Steven Kazuo Takasugi

photograph by Zvia Fridman

Steven Kazuo Takasugi, born 1960 in Los Angeles, is a composer of electro-acoustic music. This involves the collecting and archiving of recorded, acoustic sound samples into large databases, each classifying thousands of individual, performed instances collected over decades of experimentation and research, mostly conducted in his private sound laboratory. These are then subjecting to computer-assisted, algorithmic composition, revised and adjusted until the resulting emergent sound phenomena, energies, and relationships reveal hidden meanings and contexts to the composer. Against this general project of fixed-media is the addition of live performers, described as an accompanying project: “When people return . . .” This relationship often creates a “strange doubling” playing off the “who is doing what?” inherent with simultaneous live and recorded media: a ventriloquism effect of sorts. @stakasugi

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing (2009-14), music theater for chamber ensemble, electronic amplification, and playback, text by Karl Kraus, 18’35”


Based on the dark sideshows of Coney Island’s amusement parks in the early part of the 20th century, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing is a meditation on virtuosity, freak shows, entertainment, spectacle, business, and the sacrifices one makes to survive in the world. A cycle of four aphorisms by the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus (1874-1936) is embedded as a subtext running through the work. They are as follows:


1. “Ein Gourmet sagte mir: was die Crême der Gesellschaft anlange, so sei ihm der Abschaum der Menschheit lieber.”
(A gourmet once told me: he preferred the scum of the earth to the cream of society.)
2. “Wenn Tiere gähnen, haben sie ein menschliches Gesicht.”
(When animals yawn, they have a human face.)
3. “Der Fortschritt macht Portemonnaies aus Menschenhaut.”
(Progress makes wallets from human skin.)
4. “In einen hohlen Kopf geht viel Wissen.”
(Much knowledge fits in a hollow head.)


Table of Contents

Part I: “The Destinies of Hallucinations”

Movement I: “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing”


A. Lead-in 0:00
B. “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing” 0:08
C. Kraus Aphorism I: “Ein Gourmet Sagte Mir…” 1:32
D. “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Laughing, Part II” 3:21
E. Interlude I: “A Queasy Ascent”
F. Kraus Aphorism II: “Wenn Tiere Gähnen…” 7:15.5
G. Kraus Aphorism III: “Der Fortschritt…” 8:29


Movement II: “Sodom by the Sea” or “Mildew of an Inner Room of the Eternal Return of the Same”


H. Interlude II: “Premonition: Morning after the Inferno (with View of Sea)” 9:52
I. “The Contortionist” 14:52
J. Kraus Aphorism IV: “In Einen Hohlen Kopf…” 16:08
K. “The Sideshow Giant” or “The Obese Genius” 16:29
L. Interlude III: “Night’s Glimmering City” 17:19 (end: 18:35)