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Published on 28.11.2023

Designing Harmony: Sound Artistry with Kazuhiro Yamada

Kazuhiro Yamada is a designer  at Kannoaudio, the company which builds the sound system for our festival. If you have been at Mumush you most probably have seen him around Gargantua or Arboretum checking the quality of the sound, making sure that everything works perfectly or just enjoying the music from a camping chair. Because of his efforts and dedication he is an important and unique individual in our community so we decided to ask him about his work, his role in the company and what does Mumush mean to him. 
1.    Where does the name come from?
Yamada: Meaning of Kannonaudio. Kannon is the name of an Asian goddess, and the meaning of Kannon is the sound of seeing. I chose this name to express a visible sound image.
 2.    You say on your website that “Kannonaudio is bringing 3D sound to your audience, where people can have private conversations right on the dance floor and at the same time listen to music.” How do you see, how does this change the vibe of the party?
Yamada: I think the dance floor needs to have an acoustic environment that allows conversation. This is because I believe that having the audience talk while experiencing the music creates empathy among the people on the dance floor, which leads to a sense of unity 
And I don't want the sound to require earplugs. Filtering the expressions of musicians and DJs through audience earplugs is disrespectful to the music.
Mumush: How do you technically balance music and conversation?
Yamada: Humans are very sensitive to the frequencies they use in conversation.
It's nearly impossible for them to talk on the dance floor with distorted sounds.
Therefore, we are designing with consideration to the selection of distortion-free parts and the enclosure mechanism.
What I pay attention to when it comes to sound engineering is to consider the best speaker placement which suits the dance floor and make the sound image appear larger.
The size of the sound image is one of the elements that creates the illusion of loudness.
I adjust the volume so that when they are concentrating on the conversation, they can hear their voices, and when they are concentrating on the music, they are not bothered by the conversations around them.
I also do sound engineering to create a natural sound so they won't get tired of listening to it for long periods of time.
 3. When did you start working in the music industry?
Yamada: I became a professional in 1997.
Until then, from 1986 to 1996, I worked on an auto racing team, building race cars.
In 1983, I started studying sound using mixers and synthesizers.
In 1987, I started to study club acoustics when I was asked to adjust the acoustics of clubs.
In 1988, I started performing live at clubs using electronic equipment, and began to deeply explore club sounds.
In 1996, I studied speaker production and started making them.
 4. Do you have a brand philosophy or do you think it is necessary? If yes, how would you formulate it?
 Yamada: I am one of the staff members at Kannonaudio, so I will write my opinion here. However, I don't think this differs from the company's opinion.
Our business is developing, manufacturing, selling, and renting speakers.
I think what festivals, clubs, organizers, DJs, musicians, and audiences are looking for from us is a high-quality sound space.
What we must provide is a high-quality sound space, and speakers are the tools for that purpose.
Certainly, if the trendy speaker system is installed, it might catch the attention of the audience. However, I think that this must be accompanied by the knowledge and skills of a sound engineer.
I believe that the job required of us professionals is to reproduce a high-quality sound space.
Our company has a lineup that can respond to a variety of situations.
And we have the knowledge and technology to reproduce them.
 5. There is a big distance between Japan and Romania. Why did you decide to work and have your factory here?
 Yamada: I'm Japanese, so I had a fascination with Europe.
I'm the easternmost Japanese in Asia, so I wanted to start in Eastern Europe. And the fact that I was born in the easternmost town in Japan may be the reason why I'm so particular about the east.
Also, when I first started thinking about going to Europe, my first European friend was a Romanian.
I didn't want to take on the challenge of coming from a country with a large Japanese population, so I never imagined starting in Western Europe.
When I first came here, I couldn't speak anything other than Japanese, but I'm grateful that the people around me helped and I was able to do what I do now.
 6. What materials and components do you use to make your speakers?
Yamada: Speaker boxes are usually made of plywood.
Our company also uses birch plywood.
At Kannonaudio, we create speaker boxes by considering the resonant frequencies of each component that makes up a speaker, and by combining many parts in a complex way to get closer to a monocoque structure (eggshell-like structure). One of the features of Kannonaudio is that it is constructed with a significantly larger number of parts than other brands of speakers. And since each individual piece is designed to be small, it is lightweight.
The speaker unit and tweeter driver are ODM (Original design manufacturer).
 7. Why are the speakers white?
Yamada: It used to be black.
When I used it at a midsummer outdoor event in Tokyo when it was still painted black, the component parts of the speaker unit inside the speaker box melted due to the heat.
At that time, it was the highest temperature of the year.
I repainted the speaker box white to prevent heat. This problem has not occured since then.
After making it white, video creators started projecting images onto speakers.
 8. Do you receive orders from outside of Romania as well?
Yamada: Of course.
Kannonaudio is available for sale and rental.
Also, even in countries and regions where it is difficult to bring in speakers in the first place, you can build an event and a festival sound using locally available equipment and parts. The equipment I use doesn't need to be from a high-end brand. However, I can create a high-quality sound space. I have that experience in Southeast Asia. If you are a festival organizer who wants high quality sound in an area where it is difficult to transport speakers, such as Africa, please contact me and I may be able to help you.
 9. You build speakers and sound systems according to special requests.
For example, this year you worked with the Mumush team to make the audio experience as good as possible during the festival.
How should we imagine this procedure from your side?
 Yamada: This year I oversaw the sound in three areas of the festival: Gargantua stage Arboretum stage and Ambrosia or the kitchen area. Each stage has its own unique field, and I wanted to create a sound space that made the most of the individuality of that field.
The Gargantua stage is a closed space surrounded by trees, so I imagined creating a sound space that would extend beyond that field.
The Arboretum stage is an open field, and as the audience approaches the Arboretum stage, the excitement increases. So, the sound space began on the road to the Arboretum stage. I envisioned creating a sound space where the audience would be enveloped in sound as if a switch had been flipped once they entered the dance floor. Ambrosia, or the kitchen area is a tent, so I envisioned creating a high-quality club surrounded by sound from four directions.
 I think we were able to create something close to the image in each area.
10. Do you participate in the measurement, design, and construction of the loudspeakers, or do you simply observe and manage the work process?
Yamada: I'm a designer at Kannonaudio. And I'm a sound engineer. We are involved in all aspects of measurement, design, and construction. All the speakers used in Mumush are prototypes, and I manufactured them all. However, future products will be manufactured by professional speaker builders. 
11. You have been participating in the Mumush Festival since 2022. What do you think about how the festival has changed in this time?
The biggest change has been in my heart. After attending Mumush Festival in 2022, I fell in love with this festival and after 2023, that feeling has become even stronger. All the staff, artists, audience, space production, decorations, lighting, food, woodwork, venue...everything was amazing!! If Mumush can continue like this, I think it will grow into a big festival, and I hope that happens.
12. It seems like everyone has participated in the Mumush Festival from beginning to end and really enjoyed it. What does this place and the people you meet here mean to you?
 Yamada: First, I can see that all the staff are trying to make the best possible product as time allows without making any compromises. And all of them are of professional quality.
I feel very lucky to be able to work with these people.
And the audience is very peaceful and enjoying Mumush.
I'm sure the audience is having a great experience as well.
I will continue to hone my skills and create ideas to meet everyone's expectations.
For me, Mumush's sound work is one of my life's work.
Interview by Vencz Balázs