Miya Masaoka

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Miya masaoka
Miya Masaoka performing at Kollam

Miya Masaoka is based in New York City (born 1958, Washington, DC)[1] and is an American composer, musician, and sound artist active in the field of experimental music. Her work encompasses contemporary classical composition, improvisation, electroacoustic music, traditional Japanese instruments, and performance art.[2] Her full-length ballet was performed at the Venice Biennale 2004. [3] She is the recipient of the Core Fulbright Scholarship for Japan, 2016. [4]

She often performs on a 21-string Japanese koto, which she extends with software processing, string preparations, and bowing.[5] Masaoka has created performance works and installations incorporating plants, live insects, and sensor technology. [6]

Early Life and Education[edit]

She began studying classical music at 8 years old. In her early twenties, she moved to Paris, France, and upon returning to the USA, she enrolled at SFSU, and received her BA in Music (magna cum laude) where she studied with Wayne Peterson and Eric Moe, and holds an MA from Mills College where she received the Faculty Award in Music Composition. Her teachers included Alvin Curran, Maryanne Amacher and David Tudor. [7]


Masaoka’s work spans many genres and media. She has created works for voice, orchestra, installations, electronics and film shorts. She has sewn and soldered handmade responsive garments (LED KIMONO) and mapped the movement of insects and response of plants and brain activity to sound (Pieces For Plants, The Sound of Naked Men, Thinking Sounds) [8]

Her works have been commissioned and premiered by Bang on a Can, So Perucssion, Either/Or, Kathleen Supove, Joan Jeanrenaud, SF Sound, Volti, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Alonzo King’s Ballet, The Del Sol String Quartet and others. Her orchestral work “Other Mountain” was selected for a reading by JCOI Earshot for the La Jolla Symphony 2013. [9]

She founded and directed the San Francisco Gagaku Society (1989-1996) under the tutelage of Master Suenobu Togi, a former Japanese Imperial Court musician who traced his gagaku lineage more than 1000 years to the Tang Dynasty. [10]

Her love of nature and resonant outdoor space led her to record the migrating birds in the deep and naturally resonant canyons near the San Diego Airport, resulting in the work “For Birds, Planes and Cello,” written for Joan Jeanrenaud, formerly of Kronos Quartet. “While I Was Walking, I Heard a Sound” is scored for 120 singers, spatialized in balconies of the concert hall. During one movement, three choirs and 9 opera singers are making bird calls and environmental sounds. [11]

As a kotoist, she remains active in improvisation and has performed and recorded with Pharoah Sanders, Pauline Oliveros, Gerry Hemingway, Jon Rose, Fred Frith, Larry Ochs and Maybe Monday, Steve Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Didier Petit, Reggie Workman, Dr. L. Subramaniam, Andrew Cyrille, George Lewis, Vijay Iyer, Myra Melford, Zeena Parkins, Toshiko Akiyoshi, William Parker, Robert Dick, Lukas Ligeti, Earl Howard, Henry Brant and many others. [12]

Masaoka describes herself, saying, “I am deeply moved by the sounds and kinetic energy of the natural world. People, history, memory, this geography and soundscape of nature and culture --from our human heart beat to the rhythms of the moon and oceans-- how infinitely complex yet so fundamental.” [13]

She initiated and founded the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival in 1999. [14]

In 2004, Masaoka received a Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, and she previously was given a National Endowment for the Arts and a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Award. [15]

The New York Times describes her solo performances as “exploring the extremes of her instrument,” [16] and The Wire describes her own compositions as “magnificent…virtuosic…essential music…” [17]

She has been a faculty member at the Milton Avery Graduate Program at Bard College in Music/Sound since 2002, and has taught music composition at NYU.[18] She received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2013, and a Fulbright Scholarship for Japan, 2016.[19]


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.)
  • 2010 – “The Reach of Resonance”. Directed by Steve Elkins.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garrett, Charles Hiroshi. ‘’The Grove Dictionary of American Music’’, “Miya Masaoka”, Oxford University Press 2013
  2. ^ Gómez-Peña, Guillermo. ‘’Dangerous Border Crossers’’, Routledge 2000
  3. ^ Jepson, Barbara. “Ancient Eastern Music Meets Modern Technology,” The Wall Street Journal, Updated Sept. 15, 2015
  4. ^ Core Fulbright US Scholar Program http://www.cies.org/program/core-fulbright-us-scholar-program
  5. ^ Kozinn, Allan. “Connecting the Ancient to the Computerized”, New York Times September 10, 2005
  6. ^ Oteri, Frank J. “Miya Masaoka: Social and Sonic Relationships”, NewMusicBox (a publication of New Music USA) June 1, 2014
  7. ^ Prestiani, Sam. "Border Crossings," SF Weekly, 2000. pp75-6
  8. ^ Siggraph 2009 Website: http://dblp.uni-trier.de/db/conf/siggraph/siggraph2009asiaart.html
  9. ^ Other Minds website: http://otherminds.org/
  10. ^ Prestiani, Sam. "Border Crossings," SF Weekly, 2000. pp75-6
  11. ^ Herb Alpert Award Website: http://herbalpertawards.org
  12. ^ Doris Duke Artist Awards Website: http://ddpaa.org
  13. ^ WKCR-FM interview, 2010 Radio
  14. ^ SFEMF website: http://www.sfemf.org/organizers/
  15. ^ Doris Duke Artist Awards Website: http://ddpaa.org
  16. ^ Pareles, Jon. "Hoedown," The New York Times, 1995
  17. ^ Morton, Brian. The Wire, 2008, pp 51-52
  18. ^ Bard College Website: http://www.bard.edu/mfa/
  19. ^ Core Fulbright US Scholar Program http://www.cies.org/program/core-fulbright-us-scholar-program
  • Zorn, John, ed. (2000). Arcana: Musicians on Music. New York: Granary Books/Hips Road. ISBN 1-887123-27-X.
  • Garrett, Charles Hiroshi, ed. (2013). The Grove Dictionary of American Music (Miya Masaoka)

. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195314281.

  • Buzzarte, Monique, ed., Bickley, Tom, ed (2012). Anthology of Essays on Deep Listening. Deep Listening Institute. ISBN 1889471186, ISBN 978-1889471181. p 65
  • Sewell, Stacey, (2009). Making My Skin Crawl: Representations and Mediations of the Body in Miya Masaoka’s Ritual, Interspecies Collaboration with Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. Radical Musicology, Vol. 4. ISSN 1751-7788
  • Oteri, Frank J., (June 1, 2014). Miya Masaoka: Social and Sonic Relationships. NewMusicBox (a publication of New Music USA)

External links[edit]