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Inside the world of Geiko, Kyoto

A real treat for lovers of unusual sounds today – a rare chance to listen to the sounds of a traditional geiko performance from Kyoto, Japan, courtesy of a field recording by Giulia Biasibetti.

“It’s not easy to experience truly traditional geisha entertainment in Japan these days, so it was very lucky to be treated to this incredible performance by a well known geisha house in Kyoto. The Geiko (as geishas are called in Kyoto) performed this traditional song accompanied by kokiriko (wooden sticks).”

We’ve reimagined this fantastic recording into a recomposition that builds a fictional avant-jazz group from the sounds of the geiko.

The sound of the singing is very beautiful, but also quite atonal to my untrained western ears, and certainly very unusual – a quality I wanted to bring out in the reimagined sound.

I entered the geikos’ singing into an audio-to-MIDI converter, using the MIDI data from their voices to control various instruments.

In this way, I created my own experimental improvisational group, who I imagined our geiko audience had come to see. There’s a drummer, two synth players, a violinist and a pianist – and it’s this latter player, world-famous, whom everyone has come to see.

Every time his hands descend onto the piano keyboard to chop out some improvised chords as the drummer fits in around him, the crowd applauds to show their appreciation.

The group builds to a climax, eventually all playing at once to bring the piece to a close amid rapturous applause.

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