Miya Masaoka

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Miya masaoka
Miya Masaoka performing at Kollam

Miya Masaoka (born Washington, D.C., 1958) is an American musician and composer who performs on the 17, 21 and 25-string Japanese koto, often augmenting it with string preparations and electronic triggers (as in her "Koto Monster", where additional laser beam "strings" hover over the koto). She is Japanese American.

She is known for creative, improvisational technique, and a sensibility that combines experimental Western approaches with the tradition of the koto.

Her compositions have included works for large ensembles, sometimes with unusual sound sources such as hives of bees, or the amplified sounds of human bodies (brain waves, heartbeat, etc.). One notable piece was performed outdoors in a plaza on San Francisco's sometimes unsavory Market Street, utilizing an ensemble of dozens of musicians, a pair of male and female exotic dancers, and taped interviews with sex workers: "What's the Difference Between Stripping and Playing the Violin?" An impressive blend of musical composition, and site-specific conceptual art.

She has also done performance art utilizing insects (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, bees) crawling across her body (references to the Yoko Ono film Fly).

Miya Masaoka is known as one of the more distinctive members of the Bay Area Improv Scene (sometimes also called the Creative/New Music scene) in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a founding member of the electro-acoustic improvisation and experimental trio Maybe Monday with saxophonist Larry Ochs from Rova Saxophone Quartet and guitarist Fred Frith. She is one of the founders of the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival (SFEMF).

She is married to composer/trombonist George Lewis. They have a child together. She was previously married to Jesse Drew and has a daughter from that partnership.


With Fred Frith and Maybe Monday


  • 1999 – L. Subramaniam: Violin From the Heart. Directed by Jean Henri Meunier. (Includes a scene with Masaoka performing with L. Subramaniam.)

See also[edit]


  • Zorn, John, ed. (2000). Arcana: Musicians on Music. New York: Granary Books/Hips Road. ISBN 1-887123-27-X.

External links[edit]