Life and infrastructure, here in Kyoto

A reflection of what I need to do my work and what we all need, really.

More and more over the years I understand the crucial importance of infrastructure in creative work.

Infrastructure first encompasses the artist’s workspace, her office or studio that allows her to just sit down and start creating.

This is as opposed to having to unpack her belongings from her bag every time and re-set-up her workflow. This can even be embodied by minutiae such as an extra power cable plugged into her office at all times; having to always duck under her desk to reconnect is a minor annoyance that, when enfolded with other barriers, forestalls the flow she needs to make great art.

Infrastructure secondly encompasses the artist’s worklife, how her commute, schedule, and the norms of her apartment make getting down to her work easier or more difficult.

I for example am currently in a wonderful one-bedroom studio apartment on the west side of Kyoto city. The space has surprisingly high ceilings and laminate floors; however, for all the beauty the space brings with it, I am not allowed, by contract, to practice music—something crucial to my work as a composer. At the same time however, I chose this space because it is not even twenty feet away from my campus, where (only) from the hours of 6am to 9pm, I can practice and access the Internet. My apartment doesn’t have internet access because it would require a two-year contract, something I do not want to sign given my intention to move.

The third sphere of infrastructure, which is crucial to creative life, is the field of one’s community and one’s state. It is very difficult and I think even unhealthy to always be your own advocate. To constantly invite folks who do not quite care to events you have put your soul into is tiring work; to not have a community that supports your endeavors is to be pulled be gravity into normativity, to be grayed by the ennui of one’s people. Moreover, to have one’s state or town provide limited or difficult access to performance, community, and presentation spaces is to confront a real, and even aggressive, opposition to the very possibility of art. Art takes investment in material funds, in public infrastructure, in outdoor spaces and affordable venues.

I have been thinking about this all myself due to the many barriers I am confronting here in Kyoto. It’s personal. Below is something of a self-help list, reminding me of that which I still need to face in order to flow with my art.

I need:

  • more light in my studio.
  • ready access the internet more readily.
  • a keyboard for my workspace and a place to put that keyboard
  • an apartment where I can:
    • a) play music
    • b) hang up paintings
    • c) is close to school.
  • I need to tell my professors—directly—that I need them to support me more than they currently are.
  • I need to connect with more performers more readily. To do that I need to set up a listening group and pay performers to record pieces for me.
  • I need to create a facebook page for larpers in Kansai and host meet-up events.
  • I need to create a podcast called Kansai Creatives that interview the works of creators of all stripes here in the local area.

Kyoto is backwater in a many ways, but it does have a strong art scene, hidden behind the teary concrete walls of the city. And, given real access to the internet, I could actually be connected to the greater community in what I sometimes feel like is the “real world”, that is – for me – New York, Chicago, Boston, and Berlin. Right now, however, I have the chronic sensation that I’m swimming in a fluid fractured bit of reality, artistically ungrounded by the infrastructure I really need to do my work.


A piece about listening to friends.


Koe no Nagare - Flow of Voice

Duo for Shakuhachi and Shodo.

声 の 流 れ

前 置 き 上 演 美 学 友情についての断⽚で 書道と尺⼋の友情のためのものです。


Ben Bisogno 2019.

Edited and Dedicated to Ren Takaya.

パフォーマンスが完全にアコースティックである場合、つまり ⾳を増幅がない場合、聴衆は筆の⾳を聞くのに⼗分近くにいる はずです。

それ以外の場合は、オーディエンスを囲むように設定されたマ ルチチャンネルとコンタクトマイクを介して作品の⾳を増幅します。

これは⼩さな⾳についての⼀⽚です:ページ上の筆の⾳、ピッ チのない尺⼋の⾳⾊。この作品は、濡れた、インクがページに ⼊り込み、2⼈の友情を永遠につなぐ恵みの糸になる瞬間を体 現しています。 特にこの作品は、友達の声にどのように⽿を傾けるのか、私た ちが⾔われていないことに⽿を傾ける⽅法、どのようかの明確 な⽅法についていますか。

作曲家として、私はこの作品の参加者との間での狭い空間に興 味があります。⾳の形や、そして⾔葉のと沈黙がどのように関 係しているのかを体現しているからです。

ベン • ビソノ 2019




• 筆がページに触れているときは、再⽣しないでください。

• 筆が紙から離れたら、吹いてください。



尺⼋奏者は、筆のダイナミックでリズムのある、そして⾵通しのよい⾳のよ うな表現を真似るべきです。ささやき声とさわりが鍵です。可能であればピ ッチを避けてください。筆のように柔らかく、紙の線の意図のように強弱を 流れます。

パフォーマンスで筆跡の⾳⾊を表現します。書道芸術家が希望を持ってつけ ている場合は、これの⾳で表現してください。書道芸術家が「猛烈」な⾳⾊で終 わっている場合は、これもサウンドで表現してください。どの⾳⾊を探りた いか事前に話し合ってください。



書道の芸術家が書き終わってから、尺⼋の演奏家は:cadenzaを作ってくだ さい。この cadenza はやく40秒の返事です。


その作品は、書道のアーティストがサインオフし⼿から、尺⼋奏者が演奏し た後に、終わります。作品の終わりを⽰すために、尺⼋奏者と書道のアーテ ィストはそれぞれの道具 – 筆と尺⼋ – を地⾯に置き、そして⼀緒に息を吐き 出します。









3線⽬)⾏の終わりまでに、薄い唇から聞こえるように息を吐き出 してください。




5線⽬)アーティストが書いているように静かに息を吐き出しま す。



筆が40秒間持ち上がっている間に最後のソロを演奏してください。返事の ように。

この作品は、書道の書き⼿が書き終わったれ、尺⼋奏者が演奏した後 に、終わります。作品の終わりを⽰すために、尺⼋奏者と書道の書き⼿ は、それぞれの道具 – 筆と尺⼋ – を地⾯に置き、そして⼀緒に息を吐き 出します。



どうやってするのか。スタイル ー

紙にインクを⼊れるときは、 下のリストから2つの⾳⾊を選択してください。

書くにつれて、 ⼀つの選ばれた⾳⾊から他の⾳⾊へと進みます。












同僚、家族、または友⼈に礼状を書きます。 この⽂字は、B3以上の紙のサイズが必要です。 5線のテキストを書き込み、各⾏は下の質問に連続して答えます。

1)最近の天気はどうですか、そしてそれは精神状態とどのように関連しています か。

• 書き終わったら、筆を20秒間持ち上げます。


• 書き終わったら、筆を10秒間持ち上げます。


• 書き終わったら、筆を5秒間持ち上げます。


• 書き込み後、筆を3秒間持ち上げます。


• 書き終わったら、筆を6秒間持ち上げます。


• 書き終わったら、筆を40秒間持ち上げます。

この作品は、書道の書き⼿が書き終わったれ、尺⼋奏者が演奏した後 に、終わります。作品の終わりを⽰すために、尺⼋奏者と書道の書き⼿は それぞれの道具 – 筆と尺⼋ – を地⾯に置き、そして⼀緒に息を吐き出します。

Two games about cookies and absence.

I have had a number of experiences near death or with the dying in my life in the past few years and have never learned really how to grieve or to express my condolences. I think that many people are in this position. Death is just so sudden and unfamiliar and in our post-religious world that we are not armed with  rituals to help us through. We need new technologies, that is to say, practices, that will put us on a path toward a conversation with this very odd aspect of life.

These two games are expressions of my problems with mourning and absence – my grappling with the idea of creating new ways of grieving. Although not helpful, both games  are both very very delicious. 


Dark Chocolate – a game of grief and how we do not know how to pay respect.


For the dying:

  • Make a freezer’s worth of cookie dough and leave it for your family to bake and eat after you pass.

For the family:

  • Eat this cookie dough bit by bit, as prolonged as possible, before it goes bad.


If the cookie dough lasts for at least a year after the passing, you succeed!

If not, my condolences.


(This idea was taken from a neighbour who past away a few years ago and did this with her family.)


Sweet Desserts – a foodie larp about mars, cookies, and memories.




Needs: 3 players, 24 cookies, 1 kitchen, 12 post cards, colored pencils, rubber bands, a table, and pillows.

Make 12 cookies. Wrap each with a note card attached with a rubber band, written with a theme:

Top of the mountain|Blue birds attacking the squirrels|mail-carrier throwing a newspaper and knocking you unconscious|pink socks, an unwelcome gift|an embarrassing story at a playground|hot chocolate|winter blues and tiny shoes|watching television all day till we got headaches|getting our nails done and bonding with the gentleman assisting us all day|pulling over and throwing up|trying and failing to climb a tree|adventure to an unknown part of town.


A friend took a one way trip to mars last week and we don’t know how to express our feelings about her absence. We come together to have dinner and avoid talking about the situation – a situation that breaks down at dessert.



If you take a cookie, write a one-sentence very tiny memory on the designated note card, inspired by the given theme. Leave it on the table. Do not discuss the notecards. However, folks can responded on the cards with small notes if they feel inclined to.


Prep dinner. Kitchen.

Take at least two cookies from the jar. Steal at least five cookies during prep. Stage one emotional confrontation. Slice onions and cry.

In this game we steal cookies without anyone watching. It is about hiding feelings, from others and ourselves.

If you see someone steal a cookie: ask the person with the cookie something along the effect of “are you okay?”

Ask for comfort. Talk in whispers or leave the room, taking a cookie with you, so as to not make a fuss in the kitchen. Together share the cookie. Talk about the memory associated with it.

If you see someone writing a notecard: look away, avoiding gaze.

Eat dinner. Table.

Eat silently. If possible take a cookie from the jar, but keep watch. If you see someone eating a cookie, make disgruntled sounds, sucking in breath. Do not ask for or give comfort.


Have Desert. Pillows.

Eat all the cookies in one sitting, as fast as possible. Talk about the memory associated with each cookie. Laugh together. Make a mess.



Talk about the experience. Talk about Mars. Talk about heavy subjects involving sudden absences. Make more cookies for other people in your lives.

Afterwards, give those cookies away.

Embers – Story about love in old Japan.

This here is the current version. I am so thankful to my play testers (Gabrielle, Anastasia, Alex) and look forward to running it again. This is intended for the 200 word rpg challenge.

In the end, I hope to publish this via the 200 word rpg challenge – a free non-for-profit online publication.

Stretch goals I have in mind are 1) art by a japanese artist/friend, and 2) a small non-core guide of settings and inspirational suggestions – tools that can help point an interested participant to the vibrant cultural world that informs this game, namely:

    • Amatarasu, the sun goddess, and Japan’s creation myth.
    • Lady Murasaki Shikibu’s, Genji Monogatari
    • Samurai Champloo
    • Ghibli’s Mononoke Hime and Spirited Away
    • Tale of the Heike


Love burns us in this story game, set in preindustrial Japan.

The stones remember.


What do we need?

  • A handful of stones.


What themes weigh on us?

  • How heavy are they?
  • What should not be touched?


Remember. Ask yourselves:

  • Traveler – What do you carry? Which worlds do you tread?
  • Changed One – Who needs you? How do you need them?
  • Lost Spirit – Where are you welcomed?


Play through each moment, informed by a related question —

  1. How does darkness taste?
  2. Whom do we turn to for help?
  3. When do we find a comfortable silence?
  4. Where do we sniff out the truth?
  5. The Trial: what burns us?


Go around.

  • Pull a stone from the center to recall aloud:
    • An action.
    • A small detail.
    • How our hearts led us astray.
  • Place a stone back center to express:
    • A wish.
    • A secret.
    • A promise.
  • The moment fades to black when no stones are center.


Please, steer the narrative with clarifying questions.

If you feel uncomfortable and need to speak, raise a stone into the air for quiet.


Embers – Reminisce.

Where do we dream the story ends? How can we leave, unburdened?


Cat Food is for Everyone

Cat Food is for Everyone – a dangerous game for cat people.


If you live in a place with wildlife—crows, pigeons, squirrels, fox, raccoons—put cat food in a small bowl outside your window, on your porch, or on your stoop. The cat food should be dry and should be within view of a window.


Leave the bowl out until it is empty. Replace the food.


Do this repeatedly until you see with your own eyes who is taking your food.


When family, friends, or neighbors come over and see who is taking your food, say that it is your new cat, regardless what species that animal is.


Take pictures. #catfoodeveryone #cats


This is a piece inspired by my life in upstate New York.


Ben Bisogno 2018

A Good New Year, and blessings to the bitter

Last night was adventure, in many respects.
I experienced a wonderful morning with relative’s friend, her two highly successful daughters and Japanese friends of theirs. We ate great food (I had fried oysters and the best rice I’ve had in a while—which is saying something in Kyoto), traveled around, and purchase the necessities: mochi and chocolate covered almonds!


From their I separated, printed copies of my game Bucking the Stars: the Cafe Game of Cosmic Deer and went to a local Starbucks. The game is a semi-live pervasive larp.


I bought a matcha tea latte at the Starbucks and began eating a bit of mochi, when all of a sudden this wonderfully bitter obaasan (a distinctive type of old lady) called me out for my manners (or lack thereof). She was insulted me for my rudeness and told me how she “hated westerners for how unthinking and disruptive we are”.


I mean, she’s totally right; I was in the wrong for eating strawberry mochi in Starbucks. However, I think she was just as rude for spreading across two chairs and a table with her stuff, where she looked like she was encamping for the day. But this isn’t really to look down at her. Power to her for speaking her truth and living unmoored and so straightforwardly in a society that is so restrictive of women’s voices. The elderly and children in Japan get away with murder, and I really think more people should embrace this encumbered of decorum. I moved a few spaces over after saying I was sorry she felt that way and wishing her a “Happy New Year” 良いお年を過ごしください. I thanked her for her kind and informative notice.
It did hurt though to have her really hand it to me so bitingly. It hurt especially so, as I subsequently confirmed all her worst prejudices of westerners by building a spaceship out of cups, pates, napkins, and donuts 20 feet away—play testing my game with friends, role-playing antlered cosmonauts.


From there, my friends and I went to karaoke, to the Heian Jingu, and to an incredible Temple on a high hill where I got to ring a massive bell! It’s sound was deep as bone marrow and a slow as the pulse of the year.
I stayed the night over at Chelanna’s place and made my way home at five in the morning.


A good new years, in short. Thanks everyone. Blessings to the lady at Starbucks; I hope good things change her mind. Bitterness always has a source exterior to us and usually by changing our environment we can change our state of mind.

Bucking the Stars. The cafe game of cosmic deer.

Bucking the Stars

The cafe game of cosmic deer.


Number of players: 3 – 8
Age of players: 13 +
Length: 40 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.


Requires: a cafe, funds, and friends.

Optional: markers, tape, and scissors.


A game by Ben Bisogno 2018.




Our home is uninhabitable. We have eaten all the grass; we have de-leaved the forests. We have eaten all the trash islands left behind by the previous apex species.


We are deer. We must take flight once again.


We fly to the stars or to the void between them.


However, our herd cannot stay together. Deer are notoriously bad spaceship builders—largely due to our lack of opposable thumbs. Inevitably, each of our ships will land on different planets. We know this; so we bring our herd together one last time to reminisce, to say apologies, and express gratitude. Most importantly, we come together to build our ships. Today we fly toward our future.
There are more planets to devour! We’re bucking the stars!!
This game takes place in three parts, with an optional debrief.


  • Bring the herd together, one last time.
  • Character creation, ordering our drinks.
  • Building our spaceships, saying goodbye, and taking flight.


* Optional debrief.


A note on play:


Be kind and do not bother the staff. Do not over role-play the deer. Keep it light and reasonable. Additionally, the more deer puns, the better. However, although this game is mainly about saying goodbye to ones we love, it nods at some heavy themes: colonialism, imperialism, and environmental destruction, to name a few. If anyone feels uncomfortable with some content, put your hands on your head like antlers until the table quiets. Then state your needs. If things still do not feel right, the table is open; you can leave, anytime.






Part 1: Bring the herd together, one last time.


  • Go to your local cafe.


  • Outside, warm up: take turns emiting sounds you think cosmic deer make.


  • Before ordering, each person describes one threat that drives us off planet – this can be local or planetary, focused in scope or broad. Additionally, each member of the herd describes one type of planet that deer have settled afield and what it promises: organic food, petting zoos, good public transit, sustainable union employment, etc.




Part 2: Character creation, ordering our drinks. Description. Dues. Dreams.


Character creation – Order according to the following list (below). While waiting for your drink, answer the attendant questions (below).




☐ Hot, or, ☐ Iced. – You’re either thrilled for the journey, or, regretful.


☐ Size. – How large an impact do you leave behind?




☐ Decaf. – To get off planet, you will need extra emotional drive.




☐ Number of shots (if any extra). – For each additional shot, you will fly further afield from the others. What ties you to each member of the herd? Why do you wish you could stay close?


☐ Specify number of pumps of syrup. – Each additional pump indicates an additional sweetener that calls you to the journey. What riches or glory is promised? If you regret the journey—that is, you got a cold drink—why do you value your home more than the promises of space?

☐ Type of milk or non-dairy alternative. – If you take a type of diary or dairy alternative, you have someone financially backing your travel afar. What debt, emotionally or financially, will you owe?




☐ Extras – (whip, etc). – For each extra, remember one thing that your mother—who disappeared during the imperial wars, as all our mothers did—told you about her adventures amongst the stars. What do you dream about? Space whales? Blaster fights? Pirate queens?


☐ Drink type – (latte, frappe, etc.). – What type of fuel do you put in your engines? Something zesty but short acting? Something mild but with a long tail? Orange juice?

☐ Name! ____________________________________________

Choose a deer name: For example, Naomi, Buttercup, Captain, Serenity, Freckles, Prancer, George, Stinker.

☐ More added by hand – (cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, sugar) – How are you? Do you need attention for a particular reason?


Part 3: Building our spaceships! Saying goodbye.


  • Before taking sips, go around. Share who you are with the group.


  • Before your cup is empty, reflect on the past aloud. Apologize or thank each member of your herd for something specific and poignant.


  • Build our spaceships. Once we finish our drinks, we must work together. Use napkins, markers, straws, plastic spoons, disposable cups – anything at hand.


Optionally, we can make one large ship together, which will scatter into pods upon striking the asteroid belt.


Take pictures! #cafetakeover #cosmicdear #buckingthestars



  • Take flight. Leave the cafe as one.


Note: please throw your trash away. If your constructed ship does not find its way into the bin, your deer is lost in space. Oh deer!

Optional Debrief:


This game is about deer taking flight but it’s really about leaving home. It’s about the friends we’ve made and saying goodbye to the group we have been with. Although this game is light hearted, it is bordered by certain heavy themes.


Once we leave the cafe, feel free to reflect on the story as a group. This can be done walking if with a group less than five. If more than five, it is best to stand and talk or find a place to sit. Adjust according to the needs of the players.


1) Each member may reflect on her own experiences with life transitions, if she is going through one, and how she feels about that.


2) Reflect on how deer society could achieve sustainability.


Make space for each other and listen openly.





Thank you for playing! This game was inspired by:


When You’re Here, You’re Family: An Olive Garden LARP by Jeff Stormer, the unofficial larp-wright of Olive Garden.


Legends of the Stars, a larp produced by the Larp Adventure Program production house.


Scum and Villainy, a Forged in the Dark game by Stras Acimovic and John LeBoeuf-Little.


Saga, the comic book series, by Brian K. Vaughan


Stag Harbor, a story by my late uncle Glen Bisogno.


A thank you to my first play testers – Chelanna White and David Zaili – for their generosity of time and bright spirits. Additionally, thank you Chelanna for the addition of the name “Doerthy”.

A Self-Portrait

With a craft that queers the divide between playing music and simply playing games, Ben is interested in the community building aspect of play itself.

Focusing on the participant’s experience of a piece rather than the listener’s, he reinterprets music as something that binds participants together rather than a passively enjoyed display of skill.

Ben has a background in immersive theatre (live-action-role-play), by which he teaches youth emotional literacy. Children need their hearts to be connected to enjoy learning and this applies to music as well. In this vein, he hopes to introduce youth to their heritage instruments through story. This is inspired by work on the imaginary domain by Drucilla Cornell, Pauline Oliveros, Sarah Lynne Bowman, and the restorative successes of New Afro-Futurism.

He aims to decolonize the stage and public space through play.

On his off days, Ben enjoys role-playing games with friends. He loves the color blue.








Thanks to Eriko-san at the international studies office for help in editing!



Play and Performance – Vulnerability and Consent in Music

Gaming is a way we model what we want to see the world.
Perhaps not content wise – I may not want to face a dragon in the real world – but rather structure wise.
We want to play fair games, with rules and themes that are clearly defined. We want spaces like the ones role-playing games provide to feel real emotions, to have the opportunity to be vulnerable in front of others. We want to feel like a respected peer of a group.
Games support us in ways our neoliberal society often fails to do. We want our stories, agency, and openness to be respected. In life is this really so much to ask?
As a composer I am often thinking about how to create this respectful participatory space for performers and audiences. I take it as given that listening is a sense of touch as much as sound—it is a visceral, vulnerable experience, especially in a concert venue where it is awkward to leave. How can we bring ideas of consent and play into a new music?
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