Michiyo Yagi & Jan Bang

Thursday, February 9th at 8pm ET, AvanTokyo and ISSUE Project Room are pleased to present a new collaboration between Japanese improviser, composer, and koto player Michiyo Yagi and Norwegian musician, record producer and professor Jan Bang. The duo’s new work streams on AvanTokyo and ISSUE’s sites.

Notes from Michiyo Yagi regarding “Through a Looking Glass,” her collaboration with Jan Bang

“Like many musicians the world over, I have been forced to work in a confined space during the past two years, whether performing for a virtual audience I am unable to see/feel or teaching masked students whose expressions are no longer readable. Although my music incorporates some electronics, it is essentially about a primitive acoustic instrument with a tiny sound trying to be heard around the world, and the Pandemic has been a stifling wall. Who, then, could be a better partner for this project than Jan Bang, whose multifarious career has largely been about breaking down walls? With these thoughts in mind, I sent Jan a set of improvisations and short compositions, imagining he would filter them in various ways — adding to or subtracting from the raw material, distorting/clarifying the components through his kaleidoscopic imagination, and ultimately unifying them in that unique sonic environment for which he is renowned.” — Michiyo Yagi

Michiyo Yagi studied the traditional Japanese transverse harp known as the koto under the late Tadao Sawai and Kazue Sawai, and graduated from the NHK Professional Training School for Traditional Musicians. During her subsequent tenure as Visiting Professor of Music at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, U.S.A. she premiered numerous modern compositions for koto and came under the influence of maverick American composers such as John Cage, Christian Wolff, Conlon Nancarrow, and John Zorn. Yagi’s debut CD Shizuku was produced by Zorn and released on his Tzadik label in 1999. In 2001 she recorded Yural (BAJ/ewe) with her multi-koto ensemble Paulownia Crush—this group toured Russia under the auspices of the Japan Foundation in 2004. In 2005, Yagi released Seventeen (Zipangu), entirely performed on the giant 17-string bass koto. Live! at SuperDeluxe (Idiolect), a trio performance with Norwegian Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (contrabass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), followed a year later.

In 2008, Rikskonsertene, the national concert institute of Norway, sponsored a two-week tour by Yagi, Nilssen-Love, and German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, a trio that has performed internationally since 2006 and released Head On (Idiolect, 2008) and Volda (Idiolect, 2010). Reflexions (Idiolect/Bomba), duets with the experimental New York guitarist Elliott Sharp, was released in 2010. Soul Stream, a quartet session with Joe McPhee (pocket trumpet, saxophones), Lasse Marhaug (electronics) and Nilssen-Love; and Angular Mass, a trio with Marhaug and Nilssen-Love, were both released in 2015 on PNL Records. Dōjō, Yagi’s “power duo” with drummer Tamaya Honda, has released Ichi No Maki [Vol. 1] (Idiolect, 2014), featuring guests Nils Peter Molvær (trumpet) and Paal Nilssen-Love, and Ni No Maki [Vol. 2] (Idiolect, 2017) with guests Akira Sakata (reeds & voice) and Keisuke Ohta (violin). Yagi’s latest album as a leader is Into The Forest (2019) a CD of original compositions (several featuring Yagi’s vocals). Most recently, Live At SuperDeluxe, a collaboration with the Anglo-Norwegian trio The Geordie Approach, was released as an LP by Discus Music in late 2021.

Upcoming are an album of ambient music co-produced by the Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, a duo session with composer/musician Dai Fujikura, a trio recording with Giovanni Di Domenico (keyboards) and Chris Corsano (drums), another trio work with Corsano and Mette Rasmussen (alto saxophone), and two more Dōjō collaborations, one featuring saxophonist Jon Irabagon and another with guitarist/oud player Gordon Grdina. An eclectic performer who continually challenges conventions, Yagi has played at the Born Creative, Moers, Kongsberg Jazz, Punkt, Újbuda Jazz, Musique Actuel Victoriaville, Archipel, Bang on a Can, Tokyo Summer, Vision, Instal, Jazztopad, Sengawa Jazz, Fuji Rock, Music Unlimited, and Météo-Mulhouse festivals. Notable co-performers include Mark Dresser, Jim O’Rourke, Akira Sakata, Sidsel Endresen, Han Bennink, Alan Silva, Kazutoki Umezu, Raz Mesinai, Yoshihide Otomo, Ned Rothenberg, Knut Buen, Bugge Wesseltoft, Satoko Fujii, Håkon Kornstad, Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins), Masahiko Satō, Thomas Strønen, Carl Stone, Billy Bang, Keiji Haino, Mats Gustafsson, Roger Turner, Gerry Hemingway, Mani Neumeier (Guru Guru), and Sachiko M.

Yagi’s koto has been featured in ex-Judy & Mary guitarist/singer Takuya’s band, and she has recorded with neo-prog rocker Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), J-pop idol Ayumi Hamasaki, singer-songwriter Angela Aki, singer/actress Kō Shibasaki, and the psychedelic pop band Tempalay. In addition to performing solo, with the Michiyo Yagi Trio or the newly-formed multi-koto ensemble Talon – all with an emphasis on her original compositions, extended techniques, and unique vocals based on the traditional jiuta style – Yagi continues to be active as the leading improviser on her instrument.

Jan Bang is a Norwegian musician, record producer and professor known from several albums and collaborations over many years with musicians like Sidsel Endresen, David Sylvian, Jon Hassell, Tigran Hamasyan, Nils Petter Molvær, Eivind Aarset, Arve Henriksen and Erik Honoré—the latter whom he co-founded the Punkt festival with in 2005. Bang is one of Norway’s most accomplished and influential producers and is the kind of musical innovator and bridge-builder who consistently manages to balance progressive thinking with popular appeal. He is always looking for ways of moving music and people forward, and by creating new meeting places and musical intersections. Bang is a professor of Electronic Music at the University of Agder, Norway. In 2005, he launched, together with Erik Honoré the internationally renowned Punkt Festival where Bang’s creative use of live sampling, his own musical instrument, works within the framework of overlapping concerts one being the original, the other the remix. The Punkt brand has gained a reputation among musicians as being artist friendly and always putting the musicians needs first. Punkt already traveled abroad to 26 cities around the world including London, Tallinn, Tokyo, Prague, Mannheim, Dusseldorf, Montreal, and Paris. Some notable artists that have performed at Punkt are Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, John Paul Jones, Gavin Bryars and Daniel Lanois.

Bang’s recent recorded work includes the acclaimed ECM album Atmosphérès with Tigran Hamasyan, David Sylvian’s Died In The Wool, Cartography (ECM) and five other albums by Arve Henriksen, Nordub (Okeh) by Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvær, Dream Logic (ECM) by Eivind Aarset and Jon Hassell’s Last Night the Moon Came (ECM) Jan Bang ́s solo release include the albums …and Poppies from Kandahar released on David Sylvian’s Samadhisound in 2010, Narrative from the Subtropics (2013), and the new duo album with Eivind Aarset Snow catches on her Eyelashes—released on Bugge Wesseltoft ́s Jazzland label (2020). This June, Bang performed six concerts with one of the leading contemporary music orchestras in Europe the Ensemble Modern and Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company with choreographer Jacopo Godani. Bang is currently working on a duo album with leading Japanese classical composer Dai Fujikura in addition to a new solo album and has an ongoing project with the Ensemble Modern.

During the Winter, 2022, AvanTokyo and ISSUE are continuing to commission artists as part of the Distant Pairs series, producing collaborative work at a time when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted their ability to travel and perform, and altered the nature of collective work and performance. Pairing artists in disparate locations who cannot work together in “traditional” ways, the Distant Pairs series examines the collaborative process, methods of working, and partnership amidst these constrained conditions.