Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto: Glass

Jason P. Woodbury on May 15, 2018

In 1949, architect Philip Johnson built “the Glass House” in New Canaan, Conn. Erected from glass and steel to serve as Johnson’s own residence, the modernist structure stands as a study in transparency, light and reflection. Inside, the views of the surrounding landscape become a feature of the home itself. The designation between “out” and “in” becomes blurred, indistinguishable. It was here that Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and the German-born Alva Noto performed the improvised composition Glass . Recorded in conjunction with an installation by Japanese conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama to commemorate the 110th anniversary of Johnson’s birth, the performance pairs sparse piano with percussive chimes, smoldering synth drones with airy melodies and ambient noise with echoing rhythms. The project follows Sakamoto’s sublime 2017 album async, and finds the 66-year-old musician teaming with the 52-yearold Noto again, following their 2015 collaboration, which soundtracked Alejandro González Iñárritu’s existential western, The Revenant. Like that project, Glass balances sumptuous, enveloping textures with an abiding sense of mystery and tenseness. In addition to keyboards, singing glass bowls and crotales, Sakamoto and Noto utilized contact mics to effectively use the house itself as an instrument—scraping mallets along the sleek edges of the building’s many planes of glass. In doing so, the duo reflect not only the sharpness of Johnson’s vision but also the organic space that surrounds it. If The Revenant fixated on the struggle between man against nature, then the beauty of Glass suggests the potential for harmony.

Artist: Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto
Album: Glass
Label: NOTON