Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Music Workshop “Blinkin’ Beats – The World of Rhythms You Doodle with Sounds and Light”

SDGs × Art

Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Music Workshop “Blinkin’ Beats – The World of Rhythms You Doodle with Sounds and Light” (2021)

“Blinkin’ Beats – The World of Rhythms You Doodle with Sounds and Light” was a music workshop held on Sunday, September 5, 2021, at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. It was the first collaboration of “ratatap,” an installation work created by Junichi Kanebako, an artist who produces disability-friendly musical instruments that people with or without disabilities can play together, and the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Workshop Leaders (hereafter WSL). The participants enjoyed the “visible sounds” of cute characters called Otodama-kun, which appeared when they made sounds.

Photos: Jouji Suzuki/Courtesy of Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (credits for all photos below are the same)

Mysterious wristbands: Otodama-kun appear through hand movements

Eight participants enter a circular space lined with chairs and percussion instruments of various sizes. First, each participant puts on an orange wristband.
This is the key to the ratatap experience, although the method is yet to be revealed at this point.

Each participant first puts on a wristband with a small sensor installed.

First, a quick warm-up. The participants slap their bodies with their hands, or take turns drumming on each seat, and let the sound travel around. While participants are absorbed in the sound games proposed by WSL members, the auditorium gradually turns dark. When participants use their hands, the colorful Otodama-kun, with charming eyes, begin to appear on the floor in front of them.

When participants beat a rhythm with their hands, the vibrations generate Otodama-kun on the floor. As each person has a different color, the venue is filled with colorful images, creating a lively atmosphere.

Musical interface designer Mr. Kanebako and his co-creators, Hiroki Inokuchi (video production) and Shinya Yoshida (program development), appear as doctors” at this point. They explain the method of the ratatap musical instrument that turns invisible sounds into visible Otodama-kun.
Otodama-kun is a character whose shape appears when the participants use their hands to make sounds. The sensor in the wristband responds not to the sound itself, but by detecting vibrations of the hand when the sound is made. Otodama-kun’s color varies depending on where the participant stands, and differs for each person.

Mr. Junichi Kanebako, who created ratatap
The production team steps aside and operates the computer in real time along with the workshop performances.

The sounds of oneself and others, as seen with the help of Otodama-kun.

Each participant claps their hands to check the color of their Otodama-kun. After all of them confirm the color of their Otodama-kun., they clap their hands in unison to make a thump.

Then, in some places, the Otodama-kun are connect to each other by lines that look like constellations. When the timing of someone's sound matches someone else's, the Otodama-kun are connected by lines and drawn to each other.

Otodama-kun are connected and drawn to each other by lines when sounds from various spots are made at the same time.

Then, it's time for even more fun. All participants generate Otodama-kun at once by tapping various parts of their bodies in time with the melody, rhythm and cues played by the WSL members on drums, piano and contrabass. In the latter half of the event, the sensors in the wristbands are placed on percussion instruments, and participants themselves played the instruments in a large ensemble. They enjoy overlapping sounds of the venue along with lively and rhythmic movements of the Otodama-kun.
At the end of the workshop, the Otodama-kun are transformed into large sized Otodama-kun called “Dekadama-kun,” which literally means “Mr. Big Sound Ball.” They jump up and down, then disappear happily.

A wristband sensor is placed on a percussion instrument.
When all participants play together, the Otodama-kun’s movements become more animated!
最後は全員の音が重なり大きな「デカダマくん」が登場! 大きな盛り上がりのなかワークショップは終了した
Everyone's sounds overlap, and big Dekadama-kun appear at the end! The workshop finishes with great excitement.

Potential of work and new possibilities brought out by collaboration

This workshop was realized through the collaboration of five WSL members and three ratatap creators, after about three months of preparation and two creation sessions. They say that the WSL members themselves played around with ratatap, discussed how to incorporate its functions into a music workshop, and then created the program.

Mr. Junichi Kanebako
Ms. Ayako Noguchi, a WSL

After the workshop, Mr. Kanebako and Ms. Noguchi, representing the production team and WSL team, respectively, reflected on the collaboration.

Ms. Noguchi, a WSL, said, When I first experienced it, my thought was, 'Otodama-kun’ are cute! I was very attached to them because of their eyes, and I was thrilled to be able to create a workshop with them. In our ordinary music workshops, we try to find ways to help hearing-impaired people feel the sound, such as by using vibrations of a drum. This time, the sound you make appears as a visible  Otodama-kun, and when other people make sounds at the same time, Otodama-kun are connected by lines. One was able to see not only oneself, but also the sounds that other people made simultaneously. I believe that the best part of enjoying music is the feeling of togetherness. The people who can hear and the hearing-impaired people could enjoy it together. It was like magic!”


A participant with hearing impairment commented, “I didn’t really understand the idea of communicating through music before, but after participating in today's workshop, I feel for the first time that I understand what it means.”

Two WSs were held on September 5. The second featured sign-language interpretation.

Mr. Kanebako, one of ratatap’s creators, explains his own theme of kyoyu gakki, a term he created (literally, a musical instrument developed to be enjoyed by people with visual and hearing impairments as well as those with physical disabilities): “I believe that one of the roles of media art is to visualize things that are usually invisible, such as sound. When I was working for a toy company, I learned about the kyoyu gangu (universally designed toys) that anyone can enjoy together, regardless of their disability, and I thought that this could be an important concept for creating works. Since then, I have been creating works under the name of kyoyu gakki.”

It is important how the tools are used. Feedback from workshops is a very valuable opportunity for creators.

Regarding ratatap and the latest workshop, he said: So far, I have mainly presented ratatap in exhibitions, and this is the first time I have used it in a workshop. In exhibitions, I mainly use percussion instruments that play rhythms. There are other elements of music, such as melody and harmony, but I believe that rhythm is easy to visualize and that people with or without disabilities can easily enjoy the same sensations together. I usually think of works as tools, leaving it up to participants on how they enjoy them. So, this time, too, I didn't make any suggestions but left it up to the WSL members on how to use ratatap’s functions. Workshops are a valuable opportunity to get direct feedback. This time, we were able to get many new ideas and insights not only from the participants, but also by collaborating with the WSL.”
He added that attaching a sensor to the arm using a wristband is a new idea that came about through this creation.

ワークショップ終了後、WSLチーム(後列)と共遊楽器制作チーム(前列)で記念撮影。 後列左から、澤田知世さん、桜井しおりさん、野口綾子さん、古橋果林さん、伊原小百合さん。 前例左から、猪口大樹さん、金箱淳一さん、吉田真也さん
The WSL team (back row) and kyoyu gakki production team (front row) after the workshop. Back row from left: Tomoyo Sawada, Shiori Sakurai, Ayako Noguchi, Karin Furuhashi and Sayuri Ihara.
Front row from left: Hiroki Inokuchi, Junichi Kanebako and Shinya Yoshida.

Ms. Noguchi said that since she doesn't usually use visual effects in workshops, this event has given her a lot of ideas for using visual elements. Mr. Kanebako responded: “I want to realize them right away.” Collaboration between creators and users of works will continue to expand the possibilities of work experiences and workshops.

Japanese original text: Nodoka Sakamoto
Translation: Kae Shigeno


Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Music Workshop “Blinkin’ Beats – The World of Rhythms You Doodle with Sounds and Light”

Date and TimeSunday, September 5, 2021
[1] 14:00-14:45 [2] 16:00-16:45 (Japanese sign language provided)
VenueTokyo Bunka Kaikan Recital Hall
Admission ages and maximum number of participants[1] Elementary school students and above / 8
[2] Elementary school students and above (hearing impaired participants and their companions) / 8
Cast/CompositionSayuri Ihara, Shiori Sakurai, Tomoyo Sawada, Ayako Noguchi, Karin Furuhashi (Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Workshop Leaders)
Organized byTokyo Metropolitan Government / Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture: Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, Arts Council Tokyo
CooperationCIMA Co., Ltd., MontBlanc Pictures Co., Ltd., Kobe Design University
Planning collaboration withJunichi Kanebako (Associate Professor, Kobe Design University/Musical interface researcher)
Planning and productionTokyo Bunka Kaikan Production Section
Supported byAgency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan
Ratatap accessible musical instrument
Created byJunichi Kanebako (Associate Professor, Kobe Design University / Musical interface researcher)
Co-created byHiroki Inokuchi (RED GEEK PICTURES INC.), Shinya Yoshida (MontBlanc Pictures Co., Ltd.)