Sound Gardening

A very special music event in a very special setting.

In Features by William Andrews 2009-07-24

I was running late. A mad dash through the Shinagawa rush hour crowds. When I got to Kiyosumi Gardens and made my way along the path, across the pond I could see some heads already sitting in the tea house. Expecting to be an intrusive blunderer I slid the fusama open as quietly as possible and stepped inside.

No one looked up. No one noticed me. The room was totally at peace; thirty or so people sitting on zabuton mats on the tatami, many with their eyes closed. In the middle ‘played’ Christophe Charles, surrounded by gadetry, his hands making silent music. There was no sound. If you didn’t notice the headphones the audience was wearing, you’d think it was an eerie seance. The concert had begun.

Finding the last remaining zabuton I put on the comfortable headphones and was at once transported. Dusk was falling and it became harder to see. But visuals were not important. Instead, as you looked out onto the park you just listened to the electronica. When it ended, no one knew if they should break the spell and applaud.
Sound Gardening at Kiyosumi Gardens.

The first thirty-minute set was by Christophe Charles. Next came Kumiko Okamura, who played something quite different. Singing a little, she mainly played a guitar, twanging and tapping the strings like a percussive instrument. The sounds bent and warped. The final set was from Philippe Chatelain. Sampling Japanese and French dialogue tracks and even dog noises, at first I thought his was the harshest of the concerts. But gradually it grew calmer, dissolving finally into wind and whistling.

Before and between sets the audience enjoyed champagne and chocolates. Being late I kind of missed most of this but, given the event I had experienced, I was definitely not in a griping mood.

The next “Sound Gardening” event is on September 25. TABlog will provide further details closer to the time.

Readers can also check out Christophe Charles’s website.

William Andrews

William Andrews. William Andrews came to Japan in 2004. He first lived in Osaka, where he was a translator for Kansai Art Beat. Arriving in Tokyo in 2008, he now works as an writer, editor and translator. He writes a blog about Japanese radicalism and counterculture ( and one about Tokyo contemporary theatre ( He is the author of Dissenting Japan: A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture, from 1945 to Fukushima. » See other writings


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