Miya Masaoka (2012)

A woman against a black background "plucks" red laser beams midair.

Miya Masaoka and Laser Koto, photo by Lori Eanes

ICASP and Musagetes are happy to introduce Miya Masaoka who will travel from New York to join us as one of the 2012 Guelph Improviser-in-Residences. In this role, Masaoka will initiate community impact workshops alongside musical performances in order to promote and advocate community-building and diversity through improvisatory practices.

Miya Masaoka, musician, sound artist, and composer, is one of just a handful of musicians who have succeeded in introducing the 17-string Japanese koto zither to the world of avant-garde music. She first came to recognition collaborating with artists as diverse as Pharoah Sanders, Fred Frith and Steve Coleman, and is now regarded as a world-renowned performer. Highly esteemed for her abundantly creative and improvisational technique, and a sensibility that combines experimental Western approaches with the tradition of the koto, Masaoka’s pioneering performance work cannot be easily pigeonholed into any single genre. Her work draws from the collision of tradition with the modern, the rupture of a sonic past with the myriad possibilities of the “new.” Such merging of the past and present is displayed in her performances where electronic triggers allow for additional laser beam “strings” to hover over the koto. Her impressive catalogue of diverse compositions includes work for field recordings, laptops, and videos, and she has written scores for ensembles, chamber orchestras, and mixed choirs. With creative veracity and experimental inquiry her pieces have investigated the sound and movement of insects (she has orchestrated Madagascar hissing cockroaches and bees as they crawl across her body), as well as the physiological responses of plants, the human brain, and her own body. Within these varied contexts her performative sound work investigates (often with a high level of confluence) the interactive, collaborative aspects of sound, improvisation, nature, society and the contemporary expression of Japanese gagaku aural gesturalism: a way of presenting yourself, expressing the music through your posture. Masaoka’s work has been presented in Japan, Canada, and Europe, and she has toured to India six times. And now, ICASP and Musagetes are proud to announce that Miya Masaoka will be Guelph’s first of three Improviser-in-Residences for the 2012 year.

Ajay Heble, Artistic Director of the Guelph Jazz Festival and Project Director for ICASP, says that “an imaginative and creative practitioner with the reputation of Masaoka—renowned not only in the New York creative music scene, but around the world—strengthens ICASP’s commitment to diverse multiplicity and collaboration, and furthers the project’s continued promotion of improvisation and dynamic exchange across cultural, communal, and creative musical lines. It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Miya Masaoka to the ICASP team.” Shawn Van Sluys, Executive Director of Musagetes, comments, “Musagetes works with artists who build bridges between different elements of our societies and communities. Miya does that through an elegant and critical combination of movement, sound, and music. We’re very excited about this continuing collaboration with ICASP.”