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Takehisa Kosugi 1938–2018

The Japanese violinist, avant garde composer and Fluxus member died on 12 October aged 80

Takehisa Kosugi, a key figure in Japan’s postwar avant garde music scene, was born in 1938, the eldest son of a Tokyo glazier. He played the violin from a young age, having acquired the stringless body of an instrument from a school friend in exchange for a kit radio. However, it was his use of the heterodyne effect that would inform much of his work. As noted by Alan Cummings in The Wire 220, “his discovery of miniature signal generators during a two year sojourn in New York from 1965–67 really decided his future methodology. He found that by placing two generators in close proximity, the intermodulation of two high frequency radio waves inaudible to the human ear could create an audible phasing soundwave. This heterodyne effect – of making the inaudible audible, the invisible visible, transcending the human sensory range – has played a massively important part in his music ever since.”

In the 1960s, while still at art collage, Kosugi formed Japan's first improv collective Group Ongaku. He was also a member of Hi-Red Centre, a short-lived radical art collective active between 1963–64. Alongside this, he was part of the international Fluxus community, and would work with George Maciunas, John Cage, Nam June Paik, Don Cherry and David Tudor. In the 1970s, Kosugi tagged along with The Taj Mahal Travellers, a sprawling ensemble known for sets up to 12 hours long, as they took a camper van across Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and even to the Taj Mahal itself in India. In 1977 he became resident composer for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and would go on to present numerous performances and installations at festivals. In 1999 he collaborated with Sonic Youth on SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century.

Alan Cummings spoke to Kosugi in May 2004 for The Wire 243. Read the article for free via Exact Editions.