EtM Con Edison Composer Masatora Goya Writes About His Residency Time at Flushing Town Hall

Katie Cox

Masatora Goya started his EtM residency at Flushing Town Hall in October 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Masatora’s residency was cut short and his public program cancelled.

Flushing Town Hall has been a partner with EtM since the start of the EtM Con Edison Composer Residencies eleven years ago. We are grateful for all their support over the years and thank Masatora for sharing these videos and writing about his time at Flushing Town Hall.  

During my residency at Flushing Town Hall (FTH) with Exploring the Metropolis, I worked on various commissions. Not necessarily completing all of them, but coming up with ideas and key concepts. I never knew the effect of being in a room for several hours uninterrupted, not surrounded by my own belongings! I tried many spaces inside FTH, from the garden to the back stage, but eventually the dressing room became my favorite. The mirror and long table against the wall may be something every composer needs at home!

One particular project I wanted to complete, however, was a duo piece for Chinese konghou and Japanese kugo, both ancient harps written as 箜篌 with the same origin but in different shapes. When konghou player Lucina Yue approached me for the idea of writing a new duo piece to play with kugo player Tomoko Sugawara, I was immediately intrigued. The pairing is so rare and it would be a perfect project to develop while I was traveling every week to Flushing, practically a little Asia in NYC.

I started writing the duo piece right away, but after finishing a couple of minutes of it, I gradually developed this feeling that something was not right. It was becoming a lovely duo for harp music, but it didn’t feel specifically written for these particular Asian instruments anymore. So, to know the instruments better, I decided to write short solo pieces for each. What I originally thought to be short ended up being 8 minutes, but I finished my first drafts. My goal was to find a way to infuse what may sound old and new, as well as East and West at the same time.

I was about to have rehearsals and try the duo piece anew when the pandemic hit NYC. For about 3 months the project was on hold and our scheduled presentation has been postponed to the unknown future. But we are gradually coming back to this project. I started having remote sessions with the musicians and asked them to record a short excerpt to share with you. The titles of these solo pieces are pronounced differently, but have the same name as 古歌. This is an homage to the fact 箜篌 is pronounced as konghou in Chinese and kugo in Japanese.

We will work on these solo pieces first, and move on to the duo piece which I resumed writing. I can’t wait to show them all to the world, live I hope, in the near future!

“Guge” for konghou: I took inspiration from one of the famous poems by Li Bai. The poem was set in the Autumn night with a moon, a wife longing for the return of her husband gone afar as a soldier.

“Koka” for kugo: I took inspiration from one of the famous Japanese Waka, an ancient poem in 31 syllables. The unknown poet read the unsettling nature of life and its sorrow.

After chasing a rugby ball and studying sociology, MASATORA GOYA turned to performing arts and eventually relocated to the US from Japan to pursue his creative calling. Trained as a vocal performer first, he explores the musical landscape of drama, space, and emotion. Described as a “composer of cultural crossroads” by American Composers Forum, his contemporary classical music draws influences from pop music, musical theater, and ethnic music. His unique eclecticism has attracted many musicians performing in nontraditional chamber ensembles, as well as visual artists and filmmakers. His music has been performed in the US, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Germany, and Japan.


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