On November 17, 2020 (Tues.), the workshop “Language & Music Vol. 11,” featuring Yoko Tawada and Aki Takase, was held. A new “volume” of this workshop has happened annually for the past 11 years. Normally, the workshop is conducted at Ono Memorial Hall, Waseda University, but this year it took place online to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Zoom Webinar was used to connect Germany and Japan. The live virtual audience on the day numbered over 130.
First Workshop Conducted Online
Nine Waseda University undergraduate and graduate students participated in the workshop. Their task was to present for three minutes or less on the theme of “the surreal and the real,” and the audience witnessed prepared video works and live reading performances on the subject. From their residences in Berlin, Tawada and Takase provided commentary. The intentions behind the videos and performances were shared with the presenting students. Through these interactions, the workshop provided an opportunity for the nine students to face various unanswerable questions, including “What are language and music?” “What is the surreal?” and “Is it any different from the real?” From these questions, each of the nine’s unique worldview was unveiled.
Appearances by Broccoli and Random Number Tables
As this year’s workshop took place online, the participants were able to show off their ingenuity in adapting to the Zoom- and video-based elements of the event, endeavoring to express themselves in a manner different than that on a physical stage. Those viewing the workshop were overwhelmed by the entirely out-of-the-ordinary performances, and the two hours of the event seemed to pass in an instant.
At the end, there was a question and answer corner for queries from the audience. Tawada and Takase also spoke about what they thought about their already unveiled performance piece “Surreal & Real” and how they approached the creation of the work, about the relationship between language and music, about what they strive to do when performing together, and more.
What Was Gained by Not Halting Culture
Although the novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in various Waseda University events being canceled or delayed, not halting cultural activities such as this workshop and moving them online was the stated goal of coordinator Professor Matsunaga, Ms. Tawada, Ms. Takase, and the event’s sponsors, all of whom came together to prepare for the event. That this workshop ended up being held online both ensured the safety of all involved and allowed for a very large number of people to attend. It was also a growth opportunity for the presenters, who had to devise ways and techniques of expressing themselves to adapt to the online format of the workshop.
Finally, we would like to express our profound gratitude to everyone who were involved with making this new form of the workshop a success, including Tawada and Takase, who performed from Berlin, Germany; the student presenters; and everyone in the audience.
Yoko Tawada and Aki Takase Performance “Surreal & Real”
Tawada and Takase have also done a new performance. The theme of the performance, inspired by life and works of the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907–1954), is “the surreal and the real.” The video of the piece, recorded in Berlin, is now streaming. This video offers a rare opportunity to glimpse the process of the duo—one a writer and the other a pianist—creating a work. Also see the commentary by Professor Miho Matsunaga.
*Available for viewing from 6:30 pm on November 16 (Mon.) through December 31 (Thur.) Please note that the performance may be taken down early without notice.
Click here for Yoko Tawada and Aki Takase’s performance “Surreal & Real.” (In Japanese only)
The Office of Professor Miho Matsunaga 03-5286-3637
Waseda University Cultural Affairs Division 03-5272-4783
Waseda University Cultural Affairs Division
Global Japanese Studies Model Unit, Top Global University Project
The Office of Professor Miho Matsunaga, Creative Writing and Criticism Theoretical Configuration, School of Culture, Media and Society, Waseda University