[ Thumbnail ] Music Reaching Beyond Time #3

Music Reaching Beyond Time

#3 Harmonizing with People in the Future

February 1, 2023

Two seemingly different initiatives at Yamaha share a common theme — to make music with people in the future, creating harmonies that resonate across time. Real Sound Viewing is a system that “vacuum packs” live performances and later reproduces them on a real stage, offering the same exhilarating experience as the original concert regardless of time and place, while the OTONOMORI (Forest of Sound) Project is a collaboration between Yamaha and local communities that aims to conserve timber resources for instrument production by nurturing sustainable forests.

Inspiring Musicians 100 Years Into the Future

If Real Sound Viewing can be used to stock a multitude of live experiences for the future, the greatest musical moments of a generation can be passed directly onto the next.

Yoshiyuki Tsuge, who leads the Real Sound Viewing project, says: “I’m sure many people have been moved by an artist’s live performance at some point in their life. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if future people could also experience your favorite concert of all time?”

“By passing on our music in the form of live content for future generations, we may even end up jamming with people living a few centuries ahead of us. Back when I was in a band, I used to practice by playing along to my favorite artists’ CDs, but now with the advent of Real Sound Viewing technology, we might be able to essentially ‘make music together’ on a whole new level. This system has the potential to redefine the way we enjoy music.”

[ Thumbnail ] Yoshiyuki Tsuge, Product Designer at Design Laboratory, Yamaha
Yoshiyuki Tsuge, Product Designer at Design Laboratory, Yamaha

Tsuge saw a glimpse of that future during a visit to the Yamaha store in Ginza, Tokyo. The store has a stage showcasing the contents of Real Sound Viewing, and Tsuge was conducting a final sound check with the featured artists. When he turned on the playback of the bass and drums, the pianist suddenly started playing the piano alongside the revived performance. Essentially, what was unfolding was an impromptu session with people who were not present.

This was a heart-trembling moment for Tsuge himself, who designed the system. “As Real Sound Viewing evolves over time, we might discover even more possibilities. I can’t wait for future people to explore innovative ways to benefit from this technology.”

Envisioning a World in the Distant Future

As members of the OTONOMORI (Forest of Sound) Project, Kazushi Nakai and Haruka Kaigai both work extensively with wood and trees. This, they say, encourages them to think about their connection with future generations.

[ Thumbnail ] Kazushi Nakai (left) and Haruka Kaigai, members of the OTONOMORI (Forest of Sound) Project
Kazushi Nakai (left) and Haruka Kaigai, members of the OTONOMORI (Forest of Sound) Project

“My job involves various duties, including surveying forests. I usually think about future people when I’m planting trees in the forest,” says Nakai, reflecting on the grand passage of time he feels through nature. “For example, I’m met with a sense of wonder when I see a magnificent tree spreading its branches right beside a seedling I’ve just planted. I have no idea whether that tree was originally planted by someone a century ago, or whether it naturally regenerated from a seed dispersed by an animal, but it makes me wonder if the seedling I planted will also grow to be that big someday. In 100 years’ time, someone might look at my tree and have those exact same thoughts.”

For Kaigai, it’s the specific process of pruning that makes her imagine the future. Cutting branches close to the ground helps the tree generate better quality timber without knots, which is a crucial step for growing trees that can later be turned into musical instruments. Forests are also considered to be of higher value if more trees can be used at a high yield, facilitating sustainable development of local forestry business. It requires patience and dedication to trim off branches, but each pruning leads to a better future. Kaigai likes to engage in the process while visualizing how those trees will be used a few decades or centuries from now. Knowing that her work is making a difference is what keeps her going, she says. “I feel proud that my efforts will translate into precious materials for instruments in the future.”

A Relay Spanning Generations

To build an enduring legacy is probably a choice that highlights the best of humanity; quite the opposite of living selfishly and depriving future generations of opportunities. The Key that connects Tsuge, Nakai, and Kaigai may be their commitment to taking good care of the baton passed to them from previous generations and handing it over to the next.

According to Tsuge, the designer of Real Sound Viewing, “This is just one chapter in the ever-evolving history of music.” Musical performances have existed since the beginning of history, but there was a limit to the number of people who could listen together at any one given time. The way people enjoy music has changed dramatically over the last 100 years or so. Of particular note, the emergence of large, sound-amplifying PA systems has made it possible to deliver live music to far more people. For example, tens of thousands of fans can share the excitement together in a big stadium. Music has come a long way, supported by the continuous trial and error of inventing technology to project sound even further.

“With digital technology, we can now carry music not just across space, but also across time. I see this progress as a natural extension of the evolution of music that we have seen throughout our history. We couldn’t have developed Real Sound Viewing without all the technologies that our previous generations established before us. I think we owe it to them to play our part in driving music forward through Real Sound Viewing.”

“Even the guitar I play exists because someone invented this instrument and introduced it to the world a long time ago. In the case of electric guitars, I often come across musicians using models from the 1960s, enjoying the assets that previous generations worked hard to craft. That makes me motivated to pay it forward by contributing to the passing of this baton.”

Music Enriching Lives and Communities

Nakai from the OTONOMORI Project also insists that cooperation is essential for sustainable forests and societies and says they cannot be achieved by a single company or individual.

“The forests, the people who use the trees grown in those forests, and the societies where those people belong, they’re all intertwined. We can make this whole cycle more sustainable by sharing the necessity of this relationship between forests, people, and society with more people. The first step for us is to use that knowledge to look after our local forests. I see it as part of our work to paint a picture of that kind of forestry.”

[ Thumbnail ] OTONOMORI (Forest of Sound) in Okhotsk, Kitami city, Hokkaido
OTONOMORI (Forest of Sound) in Okhotsk, Kitami city, Hokkaido

Gaining widespread support to manage forests is challenging, however, as not everyone has an interest in forests on a personal level. This is also a general problem currently affecting the forestry industry in Japan. Nakai therefore believes in taking steps to gradually increase the number of people who care about forests. He says this should also help Japan in addressing the natural environmental issues it faces.

And what about the relationship between people in the modern world? “With the rise of digital communication, I think people are feeling more isolated. But deep down, we all want connection. Music is a great way to build that sense of belonging because it adds richness to our lives.” Nakai and Kaigai wholeheartedly agree on this.

“Music has the power to bring people together,” they continue with conviction. “In an ensemble, each member plays their own part, and the sounds of various instruments combine to form music.” “Similarly, in the OTONOMORI Project, we have the people living in communities around the forests, the people of Yamaha, and other various stakeholders striving toward a common goal.” The Key throughout their activities, perhaps, comes down to “harmonizing together.”

Like an orchestra blending colorful sounds in harmony, Yamaha’s Real Sound Viewing and forestry initiative both aspire to unite individuals from all walks of life, creating synergy to impact future generations.

(Interview date: September 2022)

Previous Page #2 Planting the Seeds of Music in Forests

Three-Part Series: Music Reaching Beyond Time

#1 How a “Vacuum-Packed Live Performance” Takes You to a Whole New World of Music

#2 Planting the Seeds of Music in Forests

#3 Harmonizing with People in the Future

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