Touching the Depths of the Earth with One Note
[2019, U.S.A.] site-specific performance
An interactive music performance that weaves together multiple experiences of migration from the perspectives of humans, birds, and seeds. Commissioned by U.S. / Japan Cultural Trade Network (CTN) and created in collaboration with Koto virtuoso Shoko Hikage, visual artist Aisuke Kondo, agroecologist Kana Koa Weaver, and theater artist Yuriko Doi, the work explored the issues of home and diaspora identities in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Audience members were invited to move through different spaces in and out of the Firehouse at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture—a former U.S. base and now part of a national park—and actively participate to become an integral part of the performance. The 75-minute work navigated the audience around various soundscapes and narratives, including the bygone sounds of fog horns in San Francisco, shifting senses of hearing while sailing across the Pacific, personal and collective memories of Japanese Americans during World War II, transgenerational journeys of native plants above and beneath the land around the venue, and a mating song of an Atlantic migratory bird that got lost in the Pacific due to global warming. “Touching the Depths of the Earth with One Note” was premiered and performed three times at the 2019 San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF), followed by a symposium titled “Arts and the Environment,” in May 2019.
Performers: Tomoko Momiyama, Shoko Hikage (koto), Yuriko Doi, Kana Koa Weaver, and Aisuke Kondo
Date: May 23, 25, and 26, 2019.
Location: Firehouse, Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture (California, U.S.A)
Commissioned and produced by the U.S./Japan Cultural Trade Network, Inc. (CTN);
presented as part of the 2019 San Francisco International Arts Festival.
Subli ng Karagatan: a Chant for the Sea Forest
[2015, Philippines] site-specific performance
Ritual music to be performed to an endangered sea. Invited by the 33rd Asian Composers League Conference and Festival as their resident composer, I stayed in Batangas, the Philippines, and collaborated with local high school students and the elders from a local folk dance and song tradition called “Subli,” as well as an environmental activist and a spiritual leader. The attendees of the music festival, who had gathered from different parts of the world, became the performers of this music, as they collectively imagined and vocalized the sounds inside the sea in front of them and offered the soundscape as a prayer so that all living things can find their way home with the rich songs of healthy corals.
Instruments: Voice and percussion
Performers: Sinala Subli Dancers (Luisita M. Abante, Severino D. Cruzat, Beda M. Dimayuga, and Neri G. Manalo), SBC-PAO Repertory Brigid (Jan Jilliene M. Alday, Rhainne Cshyra M. Dimatatac, Veronica Mae E. Lalusin, Drecz Alecz A. Maderazo, Wendhyl M. Manalo, Michelle C. Marqueses, Ma. Zshalia Eleni M. Muñoz, Ma. Gloria Isabelle N. Pechay, Carl Joshua B. Seno, and Angela Denise S. Viceral), and the audience of the 33rd Asian Composers League Conference and Festival.
Premier: Novermber, 2015
Venue: Laiya Beach, San Juan, Batangas, the Philippines.
Commissioned by the “33rd Asian Composers League Conference and Festival: Likha-Likas: Reconfiguring Music, Nature, and Myth”
Where Little Foot Sleeps
[2015, Japan] concert music
Little Foot, according to a recent finding published in April 2015, is the fossil of an adult female hominid from 3.7 million years ago. Found at the bottom of a hole deep inside a dark cave, Little Foot is one of the earliest known ancestors of humans. I met her for the first time when I visited the Cradle of Humankind in 2014 as part of Unyazi Festival in South Africa. “Where Little Foot Sleeps” follows a dream she might have had at her graveyard as she would have listened to kaleidoscopic memories of the future in 3.7 million years’ time. The piece quotes a healing song of the Eland spirits from the San people, an indigenous group of hunter-gatherers in South Africa, as well as the music of a traditional deer dance from the Iwate prefecture in northern Japan, in which a human and a deer dance together on the borderline that separates them. “Where Little Foot Sleeps” was commissioned by the pianist Satoko Inoue and premiered by herself and Jill Richards from South Africa at Ryogoku Art Festival 2015.
for two prepared pianos, premiered at Ryogoku Monten Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
Searching for the Sound of Taji
[2014, Japan] site-specific performance, sound walk concert
Commissioned by an association of farmers in the Taji area of Fukui, I created a sound-walk performance with local residents in a valley of rice fields surrounded by mountains. Through a month-long residency, I researched about forgotten histories of the place and their myths by talking with elderly people in the village and learned about their ways of life and how they have changed in recent years. I created instruments from local bamboo trees with children and worked with local amateur musicians, including a taiko group, a gagaku ensemble, singers, wind and brass instrumentalists, and so on. In addition, I studied about special characteristics of this land with a botanist and an anthropologist. As a result of this process, I created and directed a site-specific and audience-participatory music performance event entitled “Searching for the Sound of Taji,” performed by the villagers themselves, from young to old, as part of “Flower, Food, and Sound Art Fair.” The whole village –– rice fields, mountains, forests, a spring, a temple, a shrine, a community center, and a garden –– became the stage for the performance, through which the audience was invited to walk while listening to the sounds from multiple locations in the environment. The project attempted to empower the rice farming community by rediscovering their natural, cultural, and human resources through music.
When Humans Go Extinct
[2014, Republic of South Africa] concert music, multi-media performance
A multimedia performance created in collaboration with artists from Johannesburg and premiered at Unyazi IV Festival of Electronic Music, where I was invited to participate as the festival’s composer-in-residence. Together with Jill Richards (piano), João Orecchia (sound artist), and Jurgen Meekel (visual artist), I formed a team to explore the changes in the relationships between humans and the earth from the time of our origin to this day and create a piece from the process. Specifically, the team worked closely with archaeologists and geologists from the Origins Centre and the school of Geosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand to learn about the latest findings in palaeontological studies at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, where many kinds of pre-human fossils had been unearthed inside caves. At the same time, the team visited communities around Johannesburg that were affected by recent mining developments, in order to talk with miners who worked underground and local people who heard sound from the earth 24 hours a day due to the underground mining activities. We played with “gong rocks” of the San indigenous people at the Rock Art Research Institute and made recordings inside caves and underground using geophones. Based on this intensive collective research, I composed “When Humans Go Extinct,” which was performed by the team at the festival. The piece is a reflection on our origin as human beings as well as a question about where we have come to and where we want to go from now on, in relation to our lands.
for piano, live electronics, and image projections, premiered at the Music Room, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Calling from a Changtang Steppe
[2014, India] site-specific performance, sound installation
As part of Earth Art Project 2014, I made music with children of nomadic families from the Himalayan mountains by documenting signs we received from the earth and the sky. I worked at two schools in Ladakh, one at 3800 meters high altitude in Nang village, and another at 5000 meters in Puga in the Changtang region. At each school, I stayed for 2 weeks and conducted workshops with the school children to make music through dialogues with their environments. By creating instruments from found objects and making use of natural acoustic phenomena such as the echoes from surrounding mountains and the whistling sound of strong winds, I composed site-specific music performances entitled “Bilungpa’s March” in Nang and “Calling from a Changtang Steppe” in Puga, which were performed by the children. In addition, I created sound installation pieces using recordings from the workshop processes, which were exhibited at the schools.
for children’s voice, wind organs, and self-made instruments, premiered at Nang Middle School and Nomadic Residential School Puga, in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India.
Moons of Hidden Times
[2013, Mexico] concert music
Commissioned by Tambuco Percussion Ensemble and composed through close collaboration with the ensemble at Tambuco-Japan Composer-in-Residence Program 2013, “Moons of Hidden Times” was world-premiered by the ensemble in Mexico in March and then Japan-premiered in July 2013. Since then, the piece has become part of the ensemble’s repertoire and is performed frequently at various international concerts, including 2015 LA International New Music Festival at REDCAT, California, U.S.A.
for percussion quartet, world premiered at Sala Xochipilli, National School of Music, UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico, and Japan premiered at Tsuda Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
At a Meeting of Microcosms
[2013, India] site-specific performance
As part of “Prominority: Master’s of Soil” art project, I stayed for a month in a village of the Santali people, an indigenous minority group in West Bengal. Together with the villagers, I created a performance ritual at rice fields in order to celebrate various sounds from their daily lives.
Sehalai Village, West Bengal, India.
I Saw Time, under a Cherry Tree
[2012, France] electro-acoustic music
Commissioned by Fukushima Open Sounds Project, which was initiated by a network of international radio programs in response to the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11th, 2011, I composed an electro-acoustic piece entitled “I Saw Time, under a Cherry Tree.” The music is based on my own journey from Tokyo to Fukushima, where I visited a highly radiated forest of Bakkamiki in Minami-soma, which was the birthplace of an old and mysterious lullaby called “Kanchororin” with a group of local folk musicians, and then to Paris, where I talked with trees in the city and asked them what they thought about the situation in Fukushima. The piece utilizes field recordings from this journey as well as recordings of the sound inside Parisian trees. The composition was realized in 2012 through residencies at INA-GRM (French national institute of audiovisual–Music Research Group) in Paris and Utopiana in Geneva, in collaboration with engineers from these cities. “I Saw Time, under a Cherry Tree” has been broadcasted at various radio programs and festivals worldwide, including Festival FUKUSHIMA! and Monofonic 2014 ACSR Radio Festival.
for radio, broadcasted at Fukushima Kitchen Garden, Japan / Radio France / Radio Télévision Suisse / Radio Télévision Belge Francophone / Australian Broadcasting Corporation, among other radio programs worldwide.
The Zoo, the Ship, and the Beggar
[2012, Indonesia] site-specific performance
Commissioned by Sharing Art Garden and Festival of Ocean Mountain Arts 2012, I facilitated music workshops with children from displaced families at an interfaith kindergarten in Borobudur and composed “the Zoo, the Ship, and the Beggar” for these children. Borobudur’s local community has been divided since the 70’s, when the Indonesian government relocated many villagers to build a cultural heritage park around Borobudur Temple. Now, the residents are very much isolated from the temple, which used to be the pillar of their collective identity. The project was an attempt at reclaiming the temple as the people’s garden and inviting the villagers to listen to each other and imagine multiple dimensions of time. “The Zoo, the Ship, and the Beggar” was performed by the children at the temple and later recorded in the village in collaboration with Found Sound Nation, a music collective based in New York.
for violin duo and children’s voice, Borobudur Temple, Magelan, Indonesia.
Code Purnama Hatiku
[2011, Indonesia] site-specific performance
As part of the Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Regional Project “Humans, Nature, and Local Knowledge,” co-organized by the API Community and Pemerti Kali Code, a local NGO in Yogyakarta, I conducted a collective music composition workshop with flood survivors along the Code River in Yogyakarta. The project was aimed at empowering the traumatized inner-city community of informal settlers, after the volcanic eruption of Mount Merapi in 2010 and ensuing flood disasters. The community faced an imminent conflict: the community needed to come together so that their voices could be heard through the reconstruction process of the city, but the villagers were fighting with each other as a result of the perceived inequality in the distribution of resources and support among the riverside settlements. Seven participants from different settlements with various economic and social backgrounds gathered to create communal music of the river. We traveled along the river to visit each other’s homes and shared their experiences of the flood from multiple perspectives. Based on this journey, we together composed “Code Purnama Hatiku” (Code, the full moon of my heart), which was performed by the participants in front of the community members, as well as the government and the media. The event resulted in a signing of a MOU between the Code River community, the government, and academic institutions, in which all the parties agreed to commit themselves to corporate with each other for a more inclusive development of the city post disaster.
for voice, angklung, guitar, recorder, and various self-made instruments, performed at Jogoyudan village, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
[2010, Japan] theater
Composed music with Yow Funahashi (musician / composer) and Skank (musician / composer) for theater pieces directed by Shirotama Hitsujiya and presented by Yubiwa Hotel Performing Arts Company.
©YUBIWAHotel 2012 Photo:Kunihiko Hatase
A Cave Dream
[2010, The Nederlands] concert music
Commissioned by the Niwebyrth Ensemble, which promoted new music for period instruments, “A Cave Dream” was premiered by the ensemble and won the “Cupid’s Darts: A Love Song Competition.”
for soprano, fortepiano, historical clarinet, and cello, premiered at Korzo 5HOOG Theatre, The Hague, the Netherlands.
A Song Pouring
[2009, The Nederlands] audience participatory sound and visual installation
Commissioned by Camera Japan Festival, I created an audience-participatory audio-visual installation entitled “A Song Pouring” with Takako Hamano (visual artist) for the festival’s “Kappalai” group exhibition. We created constantly shifting soundscapes with recorded interviews at a historical ship, and later in a historical mansion, and invited the audience to pour songs from their secret memories into the live space. The piece questioned the ownership of memory at the borders between what might be considered “private” and “public.”
Havenmueum, Rotterdam / Siebold Huis, Leiden, the Netherlands.
[2009, Japan & U.S.A.] theater
International theater project with a North American playwright Trista Baldwin and a Japanese director Shirotama Hitsujiya. I worked as the project’s dramaturg to co-create this multi-lingual play, which explores the issues of mutable identities and core of the self across nations, languages, cultures, and genders. Developed through many years of research, workshops, and work-in-progress presentations, the piece attempted to address both Japanese and American audiences without the use of subtitles.
Photo: Rich Fleishchman
Playwright’s Center, Minneapolis, Theater Yugen, San Francisco, and Jan. 2012 Morisita Studio, Tokyo, among other locations in the U.S. and Japan.
Ballade for Lost Waters
[2009, The Nederlands] concert music, multi-media performance
In 2008, I initiated an art project with Melissa Cruz (visual artist) and Yamila Rios (sound designer) in order to investigate the relationship between people and their environment in Dutch society, with a specific focus on water. By working closely with Gemeente Den Haag (municipal government) and Hoogheemraadschap van Delfland (water management institution), we traveled throughout the city of The Hague in search of water that was still alive, and recorded underwater sound using hydrophones. As a result of this shared journey, a multimedia performance piece for a solo percussionist and live electronics was composed. The audience was invited to listen to the silent voices of water, while the percussionist conversed with her own shadows projected from the water mirror creating an optical magic. “Ballade for Lost Waters” was premiered during the Spring Festival 2009 at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and later performed at different locations in the city.
for percussion, tape, live electronics, and water mirror, premiered at Kees van Baarenzaal, Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, the Netherlands.
Lullaby of the 21st Century
[2008, Japan] concert music, site-specific project
I designed and facilitated a collective composition workshop with citizens of Kanazawa as part of the museum’s “Graphism in the Wilderness: Kiyoshi Awazu" exhibition. Seven participants, varying in their age from 24 to 70 years old, traveled together through the exhibition and exchanged their shifts in perception with each other. From this shared experience surfaced a collective narrative, which was then mapped onto a graphic score and translated into music. As a result of this creative dialogue, “Lullaby of the 21st Century” was composed and performed by the participants at the museum.
for voice, piano, saxophone, Theremin, Taisho-goto, recorder, harmonica, ocarina, and self-made instruments, performed at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan.
Y/i : feeling out of harmony in Yokohama
[2007, Japan] concert music, site-specific project
As part of the hall’s composer-in-residence program, I collaborated with Sachiyo Tsurumi (composer) and Keisuke Mitsuhashi (music critic) in organizing a community-based project entitled “Hama–Mix=Yokohama+Remix.” Each resident artist worked with a group of Yokohama citizens: my group consisted of four people varying from 7 to 54 years old. Together, we composed music based on fieldtrips around the neighborhood, which included newly developed commercial bay areas as well as an old Chinatown and a flophouse district. In addition, the resident composers created new pieces of music by re-mixing the materials produced through all the group workshops. These re-mixed compositions as well as the group compositions were premiered at the concert hall by professional musicians and the workshop participants.
Yokohama Minato-mirai Hall, Kanagawa, Japan.
TOKYO BORDERS TRAVEL SKETCH: The Seven Deadly Sins
[2006, Japan] site-specific performance, audience participatory theater
In 2005, I founded an art group called minorimajorite-travel with Shirotama Hitsujiya (theater director) and Ayako Miyake (art education producer) to investigate the issues of identity from multiple perspectives through creative dialogues between what may be minorities / majorities in a society. A project entitled “Tokyo Borders Travel Sketch” challenged unspoken borders within a society between “abled” and “disabled,” which could be inverted depending on a context. Professional and non-professional performers with experiences of disability due to their minority status in contemporary Tokyo were brought together through grassroots outreach and open calls for audition. The project team included people with various physical and mental disabilities, a gender identity disorder, and an eating disorder, as well as sexual minorities, a former alcoholic, a foreign resident, and a homeless person. Together, we formed a caravan and traveled across different layers of Tokyo, which were often invisible or inaccessible without certain perspectives or backgrounds. As a result of this year-long research and creation process, an audience participatory tour-performance entitled “The Seven Deadly Sins” was presented on April 2006, with support from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Bureau of Transportation and the Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company Social Welfare Program. The performances took place throughout a day, on public buses, streets, and at a warehouse-turned-theater, in Tokyo. While the audience members traveled with the performers, they were constantly asked to define themselves among others. By inviting people to become aware of how they draw borders, the project attempted to visualize our unconscious and yet universal processes of identification and discrimination.
on public buses, streets, and Space EDGE, Tokyo, Japan
Upacara Bayu Ruci: Making Love with the Winds of Solo
[2004, Indonesia] site-specific performance, audience participatory ritual
I created and directed a ritual celebration of the wind spirits at a Javanese temple from the 15th Century on Mount Lawu in Central Java. With support from the Tourism Department of Karaganyar District Government, the event was realized in collaboration with Suprapto Suryodarmo (meditation movement artist), Daryl Wilson (visual artist), Kaori Okado (choreographer), a Javanese gamelan ensemble, and dancers from the local and international communities, as well as the mountain village residents and the audience. The audience was an integral part of the ritual, in which they were invited to “make love” with the wind using multiple senses, through listening, smelling, seeing, tasting, touching, and etc.
Sukuh Temple, Karanganyar, Indonesia.
Lagu Tanabata Tetanggaku
[2004, Indonesia] site-specific performance
Based on common mythologies and storytelling traditions from Japan and Indonesia, I organized a cross-cultural art festival entitled “Tanabata Festival” in collaboration with Mizuho Matsunaga (performance artist) and several community-based art organizations in Bandung, including Jendela Ide, Toko Buku Kecil, and Bandung Center for New Media Arts. I worked with local children to build instruments from found objects through fieldwork and composed “Lagu Tanabata Tetanggaku (My neighbors’ Tanabata song),” which was performed by the children at the Common Room.
Bandung Center for New Media Arts, Indonesia.
Play of the Winds
[2000, U.S.A] concert music
[1999, U.S.A] concert music
[1999, U.S.A.] concert music
The Dance of A Tree God
[1998, U.S.A.] concert music
Soliloquy for a Lover I & II
[1997, U.S.A.] concert music
Emily’s Death and Emily’s Blue
[1996, U.S.A.] concert music
© Tomoko Momiyama