Aloe Records

Eric Wong / Seiji Morimoto Interview: seven questions about body and vibration

Date: December 2023

Question: Yan Jun

Answer: Eric Wong / Seiji Morimoto

Editing: Sun Yizhou

1. as both of you have hold or touch the vibrational devices very often, could you tell us what is

the physical feeling of being vibrated? does it bring you any influence physically, mentally or theoretically?

Eric: Depends on what frequencies the objects are vibrating, how big they are, and what material they are made of. Vibration at lower frequencies feels more intense because a lot of objects resonate with them. I use two different generations of the same JBL speakers, and the exterior of the newer model is softer for better shock absorption, it feels smoother when holding them vibrating than the older model. Some vibrations, like haptics on our phones or gaming controllers, feel sharper, which

makes sense because they are there to alert you and to maximize the immersive gaming

experiences.

It makes sound tangible.

Seiji: Sound vibrations are a brain massage.

2. when you play small sound without pa you deliver audience members different experiences

according to their seats. and only you yourself could hear the loudest sound. what’s the point

to set this unequal condition?

Eric: I try to do away with the “sweet spot” when I perform, I used to distribute the speakers in different corners in the space, and recently I started to ask the audience to pass the speakers around during my sets, so everyone has their own distance and relationship with the sound, and those relationships are fluid because the speakers are being moved around. I sometimes keep one speaker to myself so that I can muffle it or place it on different surfaces, but I also ask the audience do the same. In that sense, I have more control of what sound is being played as a performer, but as a listener, I don’t hear more than the rest of the audience do, and other listeners also have the agency to shape the sound.

It is, on the other hand, closer to what you have described when working with Seiji and in our new trio with Heather Frasch. I use fewer speakers and I keep them closer to myself because I need to place them on different objects or platforms as we play. In this case, I get to be closer to my speakers, but also because of that, the audience have a more balanced listening experience of the

group and the reverb of the space.

Seiji: Acoustic sounds involve spatial sound (resonance/echo), being close to the sound source is not always the best.

3. where is the real or authentic sound?

Eric: What we hear is what our brains tell us what we perceive, so to a certain extend, it is in our heads.

Seiji: Live music is somehow unequal. Everyone could listen differently.

4. are vibrations emotionless to us? are you, when you playing or listening back?

Eric: I don’t think vibrations carry any emotion in themselves until the performers impose their emotions or meanings to them, or it happens when the vibrations evoke certain emotions in listeners. One of the reasons I like to use sine waves and white noise is because I don’t believe they carry any emotion, and I try to stay away from expressing any emotions when I make abstract music, I want to leave the sound as plain as possible. If listeners feel any kind of emotions when they listen to my music, that emotion belongs to themselves and is only for them, but I don’t want to limit what listeners should “feel”. When I listen back to my performances, most of the emotions I experience are my reactions to the performances. Like feeling excited for the nice moments or embarrassed for some not so nice ones.

Seiji: Massages always feel good. Since vibration is a physical phenomenon, I feel nature at the same time.

5. what is the difference between sound and music to you?

Eric: I never have a clear answer differentiating sound and music. I’m not even sure if it is necessary. I always feel like there is an implied elitism differentiating the two, but lot of definitions I have heard from the others can be applied to both what are broadly considered as music and non-musical sound. Let’s say one might consider pitches and rhythms as major components of music, some might consider poems in tonal languages (Chinese poems, for instance) as musical but I don’t think a lot of people would consider them music. But many would rhetorically say birds or whales sing, but the concept of “songs” is man made, birds and whales may not consider it as such. I think music is simply a way we define or manipulate our relationships with the sound we hear or produce, but we always relate ourselves to the sound we hear anyway. For instance, I live in big cities my entire life and I love being in big cities, my relationship with the sound of buzzing cities is probably very different than someone who grew up in a village or those who prefer quiet surroundings.

Seiji: Sound is just sound. For me, music is about producing, listening and feeling sound in a space.

6. what is the role of your bodies in this music making?

Eric: I often hear people joking about laptop musicians, saying that they are checking email on stage. Many laptop musicians and DJs exaggerate their body movements when they perform so that the audience can see the connections between certain movements and certain sound events. But I want to prove that performing sitting still can also be interesting, or even compelling, so I try to move as little as possible when I perform using Bluetooth speakers, except when I am swinging the speakers with my hands to create phasing, which I also do less nowadays. But when I was editing the videos of my gigs, I realized my small body movements had become more noticeable because of the slow and delicate musical gestures. I should probably meditate more and learn how to sit still better. Haha.

Seiji: In my case, the body is part of a device that produces and observes sounds without training or control.

The tea ceremony is the place, act and preparation of a cup of tea. The tea tastes tea.

7. what was the last time you been shocked, mentally or electrically?

Eric: Someone lit some fireworks under the bridge a few meters away on a new year’s eve and it made a really loud explosive sound. People do it during new years in Germany. I usually stay at home on new year’s eve to avoid that but my uncle was visiting and he insisted to count down on the street. As a good nephew, I obliged.

Seiji: The broken monitor speaker accidentally produced an incredibly loud sound. My heart beat faster for 3 minutes.