Karate's Olympic Debut Inspires Collaboration Among Musicians In U.S. And Japan : Live Updates: The Tokyo Olympics Musicians in the U.S. and Japan are collaborating in honor of the first Olympic karate competition: Composers tracked the brainwaves of people performing karate, and turned that data into music.

Listen To New Music Inspired By Karate's Olympic Debut

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Karate is making its Olympic debut, fittingly, in Tokyo. The occasion has inspired a cultural collaboration between musicians in the U.S. and Japan. NPR's Neda Ulaby has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF GENE COLEMAN'S "KATA: TRANSIENT GEOMETRY (MF EDIT)")

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Composer Gene Coleman is a Guggenheim-winning luminary active in the worlds of experimental film and avant-garde music.

GENE COLEMAN: I'm not a big sports person.

ULABY: But Coleman grew up in a tiny town in Wisconsin transfixed by Bruce Lee movies. He taught himself karate out of a book as a kid. When it became an official Olympic sport, he was invited by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission to compose this piece.

(SOUNDBITE OF GENE COLEMAN'S "KATA: TRANSIENT GEOMETRY (MF EDIT)")

ULABY: It's called "KATA" after the elegant patterns of movements practiced by martial artists. To create "KATA," Coleman decided to track the brainwaves of people performing karate and make that neurological data into music.

COLEMAN: How neurons function is also incredibly musical. They play together. They play in counterpoint. They play as a soloist. They play as larger groups, like a symphony of activity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHAKUHACHI PLAYING NOTE)

ULABY: Various musicians collaborated with Coleman in making the piece, including two from Japan.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO, "THE WORLD OF 'KATA' - U.S.-JAPAN CREATIVE ARTISTS WEBINAR #1")

SANSUZU TSURUZAWA: (Speaking Japanese).

ULABY: In a video for the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Fellowship, the celebrated lute player Sansuzu Tsuruzawa explains that traditional Japanese music shares with karate a sense of strong momentum and using an extreme range of breath. Flute player Akikazu Nakamura agrees.

AKIKAZU NAKAMURA: We make a hole in the space or time.

ULABY: Intervals, he says - room for peaceful thought and a connection to nature link music to martial arts. And he says there's nothing appropriative about this project, even if Americans are experimenting with Japanese forms.

NAKAMURA: Actually, half of me was grown up by American culture (laughter).

ULABY: When cultures are drawn joyously together in the spirit of achievement, he says, that's great art. And that's also, he adds, the Olympics.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIPLO'S "MMXX - I")

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