Miya Masaoka (born Washington, D.C., 1958) is an American musician and composer who performs on the 17-string Japanese koto zither, 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.
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).
- 1999 - L. Subramaniam: Violin From the Heart. Directed by Jean Henri Meunier. (Includes a scene with Masaoka performing with L. Subramaniam.)
- Zorn, John, ed. (2000). Arcana: Musicians on Music. New York: Granary Books/Hips Road. ISBN 1-887123-27-X.
- Official site
- Miya Masaoka homepage at SF State
- Miya Masaoka biography from the Other Minds festival
- Miya Masaoka page on Asian Improv
- Miya Masaoka page on The Bay Improviser (incl. sound samples)
- Golden, Barbara. “Conversation with Miya Masaoka.” eContact! 12.2 — Interviews (2) (April 2010). Montréal: CEC.