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Sachiko M - 1:2

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Artist: Sachiko M

Album: 1:2

Label: A Bruit Secret

Review date: Dec. 11, 2003

A good portion of Sachiko M’s new release, 1:2, is a sine wave at the approximate frequency of 3519.5 hertz. There is slight fluctuation, never much more than 0.5 hertz, which gives the sine tones a rolling, disorienting feeling as they cancel each other out or slowly slide off of each other. There are occasional percussive pitch clicks, acting as what could be a melodic fragment if somehow miraculously transposed down into a more traditionally audible range. A desired effect, after the 20-minute piece has elapsed, could be a feeling of calm, or a numb, wordless clarity.

1:2 is essentially a combination of extremism with subtlety – the most basic sound, an absolute sine wave, drawn outwards in time for a sustained duration. Like Bernhard Günter and Francisco Lopez, who experiment beyond the thresholds of audibility, Sachiko M’s work defies a listener to imagine anything more reductive, elemental, or direct. It’s wholly possible that no such thing exists.

There is an overlap between the sensuous and the ascetic in Sachiko’s work. Everything is sacrificed except for the sensation of tone. There is no specific history and no surface sheen, only the one indivisible fact of a consistent vibration of molecules. The density and shadow of a Phill Niblock drone is absent; the vibrant color and musicality of the Theater of Eternal Music is absent. Sachiko M draws a clear, straight line of sound from the beginning to the end.

The implications, to borrow from painter Agnes Martin’s 1973 writing "Reflections":

"In our minds, there is an awareness of perfection
and how it functions is mysterious to use and unavailable.
When we live our lives it’s something like a race- our minds
become concerned and covered over and we get depressed and
have to get away for a holiday.
And then sometimes there are moments of perfection
and in these moments of we wonder why we ever thought life was difficult.
We think that at last our feet are on the right path and that we
will not falter or fail.
We’re absolutely convinced we have the solution and then the
moment is over.
Moments of awareness are not complete awareness,
just as moments of blindness are not completely blind."

She continues later:

"Our representations of inspiration are far from perfect
for perfection is unobtainable and unattainable.
Moments of awareness of perfection and of inspiration are alike
except that inspirations are often directions to action."

"A work of art is successful when there is a hint of perfection present-
at the slightest hint. . . the work is alive.
The life of the work depends upon the observer, according to his
own awareness of perfection and inspiration"

Martin’s painting aimed to stimulate a recollection of perfection in the observer’s mind. She compulsively tried to create the perfect straight line, a line that couldn’t be transferred from her ideal into physical being, aiming to present a sense a universal, yet subjective ideal, rather than portray and embody perfection in the work itself. Is it fair to apply these ideas to Sachiko’s work?

Looking at a waveform, you will see peaks and valleys, sloping curvatures, far from a perfect line. Complete flatness is silence. That silence is in fact, impossible as air is never completely at rest and the world in motion does not halt. Yet, all actual sound is reducible to the basic vibrations that Sachiko deals with, her palette rigidly remains within the earliest stages of audibility, preceding instrument, preceding voice. It’s remarkable that after so much time, it has taken this long for music to find its equivalent to the straight line, to find its most perfect and basic ideal. To imagine that this fundamental sound is something only attainable with the advances of technology might even sway one to believe in that often-dismissed notion of progress.

Sachiko’s work senses this. While the ideal is not possible, perhaps the most vivid, accurate alternative flows from her hand. For 20 minutes, Sachiko steadily enamors the listener with his or her own ability to hear, caustically scrubbing memory and context, leaving the listener utterly lost and blissful. Her work should absolutely not be missed and 1:2 is as strong and focused as anything.

By Matt Wellins

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