Miya Masaoka

Triangle of Resistance

Innova 945



1. The Long Road 12:23

2. The Clattering of Life 19:57

3. Survival 10:19

Jennifer Choi, violin

Esther Noh, violin

David Wallace, viola

Alex Waterman, cello

Satoshi Takeishi, percussion:

Buddhist prayer singing bowls, gongs, taiko, changgu and other drums

Miya Masaoka, koto

Ben Vida, analog modular synthesizer

Richard Carrick, conductor



James Ilgenfritz, bass




On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, throwing the lives of over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry into turmoil. This order authorized the U.S. government to remove all Japanese Americans from the West Coast and to imprison them in detention camps, internment camps, temporary assembly centers and concentration camps across the country. They lost their jobs, businesses, farms and homes. Young people were forced to leave colleges and universities, disrupting their education. This mass incarceration of innocent men, women and children, based solely on their race, was a gross violation of their civil and constitutional rights and unprecedented in modern American history.


The Issei, or first generation Japanese immigrants, faced discrimination and anti-Asian legislation that denied them the right to own land or to become American citizens. Immediately after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the FBI arrested over 2,000 Issei leaders, newspaper editors, Japanese-language teachers and Buddhist priests. They were taken from their homes to camps as far away as Bismarck, North Dakota and were not reunited with their families for months or even years. Two thirds of Japanese Americans were Nisei or second generation, born in the United States and therefore, citizens. But groups like the Native Sons of the Golden West and the Hearst newspapers called for the removal of all Japanese Americans, citizens and aliens alike. There were few who spoke up against the incarceration but Japanese Americans today are grateful to the Quakers who provided gifts for the children in the camps and helped Japanese Americans resettle after the war.


In 1981, the Japanese American community spoke about their losses and pain at the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians hearings and demanded redress and reparations. The Commission’s findings stated that camps were a result of “war hysteria”, “race prejudice” and “a failure of political leadership.” The community waged a successful campaign to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which provided an apology and individual reparations to each individual affected by EO 9066.


— Kathy Nishimoto Masaoka is a retired high school teacher and active in civil rights and community issues in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, and has helped to organize programs in support of American Muslims.


My mother, Helen Sachi Masaoka, has a painful story – one that she would tell when I was growing up, but then she stopped telling it for some reason. It was about something that happened to her and her parents, six sisters and brothers when she was 13 years old. She talked very little of those years, so when she did, I really paid attention. Living in San Leandro, California, she said the U.S. government tacked paper posters of Executive Order 9066 on street lamps informing Japanese Americans living in California that they were about to be interned. She was in Junior High School, and excelled in French and violin, and she was standing there reading the wheat-pasted poster. A passer-by shouted at her, “Read it good, Jap!” She was about to be taken from her home, pulled from school, and go to a prison camp for four years. I think with horror how she must have felt, to experience such hate coming from both the government and the passer-by simultaneously. My heart breaks for my mother, as this was such an unjust and cruel event to shape the psyche of a young girl – one who was becoming a woman and beginning to understand the world from the point of view of an adult, and no longer a child. It was a true loss of innocence.


I strove to make the music convey the complex emotions she must have felt, having lived with these bits and pieces of information that were relayed to me growing up. When she and her family were taken away in trains with the window shades drawn, they had no idea where they were being taken or how long they would be gone. I wrote The Long Road as I was imagining how it would feel to have the future bleak, scary and long, but worst of all, not knowing what was going to happen to you and your family. Once in the camps, the barrack walls separating the families were paper thin, and everything from the other families was very audible. The Clattering of Life refers to the clanging sounds, the pots and pans and shouts of children and adults all the sounds coming from the tarpaper walls. Sounds were sometimes of adults fighting and arguing, a result of the harsh living conditions. This piece is the only piece on this album involving some improvisation, and was conceived as kind of a “double ensemble” with the string quartet playing written music, and the other group (percussion, synthesizer, koto) improvising. Alex Waterman, the cellist being a member of both — played both the written music and the improvising structures.


Survival, (for string quartet) is inspired by a kind of strategy or rather a character trait that Japanese call gaman. This describes the part of the personality or community that can endure and withstand hardship, yet continue to persevere in spite of all odds. This gaman, is in part, a kind of resistance.

— Miya Masaoka, Tokyo, 2016


Four Moons of Pluto

For solo double bass (and optional radiator), 2015


Together with my neighbor and collaborator, James Ilgenfritz, we identified a lexicon of areas on the bass of extraordinary resonance. Based on these positions, I developed an idiosyncratic structure that shifts in and around these resonant centers in specific ways. I like to think of them as a kind of tonal center. The proportions are built on the partials of the harmonic series. James’s strings were detuned to combine particularly resonant zones.


The title, Four Moons Of Pluto, references the planets and orbital resonance. The movement of planets and musical intervals are both expressed in small number ratios. While this work was being written, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was – over a period of weeks in July, 2015 – transmitting images of Pluto, illuminating glaciers, flows of ice, newly discovered mountain ranges, and a complex surface.





Triangle of Resistance was recorded on

Nov. 17, 2013, Roulette, Brooklyn, NY.

Mixed by Brian Montgomery.

Four Moons of Pluto was recorded live at The Stone, New York City, October 18, 2015, and features sounds from its heating system.


Deep gratitude for the generous support of the MAP FUND, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and to Elizabeth Beaird and Circuit Network, Jim Staley and Roulette, The Stone, director Brooke O’harra and the immensely talented musicians and conductor who made these projects possible.


Mastering engineer: Andrew Munsey


Images from Triangle of Resistance live video mix by Michelle Handelman & Brock Monroe, © Michelle Handelman 2013.

Photo of James Ilgenfritz by Peter Gannushkin.


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn, director, design

Chris Campbell, operations director

Steve McPherson, publicist                  www.innova.mu