Björk Uses Tenori-on

Yamaha’s new instrument featured in stage show      21/05/08
Björk Uses Tenori-on
Damian with his Tenori-on (photo by Daniel Griffin)

Yamaha have been in touch to tell us about the latest high profile use of their Tenori-on. Here’s their press release in its entirey…
Björk’s live shows are always something to behold both visually and sonically, but for her current world tour she has devised a way to further enhance the visual feast, revealing all of the cutting-edge technology used on three large plasma screens so that the audience can see exactly what’s happening on stage. Björk’s band includes Damian Taylor whose rig resembles the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and includes a Yamaha Tenori-on which is displayed on those screens to the wide-eyed crowds during the track Who Is It?. “Björk felt it would be cool to feature the gear,� says Damian, “ to make it part of the stage set rather than using abstract pre-recorded visuals and projections.�
So Yamaha’s groundbreaking light sequencer has fitted in perfectly with the visual ethic. Damian adds…
“What was really cool was its ‘all in one’ approach. I like the way it’s really immediate. And it’s great to use a hi-tech music device without a computer monitor that encourages you to use your fingers! It's fresh, built on new ideas.�
“We thought it would be fun to try it live,� he continues. “Who Is It? has lots of spiky and intricate vocal parts on the multitrack which weren't yet represented in the existing brass arrangement so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Tenori-on's sample playback capabilities. I grabbed a whole bunch of "doops" "boops" "Oooos" and random vocal sounds off the multitrack and loaded them in. The sonic characteristics of the sampled vocals sat perfectly around the warm, heavy brass arrangement and Björk's lead vocal, and then just jamming with the on-board sequencer gave us musical progression and dynamics – plus a really nice bunch of imagery for our video guy, Anthony Cairns, to use on screen.� So what’s Damian’s favourite aspect about the Tenori-on approach to music making? “I think probably the ‘switch on and go’ factor,� he replies. “It’s more like having an instrument than a sequencer, just turning it on and making music. It’s a great ‘instant’ gratification thing for musicians, electronic or otherwise. In the same way you can just pick up an acoustic guitar, or sit at a piano, you can grab the Tenori-on and play. You don't need to boot up a computer, switch on your speakers, set up your mixer, initialise a MIDI track in a sequencer… It has that distilled but fun and usable interface, it’s straight up and immediate, compact and self contained.�
And Damian is not the only person in the Björk camp to have experimented with this new approach to making music…
“Björk had a good play with it when we first tried it out and she really likes it,� says Damian. “She's into the fact that it makes the brain work in a different way, breaks routines and habits. I have a feeling she’ll get more into it after the tour when she heads back to the studio. In the meantime she keeps one in her suitcase for whenever the mood strikes, and she makes a point of mentioning the Tenori-on in my list of instruments when she introduces the band towards the end of our sets.�
So how does it feel for Damian to be on such a high profile outing with some of the most cutting edge gear out there? “I do have to remind myself that it's pretty unusual for any band to have a set-up even remotely like this! You can definitely see the crowd reacting to these new things – when I fire up the Tenori-on, for example, they kind of go ‘wooh, what’s that?!’ I wind up with a bunch of emails after each gig from people who have tracked me down online, demanding an explanation! Using the Tenori-on and the other gear is really exciting and fresh for me after all those years in the studio too. I got so used to always using a computer, a mouse, some faders and knobs. Now it's playing music with all these different interfaces, graphics, feedback, tactility - plus thousands of people responding to it… The Tenori-on is a real winner because of its ‘one box’ approach. Anyone can just chuck it in a bag and hop on the train or drive to a gig, or fire it up anytime in the back of a tour bus as we did.�
Damian is also keeping himself busy with recording projects including producing a new artist from New York called Atarah Valentine and his own musical outlet Stone Lions. Mainly, though, he's very excited about working with Björk in the studio again to further develop and explore the methods and lessons they learned from these new instruments in her live shows. “I’m looking forward to burying myself in my little studio in Canada to find more and more cool ways to use them.�
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