Japan and Lithuania are separated by more than 8,000 kilometers –what can connect these culturally completely different countries? The result surprised not only us but also the visitors to the Audra festival in Kaunas.
When we started organizing the festival, we kept trying to find what could be the musical contact between Lithuania and Japan – after a long search, the biggest discovery was that both countries are connected by one specific folk genre. In the entire world, only these two countries have this ancient multipart polyphonic method of singing (LT: Sutartinės). To break it simply, It is a conceptual type of singing, then one person starts singing the phrase, and every other starts to sing the same phrase after some gap of time. Making it weirdly harmonized, repetitive, and often has a strong trance effect on listeners.
After this discovery, we have realized that we could create something beautiful and unique, some sort of cultural bridge between two far-apart countries with the foundation of their cultural past similarities.
We always strive for the highest results, so we wanted to find top-class performers from both countries – luckily for us, we didn’t have to look long.
Midori Takada is a Japanese composer and percussionist who has released six albums and become an icon. Played on the biggest stages from New York to Paris – we did not doubt that this would be the best solution we could find. After long negotiations with the artist’s agents, we agreed that Midori Takada will present the world premiere in Lithuania. Working together with the Gaudė and Devyniaragė ensembles, we tried to create something unique and special – a few months later, a piece called Silent Birds was born. It is a work that has more than one meaning. First of all, it’s about a world where, because of wars, we no longer hear the birds that symbolize peace – hatred drowns out the birds’ voices. In the work, the part of the conventions, where there are no words with meaning, is also very important – there are sounds made by birds.
The preparation of this work was tense and quite complicated. Midori Takada arrived in Lithuania two weeks before the performance – the rehearsal schedule was very busy, but also very inspiring. Watching Midori and the ensembles seemed to dissolve language barriers. Midori’s professional teaching included not only rehearsing artists, but also audio and video artists, whose help was to create not only the perfect sound but also to fulfill the visual part. For Midori to get a better feel for this piece, together with the performers from the ensembles, she visited the traditional St. John’s rites held in Kaunas, which helped the performer get to know the culture and customs of our country better. Midori also visited places of interest – the MK Čiurlionis National Art Museum, and Sugihara’s house, and also tasted traditional Lithuanian food, which left a great impression on the performer.
All stay planning was generously interrupted by several interviews and other types of media inquiries. Apart from a few local news outlets Midori and her Silent Birds project were also invited to a national television morning live broadcast. There she gave an interview and performed one musical piece from an upcoming concert. It was a special program dedicated to St. John’s Day is also a very celebrated and important day for old pre-Christian culture in Lithuania. We can proudly state that this was a great milestone for introducing the Silent Birds idea and also presenting Midori Takada as an artist.
We, the organizers, had an indescribable feeling while watching the rehearsal of Midori Takada and the Gaudė and Devyniaragė ensemble. We were probably no less nervous than the performers on stage, bearing in mind that the rehearsals lasted only two weeks, so the show had to be prepared very quickly. A few weeks later, we were sitting in a packed event hall – it was probably the biggest show of its kind in Lithuania. There was excitement behind the scenes, but after Midori Takada’s words of encouragement, everything fell into place. In our eyes, it was the most spectacular show we had ever seen.
After the performance, the whole hall gave a standing ovation – we saw many tears on the faces of the audience. Midori’s energy was overwhelming. It was probably the first and last performance of the song Silent Birds, so all the emotions and memories will remain only in the heads of the people who sat in that hall. The performance of Midori Takada, Gaudė, and Devyniaragė decorated the entire Audra Festival and it only showed that distance or language barrier is not a problem to create something magical.
Regarding our further cooperation, we would like to further deepen our knowledge about the culture and artists of Japan in East Asia. We want to believe that it’s only the beginning. Both while writing the Midori Takada premiere project itself and implementing the whole process, we realized that our cultures are very different, but we also have many similarities – we’re all hard working, full of enthusiasm and pride in our culture and people. For us – it’s the main thing that keeps us going. And, of course, contractual. We have no doubt that there are many more of those similarities. By having an opportunity for further cooperation, we could discover even more of them – even if we’re separated by 8000 kilometers, there definitely are more artists that can bring such distant countries closer to each other. It’s no secret that culture connects everyone.
As for next year, we have scheduled the date of the AUDRA festival – June 29 – July 2. In the first year, our festival was able to overcome many non-standard post-industrial spaces with music and musical projects – light art installations took a huge part also. We would like to continue this element further, and if successful – in cooperation with representatives of Japanese conceptual light art. We are currently in negotiations with the Japanese project NANOTAK. It is a joint artistic union of two artists, Takami Nakamoto and Noemi Schipfer, which delves into light arts, the use of robotics and new technologies in modern art. Quite symbolic, because this duo visited Kaunas exactly ten years ago – at the Insanitus art festival, which was also organized by us. It’s been a long time – we’re glad that this year there is an opportunity to meet again. Only this time at a much bigger festival, after they became A-level artists in their field.