Lecture: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto (New York, 2013)

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Interview with Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto at the Red Bull Music Academy (New York, 2013)

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Ryuichi Sakamoto came to worldwide fame as a member of influential Japanese synth-pop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra. Making abundant use of new synthesizers, samplers, and recording technology, they pioneered a new electro-pop sound, with tracks like “Computer Game/Firecracker” becoming electro classics in the east and west. Sakamoto also pursued solo work, achieving commercial breakthrough (as YMO split up) with his score to the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (which he also acted in). This marked one of his finest musical unions with Japan frontman David Sylvian. Sakamoto has collaborated with many others since then, including David Byrne, Thomas Dolby, Iggy Pop, and Berlin-based electronic-music artist Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai). The pair met when Nicolai was performing in Tokyo, and an introduction led to them working together and forming their own unique electronic sound, with Sakamoto’s minimal piano complementing Nicolai’s glowing digital tapestry. Consistently pushing boundaries in electronic music, these are two musicians who will always be ahead of the game.

Carsten Nicolai, alongside Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, is part of the triumvirate that operates the revered German label Raster-Noton. Known for its distinct aesthetic—apparent not only in the music, but also in the design and packaging—Nicolai’s work as Alva Noto is an extension of those ideals: a smooth, clean minimalism made possible by a digital world, but presented with an element of surprise that only a human code can offer. Growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Chemnitz, formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt, and now living in Berlin, Nicolai has since made a formidable reputation in the public sphere as a musician, designer, and artist especially known for his installation work. His practice has led him to notable collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto (with whom he has recorded five studio albums to date) and Blixa Bargeld. As a remixer, Alva Noto has been enlisted by Björk and Ludovico Einaudi. He has performed and created installations in many of the world’s most prestigious spaces, such as the Guggenheim Museum, SFMOMA, Tate Modern, and the Venice Biennale.


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