© Henri Voigt

100 CYMBALS – Ryoji Ikeda

John CAGE But what about the noise of crumpling paper (1985) 25’ 
Ryoji IKEDA 100 cymbals (2019) 35’

Musicians : The Percussions de Strasbourg – Alexandre Esperet, Léa Koster, Emil Kuyumcuyan, Olivia Martin, Minh-Tâm Nguyen, François Papirer, Lou Renaud-Bailly, Thibaut Weber, Hsin-Hsuan Wu, Yi-Ping Yang
Coproduction : Les Percussions de Strasbourg / Festival Musica
external advice : Alexandre Babel
With the special help of Yamaha and Turkish cymbals

“Ten silhouettes dressed in black circulate in the middle of a copper mushroom field. Without superfluous gesture, without any muscle in their faces altering their neutrality, they make 100 cymbals resonate at waist height […]. 100 Cymbals, a piece by Ryoji Ikeda, a contemporary music guru with rare public appearances, is just enough to express what a cymbal can. The audience imagines a chaotic hubbub of hammering crashes, with arrhythmic drummers pounding the metal like a nail. Not at all. It’s all about sweetness: a light drone with changing harmonics caresses their eardrums like a cottony violin or synth layer. There is even vocality in the call of the brass, almost a song. The cymbal, this instrument of delicacy. “
Guillaume Tion, Libération, Sept. 29, 2020

With 100 cymbals, Ryoji Ikeda dives us into the abyss of vibration. A unique listening experience.
Created in 2019 at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in the sumptuous hall designed by architect Frank Gehry, 100 Cymbals is as much a stage performance as an audiovisual installation. Ryoji Ikeda highlights the rich potential of cymbals by following the thin line between noise and harmonic resonance. The seemingly rudimentary instrument, a convex disc made of an alloy of copper, brass and bronze, which is more commonly used to accentuate certain times of the measure, is transformed into a powerful polyphonic resource. The different modes of playing, more or less conventional, maintain a fusional – almost choral – sound and allow harmonic strata and other acoustic results to emerge within a process that a simple line could represent: an infinite crescendo, leading from an almost imperceptible murmur to the brilliance of the final fortississimo.

The concert opens with the sound portrait that John Cage dedicated to Hans Arp, from Strasbourg, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. The American composer considered the co-founder of the Dada movement as a model, particularly for his relationship to nature and his cosmogonic conception of art. The result is this conceptual, machine-typed score offered to the Percussions de Strasbourg in 1986, where the musical language is reduced to five typographical signs. A minimal work, made of environmental rustle, which in the same way as 100 cymbals, solicits a deep listening.

About John Cage’s piece :

« But what about the noise of crumpling paper which he used to do in order to paint the series of “Papiers froisses” or tearing up paper to make “Papiers dechires?” Arp was stimulated by water (sea, lake, and flowing waters like rivers), forests. »

The title comes from this letter, written by Greta Ströh, manager of the Arp Foundation. This letter is part of the correpondence between Ms.Ströh and John Cage, concerning this project. There are 10 parts of which between 3 to 10 may be used in a performance. Repetitions may be made. Each player chooses 2 slightly resonant instruments (or more) of different materials played in unison. In the parts these are notated as + . The o in the parts stand for water, paper or other unidentified sounds. Dynamics are free, but should be varied. A performance should be without conductor, very slow, each player following his or her own beat. Each performer plays his part twice, but as each player keeps his own time, the second performance will be different, since things coccur at different moments. Performers may be stationed around the audience, or among them, or on stage. If the works is performed on a stage, the players should not be too close together.

Sources: Paul van Emmerik: Thema’s en Variaties; New York Public Library online catalog; Richard Kostelanetz: John Cage writer – Previously uncollected pieces; David Revill: The Roaring Silence

On tour: