What music where: the compatibility of performance content and place

Audience member Yuichi Sanada shares his impressions of the 2018 world premiere at Nakacho House, Tokyo.

The musicologist Akeo Okada once said”If you’re not moved by the music, it’s because you’ve heard it in a different place to it’s previous performance context.”

Although modern day concert halls have been made to accommodate any style of performance, surely Gregorian chant will resonate more deeply with the listener when performed in a church, and jazz is best listened to in a small live music venue like Blue Note Tokyo. 

If we take this to be true, my intuition told me that Nakacho House was going to be the perfect place to appreciate a performance version of “The Key”, featuring a wife and daughter secretly reading diary entries in an old Japanese house. 

(In director Kon Ishikawa’s film version of “The Key”, the 4 characters would briefly show their faces in the communal spaces,then quickly retreat to their own rooms with only the wife taking baths etc).  

Listening points 

The Husband, The Wife, The Daughter and Kimura (the fiancé) exist in their own time in their own separate rooms. The audience moves throughout the darkness of the house to peek into the different rooms (this in itself has an erotic feel to it). The audience can also enjoy the spatial effects of the performance by sitting in one place and overhearing the sounds coming from the other separate rooms.

A real highlight for me was seeing Kimura hang up the secret photographs he had been instructed to develop by The Husband, before I headed to The Wife’s room where I saw her looking embarrassed as she finds these photographs slotted within the pages of her husband’s diary.  

A promenade music event 

It felt as though this performance could be called a promenade music event; the story isn’t that of a typical opera and the audience walk around to appreciate the performance and action taking places in various spaces,reminiscent of a video I have seen of Stockhausen’s “Alphabet for Liège”.

However, I felt the spatial effects of THE鍵KEY were more interesting. I generally placed myself in front of The Daughter’s room and listened to the sounds coming from the other 3 rooms.  Perhaps it was just in my imagination, but I had the impression that every audience member was watching, trembling, with a pale expression on their face. 


It was my first time to visit the Adachi-ku area. The pre-performance meeting point was at a shrine named Hikawa-jinja but it turned out there were multiple shrines with the same name in the area. The staff at the train station didn’t  seem to know which one I needed so I gave up on asking, set my trusty sat-nav to single-carriageway mode and walked until I eventually arrived at the correct shrine. The Adachi area doesn’t have a particularly good reputation however, the venue certainly had a pleasant, tranquil feel.  

Attending this performance, not in a generic concert hall but in a place so well-suited to the music (or perhaps with music so well-suited to the place), was an experience I will never forget.

(English translation: ‘Kagi’ Project Executive Committee)