Artists Space

Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held

Concert
January 19, 2023, 8pm

As part of the retrospective Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia, Artists Space is pleased to present a special concert with legendary sound artist Yasunao Tone and flutist Barbara Held. For this rare performance, the pair will perform four pieces Tone originally composed for Held—Trio for a Flute Player (1985), Aletheia (1987), Lyrictron for Flute (1988), and Zen and Music (1990).

Six lines of calligraphy and English text written in black ink on white paper are lined by six sets of musical staves.
Yasunao Tone, Page from score for Trio for a Flute Player with typographical annotations by Barbara Held, 1985. [Six lines of calligraphy and English text written in black ink on white paper are lined by six sets of musical staves.]

Throughout the 1980s, Tone and Held performed several pieces that challenge traditional notions of composition; namely, the role of composer and performer, the legibility of a score, and the perception of sound as “music.” The point of departure for each of those featured in this performance is a found text—the seventh-century Man’yoshu anthology of poems (Trio for Flute Player), an ancient Chinese dance score (Aletheia), Tang dynasty flute tablatures (Lyrictron for Flute), and ancient Japanese shakuhachi flute music (Zen and Music). From these sources, Tone’s scores embark on an open-ended translation across media, technology, and writing systems. In Trio for a Flute Player, for example, musical staves printed on transparencies are superimposed atop calligraphic renderings of poems in Classical Japanese, with twentieth-century English translations included on each sheet. Transforming the written notation into sound, Held reads the poems in English through the mouthpiece of her flute while fingering the keys of her instrument, their position determined by a reading of the Japanese characters as they appear on the staves as tablature. Her instrument, which she calls her “Tone hacked flute,” is modified with foam pads placed on the keys that, when pressed, alter the strength of an electric current running through an oscillator and cause unpredictable variation in the pitch and intensity of the sound.

In performing these pieces, Held reads each text-based score faithfully and without interpretation. Focusing on a literal translation of the score’s instructions, the performer loses any sense of the text’s original meaning and the impulse to play according to her own classical training. What follows is undirected and uncontrolled sound modulated by the vacillating noise of Tone’s technical interventions.

On the occasion of this exhibition and performance, the audio engineer David Meschter has restored the Lyrictron system he created for Tone in 1988, which will be used in the eponymous performance. Lyrictron consists of a computer program that converts flute pitches into words recited by a computerized voice and expressed as impromptu haikus on a monitor.

Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia is on view at Artists Space January 13 – March 18.

A figure sits in front of a microphone and reads a story off of a piece of paper.
Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held. Performance documentation, January 19, 2023, Artists Space. Photo: Destiny Mata [A figure sits in front of a microphone and reads a story off of a piece of paper.]
A figure sits in front of a table with audio equipment, including a commodore computer and flute-to-haiku converter.
Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held. Performance documentation, January 19, 2023, Artists Space. Photo: Destiny Mata [A figure sits in front of a table with audio equipment, including a commodore computer and flute-to-haiku converter.]
Two figures sit in front of a table filled with audio equipment including a commodore computer and flute-to-haiku converter.
Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held. Performance documentation, January 19, 2023, Artists Space. Photo: Destiny Mata [Two figures sit in front of a table filled with audio equipment including a commodore computer and flute-to-haiku converter.]
A figure stands behind a music stand, playing a flute.
Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held. Performance documentation, January 19, 2023, Artists Space. Photo: Destiny Mata [A figure stands behind a music stand, playing a flute.]
A crowd watches as a figure on stage sits behind a commodore computer while text is projected on the right wall that reads "A cool star filled night / above the dark sea / though as a fire-fly
Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held. Performance documentation, January 19, 2023, Artists Space. Photo: Destiny Mata [A crowd watches as a figure on stage sits behind a commodore computer while text is projected on the right wall that reads "A cool star filled night / above the dark sea / though as a fire-fly's light."]
Two figures perform on stage. The figure on the right stands behind a music stand and plays the flute while the figure on the left sits behind a microphone and reads off a piece of paper.
Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held. Performance documentation, January 19, 2023, Artists Space. Photo: Destiny Mata [Two figures perform on stage. The figure on the right stands behind a music stand and plays the flute while the figure on the left sits behind a microphone and reads off a piece of paper.]
A figure sits on stage in front of a crowd and looks to the right as text is projected onto the right wall.
Yasunao Tone in Concert with Barbara Held. Performance documentation, January 19, 2023, Artists Space. Photo: Destiny Mata [A figure sits on stage in front of a crowd and looks to the right as text is projected onto the right wall.]

Yasunao Tone is a multidisciplinary artist working in New York City. Tone graduated from Chiba University in 1957 with a major in Japanese literature and became an important figure in postwar Japanese art during the 1960s. He was a key member of Group Ongaku, Team Random, and the Japanese branch of Fluxus, and was involved with several other collectives and artists such as the Neo-Dada Organizers, Hi-Red Center, and Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata. Relocating to the United States in 1972, he has since been a crucial force in the philosophical and material advancement of durational art across myriad live forms, gaining a legendary reputation as a musician, performer, and writer. He has collaborated with a prolific range of dancers, visual artists, and musicians including Merce Cunningham, Blondell Cummings, Allan Kaprow, Senga Nengudi, Butch Morris, and George Maciunas.


Barbara Held is a flutist and composer based in Barcelona, Spain. Known for her subtle exploration of the minutiae of sonic material, she creates sensitive, focused sound work that exposes the detail of the physical space of listening in equal part to a keen attention to how we listen as bodies moving through the world. She has performed a very personal body of new repertoire for flute by Spanish and American composers, including Alvin Lucier’s “Self-Portrait” for flute and wind anemometer, scores by long-time collaborator Yasunao Tone, Seth Cluett’s the bifurcation of nature for performance score and sound sculpture, and films and performance work with Carles Santos and poet Joan Brossa. Recent interdisciplinary collaborations include DINS PER DALT, a performance with biologist and audio-naturalist Eloisa Matheu, “LAND-ING”, a multi-channel sound installation with Daniel Neumann that was developed exclusively from recordings they had made interacting with the landscape of the island of Tenerife, Observatory/Lisa Joy, a generative audiovisual installation with Benton C Bainbridge, the installation BECOMING with video artist Eugenia Balcells currently being shown at the Vilacasas Foundation in Barcelona, and a new collaborative work in progress with Richard Garet. She was the creator and producer of “Music at Metrónom”, a series of concerts of experimental music in Barcelona that gave special support to collaboration between musicians and visual artists, a project that she shared with invited co-curators such as Augusti Fernandez, Paul DeMarinis and Francisco Lopez. She collaborates with the University of Barcelona’s Master in Sound Art program.


David Meschter earned a Bachelor of Science in Audio Technology from American University in Washington, DC and founded Applied Audio Technologies in the early eighties. Since then, Mr. Meschter has been providing a wide array of services to the performing arts community ranging from theatrical sound designs to the creation of custom electronic musical instruments. Mr. Meschter was the sound designer and touring ensemble electronic musician for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1981 thru 1988. David Meschter has created sound designs for a variety of other artists and organizations including Philip Glass, LaMonte Young, Meredith Monk, Ping Chong, The Ridge Theater, Yasunao Tone, Lincoln Center, Houston Grand Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, and The Public Theater among others. He was the sound designer & engineer for Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble from 1989 to 2013. His sound design for the Broadway production of Medea, directed by Deborah Warner, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Sound Design of the 2002–03 season along with Mel Mercier for Best Sound Scape. Mr. Meschter and was the sound designer and audio supervisor for Lincoln Center Festivals from its beginning in 1996 thru its end in 2018. He has also been the sound designer and supervisor for Philip Glass's Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall since 1998. Mr. Meschter is the founder of PsiPhiTrophic Software, developing psychoactive audio using binaural beat technologies.

Major support for Yasunao Tone: Region of Paramedia is provided by Taka Ishii Gallery and Joe & Nancy Walker. Exhibition support is provided by James Cahn & Jeremiah Collatz, Fridman Gallery, Stephanie LaCava, and the Japan Foundation, New York.

Support for Artists Space’s exhibitions and programs is provided by Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, The Cy Twombly Foundation, The Teiger Foundation, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, Imperfect Family Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, Herman Goldman Foundation, The Destina Foundation, The Luce Foundation, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, The David Rockefeller Fund, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation.