To end the virtual residency at the University of Virginia, You Nakai/No Collective, Tokyo Gen'on Project, and UVA composers are organizing a concert of zoomusic. Given the time difference, we are doing two concerts, one in the evening time in Japan (morning in Virginia), and the other in the morning time of Japan (evening in Virginia). The two concerts will be set up like a diptych of sorts so it might be interesting to attend them both.
No Collective was invited for an ensemble residency at the University of Virginia (Composition & Computer Technologies course) from September 2021 to June 2022. Since it was going to be a virtual residency due to the pandemic, when they asked me about the instrumentation of the ensemble, I replied that they should consider ZOOM, our primary medium of communication, as an instrument in its own right for this residency. I thought this would encourage all the composers involved to conceive some kind of zoomusic. But there were some composers who were eager to know what the "real instrumentation" was.
Around the same time, I received another invitation, this time from Tokyo Genon, a contemporary music ensemble based in Japan, to curate a concert for them in the role of a critic. Since it was uncertain whether the concert would be offline or online, I told them that I would organize an evening of zoomusic which would be seen online, but could also be experienced offline in a concert hall (just as people would visit a TV studio to witness the scene of making a program primarily dedicated to people watching it through a screen). So when Virginia composers asked me what the real instrumentation was, my first idea was to create a fake ensemble with the same instrumentation as Tokyo Genon (saxophone, tuba, piano, percussion, electronics) by recruiting performers I know from around the world. That way, I could have the composers write zoomusic for that instrumentation, and if there are any good ones, I could also perform it for the concert in Tokyo. But then it occurred to me that a much simpler solution would be to just take Tokyo Genon to the virtual residency with me. It so happens that Genon wanted to collaborate with composers outside Japan, so they accepted my invitation and thus began a virtual collaboration of zoomusic.
One problem, however, was what role did I/No Collective, who was neither composing music nor performing it, played in this project. I realized that there were two things that needed to be taken care of in order for this residency to succeed. One was that communication needed to be established between the composers in Virginia who did not speak Japanese and the performers in Tokyo whose English needed some help. Another was that since we now had performers who played traditional instruments, the whole group needed to be constantly reminded that ZOOM was the principal instrument in this project. These two problems both revolved around the issue of mediation. This led me to declare that for this project, I/No Collective will perform the role of neither composer nor performer (and much less a critic), but a "vanishing mediator" who smoothes out the barrier of mediation (concerning language) on the one hand, while foregrounding the barrier of mediation (concerning web conferencing tool) on the other. It seemed to be a fitting role for a project that focused on ZOOM, an instrument mediating various locations of the world whose specific affordances and constraints are usually left out of sight for the sake of smooth communication.