While large movie theater chains struggle to stay afloat in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, Japan Society has adapted to the age of social distancing with remarkable ease, shifting the entire fall/winter lineup of its performing arts program to a digital format without any apparent difficulty.
For a cinephile such as myself, the most intriguing offering of the season is, without a doubt, Reiko Yamada: Sound Instillation on Silent Movies, in which composer Reiko Yamada provides “live” (on October 21, anyway; the archived recording of the performance will remain available to stream until November 4) musical accompaniments for three obscure silent shorts. Her work is anything but conventional, however; she utilizes her instruments in unique, imaginative ways, creating rich and immersive ambient soundscapes. During The Development of the Train, for example, she uses a broken antique accordion to evoke the chuffing of steam engines and pounding of pistons. I’d even go as far as to argue that her novel, innovative style veers into the realm of transformative art, enhancing and elevating the rather straightforward subjects of the movies themselves (educational films, dramatic re-enactments of sumo matches, et cetera).
I would, of course, have preferred the communal experience of enjoying this concert with an audience... but until the world returns to normal (or at least something resembling it), I suppose this online version will have to suffice.