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Michiyo Yagi playing a 21-string koto
Michiyo Yagi (八木美知依 Yagi Michiyo?), a Japanese musician, studied koto under the late Tadao Sawai, Kazue Sawai and Satomi Kurauchi, and graduated from the NHK Professional Training School for Traditional Musicians. Between 1989 and 1990 she was a visiting professor of Music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, U.S.A. During her tenure she premiered numerous modern compositions for koto and came under the influence of maverick American composers such as John Cage, Conlon Nancarrow, and John Zorn. Her solo koto CD Shizuku was produced by Zorn and released on the Tzadik label in 1999. In 2001 she recorded "Yural" with her koto ensemble Paulownia Crush for the East Works label. Under the auspices of the Japan Foundation, Yagi toured Russia with this koto ensemble in the fall of 2004.
An eclectic performer, Yagi has made frequent appearances on Japanese TV and has performed at the Moers Jazz, Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, Archipel, Bang on a Can, Tokyo Summer, Vision, Punkt, Instal, and Music Unlimited Festivals. Yagi's koto has been featured in ex-Judy & Mary guitarist/singer Takuya's rock band, and she has recorded and performed with Ayumi Hamasaki, Japan's best-selling pop singer. She is a founding member of Kokoo, a trio which performs originals and progressive rock covers exclusively on traditional Japanese instruments, and was one-third of the avant-pop girl group Hoahio.
Yagi is one of the few improvising koto players on the international stage. She has performed with Mark Dresser, John Zorn, Peter Brötzmann, Elliott Sharp, Han Bennink, Akira Sakata, Kazuhisa Uchihashi (Altered States), Natsuki Kido (Bondage Fruit), Fred Frith, Chris Cutler, Otomo Yoshihide, Saadet Turkoz, Ned Rothenberg, Hoppy Kamiyama, Samm Bennett, Yuji Katsui (Rovo), Lauren Newton, Hans Reichel, Sabu Toyozumi, Mino Cinelu, Satoko Fujii, Joëlle Léandre, Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), Bill Laswell, Kazutoki Umezu, Carl Stone, Kang Tae Hwan, Christian Marclay, Koichi Makigami, Zeena Parkins, Masahiko Sato, Billy Bang, Keiji Haino, Jason Roebke, Sachiko M, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love, MZN3 (Kjetil Møster, Per Zanussi, Kjell Nordeson), Chris Mosdell, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), and many others.
Yagi's most recent recordings are Seventeen (Zipangu, 2005), entirely performed on the giant 17-string koto; Live! at SuperDeluxe (Idiolect/Bomba, 2006), a trio session with Flaten and Nilssen-Love; and the limited-edition "Head On" (Idiolect, 2008) as a member of the trio Brötzmann/Yagi/Nilssen-Love. Upcoming releases include a studio session with Dresser and Rothenberg, a duo with Sharp, the second Brötzmann/Yagi/Nilssen-Love CD, and a collaboration with guitarist Eivind Aarset and electronica artist Raymond C. Pellicer.
- 1994: Koto Vortex I: Works by Hiroshi Yoshimura. Dainippon Katei Ongakukai / Paradise, PRD-268
- 1996: Koto Vortex II: Arcadia. Dainippon Katei Ongakukai / Paradise, KVOR-002
- 1999: Shizuku
- 2005: Seventeen
- 2010: Reflexions with Elliott Sharp