Rokujo: An Audiovisual Installation for Japanese Calligraphy and English Poetry

Toshihisa Tsuruoka and Ashley Muniz

Blending Japanese calligraphy and English poetry, this project dives into the beautiful aural and visual experience of traditions in hand-lettering kanji, spoken word poetry, and digital poetry. The goal was to cross-pollinate the expressional facets of kanji—a logographic writing system that communicates the entire meaning of a word in a single letter—with auditory sounds that aim to magnify emotions evoked by these letters. At the core of calligraphy are its graceful, skillful, harmonious brush strokes. These brush stroke movements were visually recorded as well as tracked for data sonification to reveal emotional facets untapped in the visual domain. In order to capture the kanji as it was written, a structure was assembled from a camera and transparent photo frame. A piece of paper could be seen through the frame, exposing each brush stroke as the ink penetrated the paper while the camera, situated beneath the frame, recorded the writing without exposing the writer. With this installation, the audience will observe the prerecorded writing process while simultaneously hearing corresponding English words that clarify the meaning behind each kanji as well as exemplify each kanji’s embodied emotions. Overall, we hope that this piece exhibits the beauty of all incorporated mediums, and that our audience will experience a delicate fluctuation of emotion as each kanji is explored.

About the Artist

Toshihisa Tsuruoka (b.1994) is a sound artist-composer who specializes in electro-acoustic works. His most recent collaborations include Prime Winds Ensemble, Consensus Ensemble, Bearthoven Ensemble, Quince Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, NYUO1 Orchestra and many more. As a researcher, Toshi focuses on the intersection of music and technology. In 2019, his research papers titled Soundwriter and Bookscapes Project were published via the International Computer Music Conference. Currently, he is the lead researcher on a project named Ear Talk: Sounds Worth Sharing—a system that allows people to share, shape, and form music on an online virtual space. Toshi holds a masters degree from New York University in Composition where he studied with Justin Dello Joio and Tae Hong Park.

Ashley Muniz (b.1995) is a writer of words and sound from NYC. Drawing inspiration from electronic literature and the language poetry movement, she aims to fabricate a world both lyrically and musically, posing abstract landscapes, visceral narratives, and philosophical thought experiments. In 2019, her collaborative research paper Soundwriter: Real-Time Music Generation for Oral Storytelling through Emotion Mapping was published via the International Computer Music Conference 2019. Her poetry projects have also been accepted into the Electronic Literature Organization Conference 2020. She pursued studies in Music Business as well as Creative and Professional Writing and received a Masters in Music Theory & Composition at New York University. Her dream is to explore and expand the way in which words play a part and are experienced within a piece of music through the use of digital technology.