artictoc [Planetary Practical Magazine]

volume3 special feature Märchenkritik

Märchenkritik: Even a Bee is a Being:Kenjiro Okazaki

This text was written for the performance of Europera 5 by John Cage (September 6, 2007)

Europera 5 by John Cage
Director | Tomomi Adachi
Singer 1 | Akie Amo
Singer 2 | Yumi Koyama
Piano | Rikuya Terashima
Victrola | Naoyuki Asahina
Lighting | Genta Iwamura
Sound | Sumihisa Arima
Stage Manager | Toshihiro Isei

15:00/20:00 September 6, 2007
Suntory Hall (Small Hall), Tokyo
The 20th Anniversary of Suntory Music Foundation's Summer Festival
Special Program of the 20th Anniversary


Kenjiro Okazaki
One of Japan's sharpest Artist-Thinkers, talking up contemporary culture with the keenest of eyes, a child-like creativity, and a super-loaded, tenacious and rapid-fire intelligence. His work as an artist, writer, lecturer, and theoretician push up against the potentials of art withover whelming speed and radiance.

Fairy tales (forklores) are little stories handed down orally between the populace. In the eighteenth century there was a strong interest, particularly by the German Romantics, in Mächens, which were a kind of preposterous and fantastic fairy tales. So what were these Mächens? The important point is that by asking this question, you also ask what is language, and what is soul.
Mächen is not a story made and told by somebody. It is rather a story made by language itself, the words of which then create the subject (the somebody) of that story. It is Mächen itself that makes people tell the story. If the proof of being human is grounded in the presence of the mind, humans are not humans from the beginning - the mind does not preexist, but is created by language. In other words, even animals or plants (or humans) can possess the same mind through the use of language.

We understand, as land animals, the language of land animals better than that of aquatic animals, and among land animals, the language of domestic animals better than the ones in the forest, and among domestic animals the language of those that are closest to us. Only this also depends on the relationship and habit one grows with these animals. It is natural that the Arab, who is accustomed to riding horses, understands their language better than a person who rides a horse for the first time - almost as well as Hektor in The Iliad who spoke fluently to his horses. The Arab in the desert, with no living creature around himself but for his camel and some flocks of birds, would naturally believe that he can understand the camel and the tweeting of birds far better than the rest of us dwelling in houses.
Johann Gottfried Herder,
Treatise on the Origin of Language

This is also true from the horse's point of view. It is obvious that the horse that works with Hektor can understand his language better than horses (or humans) that don't. The question of whether a soul exists or not for Hektor and his horses is only answered within this process of language exchange. In other words, language is differentiated in a completely different way according to the various processes of work or daily routine. It is possible to play music with animals - to exchange language and souls with them. However, on the other hand, people who do not possess the same kind of language, those soulless people, cannot understand this music. For Hektor, many of the warriors under his command must have seemed to be soulless junk.
Music performance, carpentry, horse riding, cooking - each of the various daily jobs and trivial activities has a language of its own and creates a unique network or series of works which interacts with animals or plants. There are various languages or series according to each work and daily routine. The variety of language is the variety of the way objects work and interact, which equals the variety of the mind.
Surely soul is not something that only humans possess, and neither is it divided according to species, such as humans, animals, plants and insects. The difference of language and soul surpasses such distinctions between animals and humans, and derives from the difference of work processes or ecosystem. A soul is what flows within the active and functional process of each work - in other words, within the language exchange. Each Mächen stores various ecosystems in which animals and plants collaborate (one sometimes emerging as the protagonist).
In the introduction of the Grimm Fairy Tales, the brothers Grimm likened Mächen to the view of one or two stalks of wheat standing straight on the roadside after an entire field of wheat had been uprooted by some disaster. Like this wheat, the various minor plants that may seem almost extinct, nonetheless must surely be sustaining their ecosystems and still standing straight up. The brothers Grimm regarded Mächen as such a thing. They thought that the organic living world or ecosystem created by the functional sequence of animals, plants and humans was preserved, maintaining its formal autonomy, in each of the Mächens. And, alongside it, the soul of each ecosystem is also preserved.


Herder raises a question:

Why does this flower belong to the bee which sucks it? The bee will answer: "because nature made me suck this flower! My instinct, which goes after this and no other flower, is what orders me. It tells me to possess this flower and the garden where it grows!" Ibid.

Herder then goes on to ponder what will happen if the same question was asked to the farmer who works in the flower garden. He will probably answer in the following way:

I have more rights to it than the bees that hum on it, or the cattle that feast on it; because they did not have all the trouble of becoming or being instructed to become acquainted with it. Each thought which I draw on it, therefore, is a seal of my property. Ibid.

Now, what is the difference between what the bee calls "instinct" and what the farmer calls "seal," that is, words? Are they not the same in indicating the soul of "going after this and no other flower," or in other words, the soul as the starting point (Entelechia[1], in Aristotle's terms) that controls the action of heading and working towards "this" flower?
Nevertheless, just as the different ecosystems or activities taking place within them can never communicate with one another, there are innumerable languages that do not relate to each other. The language of bees and the language of ticks or ants are divided as long as the ecosystem and daily routine of each creature is incommensurable to the other.
However, if there is any difference between the language of animals and humans, it lies in the fact that humans can learn more languages than animals. In other words, we can possess various souls as if dividing ourselves. A person becomes infected by a different language and transforms himself, just as though the soul of some different animal had possessed him. To create intense change of emotion or soul - that was the function of language according to Herder.

Entelechia is a term coined by Aristotle which includes the word telos ("end" or "destination")and is translated as "the perfection state" or "the complete reality state".

Thus, the language of humans is not constituted by a single language. Various languages, that is various kinds of animals and different series of life and work come and go within the human language. The human mind could be likened to a vacant lot which various languages and living creatures inhabit. The many lives of those who are forgotten and oppressed by the majority of human society - not only people but also birds, animals, fish, shellfish, trees and stones - dwell secretly within us as Mächens. You may have heard it from someone as a distant story which doesn't concern you, and suddenly one day recall it. Not only recall it. An emotion or a soul that does not seem to belong to you revives at the same time. The feeling of the other - the birds, animals, fish, shellfish, trees and stones - suppressed by the language that occupies everyday life, and oppressed to the corner of the mind, is born again. In the sense of being an encounter between various systems, political conflicts are always engraved in Mächens. These stories show that the language of the small and the weak, the language of animals that seemed to have been annihilated by past struggles, was nonetheless dwelling in the corners of the human soul as individual and autonomous systems. Or rather, it could be said that Mächens retell the struggles that took place in the past from the point of view of the small ones.
Mächens are handed down orally but are rarely transfigured during that process by the subjective view of the people who tell it. Suppose a literary person creates a novel by adding his own interpretation to one of these stories. What happens most of the time is that the people who read the book start telling the story orally, until it returns once again to its original simple form of Mächen. So there is a formal autonomy - Entelechia, or autonomous soul, - within the Mächen itself. Thus, whenever Mächen is recalled, the human soul opens itself to the language of the other - the soul of the weak and the small, or the soul of the animals. Needless to say, none of the distinctions between good and evil, beauty and ugliness are valid within this process.


Giambattista della Porta was a sixteenth century Natural Scientist, who was known as the Magician - an appellation this man of letters earned perhaps for his attempt to base literature in the Natural Sciences. Like Herder, Porta wrote many plays, but he is also famous for developing a secret cryptography that resembles magic squares. The code he invented lies in close relation with the art of memory. According to the art of memory, one is able to rebuild the object to be recalled, if he reenacts not the "thing" to be recalled but the "state of the soul recalling" that thing. Like bees that recognize and head towards a flower from the connection of certain signals or information, humans recall something from the connection of certain signals or catalysts. The art of memory is this technique of connecting several signals or signs in order to reenact the state of the soul, the Entelechia recalling something.
Porta's interest was directed not to language as a single system but rather to the ability of language to connect different systems as networks, with words functioning as the terminal for each system. By changing its combination, language possesses the power to evoke an entirely different emotion or soul. Using this ability of language, theater becomes the alchemy of soul creating any possible emotion. Soul, like arithmetic, can be subjected to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division - to mathematical operations. Porta, like Herder, didn't consider soul as being singular nor inherent to humans.
Aristotle once thought that each object connected matter through their Entelechia, and regarded soul (Anima) as a specific form of this Entelechia. Just like Aristotle who went on to discover various aspects of Entelechia and soul (Anima) in different plants and animals, Porta understood the multiplicity of the soul by relating it to the multiplicity of animals.
Porta's study of physiognomy shows how he considered the human character or the variety of soul in accordance to the variety of animals.
The opera piece Europera 5, created by John Cage in his later years, evokes the method of Porta in that the choice of the melody to be sang or the animal mask to be worn when the singing is not taking place, are made by chance operations and according to a graphic resembling magic squares. Opera was originally born out of the humanism of the sixteenth century, to which Porta himself belonged to, as a renaissance of the ancient Greek view of music - it was believed that music in antiquity had been organized as a rational arithmetic of the soul and emotion.
The act of singing and facial expressions are the venting of the differences of soul or Entelechia structured by language, and this hidden status - Entelechia - makes it only natural for the singing and the masks to be regarded as equal. To sing a song is to embody a different animal or a different soul. Composing music or theater were secret codes that approached Entelechia, trying to tame the soul that could never be seen directly.

De Furtivis Literarum Notis
Giambattista Della Porta,
De Furtivis Literarum Notis, 1563
De Furtivis Literarum Notis
Giambattista Della Porta,
De Humana Physiognomonia, 1586
De Furtivis Literarum Notis
De Humana Physiognomonia, 1586