Christophe Charles

Christophe Charles

  Christophe Charles (born Marseille 1964), works with found sounds, and makes compositions using computer programs, insisting on the autonomy of each sound and the absence of hierarchical structure. Graduated from Tsukuba University (PhD 1996) and Paris INALCO (PhD 1997). Currently Professor at Musashino Art University (Tokyo), has released music on the German label Mille Plateaux / Ritornell (“undirected” series), and on several compilations (Mille Plateaux, Ritornell, Subrosa, Code, Cirque, Cross, X-tract, CCI, ICC, unfinished, etc). Permanent sound installations at Osaka Housing Center (1999~), Narita International Airport Central Atrium (2000~). Collaborations with Henning Christiansen, Yamaguchi Katsuhiro, Kazakura Sho, and many others.


  Sakamoto Ryuichi’s music has had a profound impact on me since the early 1980s. His LP “Left Handed Dream” (1981) not only proposed a new approach to electronic-synthetic beat-based music together with sounds of everyday life, animals or traditional musical instruments, it also manifested, with the cover art, photography and make-up, a visual aesthetic that reflected the Japanese artistic avant-gardes of the time. A few years earlier, I had been fascinated by Isozaki Arata’s “Ma” exhibition (1978), and had met Kosugi Takehisa in 1979 – three very significant episodes that encouraged me to go and live in Japan. In the 2000s, I was lucky enough to meet Hanno Yoshihiro, who invited me to take part in the deconstruction-reconstruction of some of his compositions, as well as in the “unfinished” compilation. I was thus privileged to work with the “hoon” material (a collaboration between Hanno and Sakamoto), a unique blend of piano, electronic and ambient sounds, with that particular flavor that already emerged from “Left Handed Dream”. The tonality of the compositions reminds me of watercolors that, intentionally, don’t unfold their full force and remain in the background. This is music that stands out for its humility, with a respect for silence and dull, unadorned sounds, while remaining very playful with a dry sense of humor. There’s a sense of purity here, which no doubt ties in with Mr. Sakamoto’s ongoing commitment to environmental and political issues. 

  Since the 2000s, in his collaborative works with young artists in electronic and digital music and the visual arts, he has brought unparalleled timbres and temporalities. He has also renewed the piano (prepared or not) as a melodious instrument that can be tuned to any kind of electronic sound. Indeed, Mr. Sakamoto has never put aside his love of the piano, even after a long period of intensive use of synthetic and electronic-digital sounds. One might compare his more recent piano-based works to John Cage’s “Number Pieces”: after experimenting with the wildest electronic sounds in the 1960s and 1970s, Cage was keen to rehabilitate “traditional” instruments such as the piano or violin in his music. I wouldn’t presume to compare myself to my masters, but after using mainly electronic sounds during the 1990s and 2000s, I’ve had a renewed interest in so-called “analog” sounds, particularly guitar sounds, an instrument that has attracted me since my earliest years. I also feel it’s important to continue designing and producing music for classical instruments (piano, guitar), which are used by so many people, in order to propose other ideas and approaches. When Tomoyoshi Date talks about “micro-ambient”, it seems to me that this corresponds to the search for detail in a material of an intentionally limited spectrum, but which, if carefully scrutinized, reveals infinite possibilities, because we can only repeat the different. I have therefore chosen to present a piece for guitar that seems to correspond to Mr. Date’s idea of “micro-ambient” and offers the ear multiple variations through ever-fluctuating tonalities, and think that Mr. Sakamoto would listen to it with benevolence. 

Christophe Charles, Tokyo, June 15, 2023