Composer Tomoko Momiyama creates music all over the world. She can be found in Asia, Europe, or elsewhere. However, Momiyama is not a composer, who designs space in an abstract manner. Rather, she attempts to express herself through actual encounters with each place and its people.
“I think, therefore I am” does not apply to her; instead, her motto is “you are, therefore I am." Her music “becomes” itself through repeated cycles of formation and alteration in the network of interrelations. In this music, the sound wavers and flows in a system that is much more free and open than the dichotomous dramaturgy of the West.
Tomoko Momiyama is, for me, a thinker. She is a philosopher, who tries to verify things by grasping them – hot or cold – with her own bare hands.
This hot or cold also encompasses the creators, who have collaborated with her on her thoughts and practices. That makes me one of them.
At one time, she boils me; at another, she turns me into ice. It is rare to be able to create something in the presence of a thinker, but Tomoko has taught me it is possible.
(artistic director of “YUBIWA Hotel performing arts company,”
theater director, playwright, and actor)
When observing Tomoko Momiyama’s work, I am struck by the similarity between the work of a composer and the work of a translator. As a translator’s work begins with the act of “listening,” a composer's work also starts from “listening.”
What Tomoko listens to are the voices of the land and the songs of the winds, for which people no longer have the ears; the anger and sorrows that overflow behind covered social issues; and the sound of prayers that have been passed on from time immemorial.
Whereas these voices, sounds, and cries are drowned out by a multitude of noise in contemporary society, they resound in her ears so powerfully that they are almost painful.
Tomoko Momiyama continues to travel all over the world, open her ears, and translate these voices, sounds, and cries into music, so that people — whose ears are closed — may also hear them.
Listen to the songs of the world that resonate beyond her music.
You will start to hear the world crying in different voices.
The peripatetic Tomoko Momiyama can be found in as many disparate places
around the world as the musical media she works with.
With a pedigree that includes such places as Stanford University (where she studied both music and human biology) and Royal Conservatory in The Hague, one might expect her output to conform to the standard academic constructs.
Actually nothing could be further from the truth.
Do her outdoor site specific compositions remind us a bit of some of the explorations of American pioneer Henry Brant? Perhaps.
But that she works closely with minority communities in Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, as well as in the so-called First World of Europe and the US, her music has social implications broader than Brant ever considered.
Her media ranges wide, from participatory theater pieces to interactive sound installations to radiophonic works to ritual performances and more.
How many classically trained saxophone players have worked collaboratively with sumo wrestlers and serve on the board of the Japan Association of Composers for Sumo Hearing Arts?
I’d venture to say none. Except for Tomoko Momiyama.
© Tomoko Momiyama