Faculty Member Miya Masaoka Premieres New Opera at The Park Avenue Armory

February 26, 2019
Armory photo

Associate Professor and head of the Sound Art program, Miya Masaoka is currently the Park Avenue Armory Studio Artist for 2019. At the Park Avenue Armory, she will be premiering The Long Arc of Time, a new intermedia Noh opera, which she composed, produced and directed. The opera will premiere March 13, 2019.  

Masaoka is a prolific and experimental composer, improviser, and performer, and her new chamber opera “draws from the music and unique rhythm of Noh and Shomyo (Buddhist chant),” according to the Armory. It was “developed with Noh actors and musicians from Japan and celebrated soprano Kamala Sankaram. The work ruminates on loss, rebirth, and transcendence and contemporizes the disruption of reality while challenging our senses in a new and radical way.” Masaoka commissioned the poet Tracie Morris to craft a libretto based on her work Grey: A Tale of Time.

The Los Angeles Times has described her as a “masterful and conceptually restless koto player [who] has made it her business to usher the Japanese instrument into contemporary contexts, combining respect for tradition with new musical applications.” Masaoka works at the intersection of sound and resonance, composition, spatialized perception, and social interaction. Her work encompasses notated compositions, objects infused with sound, instrument building, computing wear-ables, and sonification of the behavior of plants, brain activity, and insect movement.

Headshot of Miya Masaoka

Speaking on her work, Masoaka says, "As a composer concerned with new sounds, contexts, structures and realities, I have no choice but to construct my own musical reality. In traditional Japanese music the emphasis is on refinement rather than creativity, emulation of one's teacher rather than developing a personal style. As such, traditional music represents a culture, a way of life of a collective people emanating from a particular location in history and geography. A contemporary composer, however, is required to grapple with both tradition and innovation, Western or otherwise, and the finished oeuvre is primarily that of an individual."

Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including the Venice Biennale, MoMA PS1, Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Masaoka has taught at New York University, Bard College (since 2003). In 2017, her installation Vaginated Chairs was shown as the Kunstmuseum Bonn, and in 2018 she premiered work for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Glasgow Chamber Choir. She has a Duo CD with Anthony Braxton, a Trio with Zeena Parkins and Myra Melford.