Toshio Iwai performance at Sonar

As part of Sonarama’s celebration of “the year of japan,” Toshio Iwai had been invited to make a performance of the Nintendo musical game electroplankton and of the sound + light musical instrument Tenori-On.

I don’t need much to be convinced that the man is a genius. He could come on the stage and do absolutely nothing else that dance the flamenco and i would still clap my hands enthousiastically. People with more common sense than me were nevertheless mesmerized by his show. And i’ve got good news for you if you were not in Barcelona. Toshio Iwai will make another performance in Manchester as part of the Futuresonic festival at Academy 2, on Friday 21st July. I won’t miss that, can’t think of a better way to celebrate Belgium’s National Day ;-)


The point wasn’t to make wonderful music that you could listen to with your eyes closed but to show the possibilities of the instruments he developed. There were three of them on stage:

Iwai, Yu Nishibori, in charge of the Tenori-on project at YAMAHA were both playing Tenori-on and electroplankton, and Naoaki Kojima was playing Sound-Lens.

Sound-Lens, created by Iwai in 2001, is a mobile type art piece which converts light into sound. First realised as an installation piece, Sound-Lens was used at Sonar as a musical instrument. For the installation version, the participant is given a SOUND-LENS receiver and headset. They can then walk around the exhibit in search of light sources which are fixed on the walls and ceilings. When the receiver lens is held up against the lights, sounds which are hidden in the lights can be heard through the headset. Furthermore, each participant can enjoy the transformation of sounds interactively by moving the SOUND-LENS receiver around, adjusting its distance or angle in relation to the light sources.


For the Sonarama performance, 25 blue-green LEDs were place in a matrix on a stand in the center of the stage. LED’s lights are designed to play a musical scale, so Naoaki Kojima was playing Sound-Lens like a musical instrument by moving the lens vertically or horizontally.

More about the performance: Luca Barbeni reviewed it on teknemedia (in italian), I put some images on flickr and i just read at Chris’ place that the Tenori-on has now a weblog.