Jo Kondo – Recordings


One thing is for sure: at no point during the making of this record was Jo Kondo told that he needed ‘more cowbell’. His 20 minute trance suite ‘Under The Umbrella’ is performed by an ensemble of 25 musicians, all but one of them armed with nothing but that most erotic of instruments – the cowbell. The cowbell-deprived member of the group is playing a gong – which might be viewed in this context as a big flat cowbell.

Bruce Dickinson would have loved this group. They do not hesitate to explore – and I mean really *explore* – the studio space. The different cowbells present a series of graduated pitches which are used in the classic Gene Frenkle-style as well as in more meditative sense as ‘tuned bowls’. In fact the listener who’s not too concerned with cowbell issues would probably mistake this for a gamelan record. The resulting sound is not too different from some of the Gamelan Son Of Lion records.

Morton Feldman had this to say about Jo Kondo: “What i’m really talking about in this interview is that we’re more dependent on percussion for models than we are on other instruments and that’s why so much percussion music is in the realm of cliché. Her piece sounds startling because you don’t hear the marimba solo, you don’t hear the vibraphone solo, you hear an extended xylophone solo with material that could only be for the xylophone, but there is no model for it, you see. Jo Kondo is another example; he fell madly in love with the cowbells, and uses them very hauntingly and very rightly in his piece which gives the music a lot of distinction. I have no rapport with a cowbell so it’s very, very interesting.”

Jo Kondo calls his music ‘Sen No Ongaku’ (‘Linear Music’) which definitely makes sense listening to his cowbell opus – a lengthy linear procession of glorious cowbell tintinabulations. The ensemble really performs the hell out of the piece. The record was released in 1981 on the ‘Musical Observations’ label.

This review is dedicated to the memory of Gene Frenkle 1950-2000.

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