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Book Review: Ongaku


Book Review Ongaku By Junichi Taguchi Reviewed by George Slade I was forewarned that this book had something to do with music. Its title is the Japanese word for music. Naturally, then, I brought it to my violinist friend for any general comments and asked her to translate the inscriptions on the cover.

Ongaku. By Junichi Taguchi.
Tosei-Sha, 2013.
 
Ongaku
Reviewed by George Slade

Ongaku
By Junichi Taguchi

$44.00
Tosei-Sha, 2013. 73 pp., 36 color illustrations, 10¼x7¾".


I was forewarned that this book had something to do with music. Its title is the Japanese word for music. Naturally, then, I brought it to my violinist friend for any general comments and asked her to translate the inscriptions on the cover. To me, the notations Fl, Xyl, Vib, and Voice at the beginning of four staffs were cryptic.

Stephanie casually informed musically-challenged me that these were the parts of a composition for flute, xylophone, vibraphone, and voice. To her eyes, their meaning was simple and clear. I then wondered how inscrutable the book’s contents would be.

There is, fortunately for us, more visual language here than musical. Ongaku presents two worlds made by hand. One world produces the ethereal realm of sound, while the other refers to the entirely physical environment of rock, mineral, and wood.

Ongaku. By Junichi Taguchi. Tosei-Sha, 2013.

The connections between these worlds are made on graphic and intuitive bases; there is scant evidence that the photographs interpret anything related to the auditory content of a particular composition. Taguchi, editor Kimio Jinbo, and designer Satsuki Ishiyama have crafted a book that makes some intriguing, elliptical connections between the work of a composer’s hand on a sheet of paper and the inflections of humans on the planar, constructed landscape around us.

Ongaku. By Junichi Taguchi. Tosei-Sha, 2013.

Within the book, all the photographs capture man-made settings of one sort or another, whether a hole in poured concrete, cracks in a sidewalk, or street markings gone awry and worn away over time. Even the random distribution of pebbles is a willed ordering of a sort when seen in the context of concrete aggregate.

Ongaku. By Junichi Taguchi. Tosei-Sha, 2013.

Only one photograph, of moss-tinted tree limbs appearing on the back dust jacket flap, is of natural material in a possibly unaltered or untouched condition. Let’s call this Platonic Nature, and then note that the title of the book refers to simple, unqualified Music — another untouched ideal. In between these pristine extremes, in the pages wrapped up by the book jacket, we witness enactment, and human choice — mess, happenstance, and correction en route to more perfect imperfection.

Ongaku. By Junichi Taguchi. Tosei-Sha, 2013.

Sequenced with the images of musical notation, Taguchi’s photographs answer those open-ended suggestions of form. Whether we HEAR this or any music in the photographs is inconsequential. We must SEEK its visual equivalents in the works humans have wrought, and in the photographer’s records of those quotidian performances.—GEORGE SLADE


GEORGE SLADE, a longtime contributor to photo-eye, is a photography writer, curator, historian and consultant based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He can be found online at http://rephotographica-slade.blogspot.com/

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