Michiyo Yagi

After meeting the American avant-garde, and in particular John Cage, Michiyo Yoagi returned to the koto. This traditional Japanese instrument is related to the cithara. She uses this instrument to express an unsuspected force, and discovers new musical lands through her harmonic potential. As an avant-garde musician (Ruins and John Zorn), she has also performed with traditional Japanese music groups like Hoaio (with Sachiko M and Haco) and Kokoo. She is also part of the album by techno pop marketing product technopop vivant Ayumi Hamasaki. Michiyo Yamagi grew up hearing the koto being played by her mother. However, she was far from accepting the presence and sound of this instrument as evidence. She was not able to flourish in her own musical environment because of the eminent traditional apprenticeship she had. She lived at the home of her teacher, with her fellow students, and she did the chores of washing, cooking, and cleaning. The disciples were required to pay their teacher for the privilege of being at his side during the rare public performances. Although rigid in its extremes, this teaching was the first step towards a wider conception of music. Kazue Sawai, her teacher, was the true pioneer of traditional Japanese music that allowed for experimentation and modern compositions. She was part of the Sawai Group at the Bang On A Can Festival in New York in 1989. There, she was struck by John Cage’s percussion work that broke down her traditional notions of “tradition” and “modernity”. Cage was also a guest teacher at Wesleyan University (Connecticut) in 1991. She helped to create several pieces and encouraged the remarkable prolixity of young students. Cage’s pared-down creations, which mixed western music and Balinese dances, had a profound impact on her. Her personal approach to composition of the rules of the game she had discovered was not compatible with the unchanging teachings of Sawai, Yagi. She decided to break away from the United States. In her early days, she was characterized by unusual strength and a strong expression with almost masculine power. She sometimes uses small hooks and hammers to strike the strings of her instrument, insisting on its percussive potential. She also discovered the polyphonic potential in the koto through the subterranean motifs, melodies and phantom vibrations produced by the vibrating strings. Yagi’s research focuses on a new type of Japaneseness, a modernity free from Western influence and accepted homage. However, these grand plans don’t stop her from enjoying exploring ancient repertories… http://jaapan.com

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