Ambient music legend Midori Takada: ‘In Japan, artists keep going right into old age’

At 70, the groundbreaking musician is enjoying a late career bloom thanks to the internet. She talks about her prog rock past and escaping western influences

The sight of Midori Takada whiplashing between drums, cymbals and marimba is something few observers forget. She is a mesmerising performer of great physical intensity. So her billing as a “70-year-old percussionist” ahead of a performance at Melbourne’s Rising festival – a bit like calling Paul McCartney an 80-year-old guitarist – makes her smile. “It doesn’t quite tell the whole story,” she says, laughing good-naturedly. “I have a few more strings to my bow than that.”

Takada etched her name in musical history with the enigmatic ambient classic Through the Looking Glass, which she recorded over two days in 1983, engineering the album and playing gongs, ocarinas, chimes and every other instrument herself. Although the album fell into obscurity, Takada has in recent years become a cult figure, with her monk-like musicality and reverential cataloging of obscure world music. Her work, meanwhile, has been revived for millennials and generation Z by endless recycling on YouTube and social media, alongside her contemporaries Brian Eno and Steve Reich.

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