. With electricity.

There are dozens of similar experiments on his YouTube channel. In this one, for instance, his hands move his face via electric currents. You can also see how much the shocks hurt when the voltage is set too high:



Daito, who's 32, is a part-time lecturer at Tokyo Polytechnic University, in the Media Art department. He studied maths, then DJed for a while, collecting unemployment insurance and bumming around. Since 2004, though, he's really been on a roll. With a group of friends -- Kanta Horio, Motoi Ishibashi and Tomoaki Yanagisawa -- he created the Way Sensing Go Workshop, a kind of inventor's treehouse where they might be playing video games, making their own amusing version of Fischli & Weiss' The Order of Things, or hosting a Placard headphone concert (I've done a couple of these myself):



Daito is starting to get the fame he deserves for this incredible ingenuity; in November he was part of a group show at the Japan Society in New York, examining the crossover between dance and technology. He made the sound part of an installation at the new Ars Electronica Centre. He's appeared on Korean TV. And Hisae had heard of him via a link her brother had mailed, so he's known amongst young Japanese his age.

I'm sure we'll hear more from Daito, as he continues to invent stuff, but it's totally impossible to predict which area it will be in. He's already made things as diverse as a Nintendo Wii remote DJ + VJ application (with Satoshi Horii), an RFID lighting sequencer, and a flight of musical stairs for the Sony Building.

I'll leave you with Daito and two friends mirroring each other's facial gestures:



I'm glad he's doing these experiments, because there's no way I'd dare; I won't even go into the electrified bath at the sento!

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