2nd Kyoto University-Inamori Foundation Joint Kyoto Prize Symposium
July 11-12, 2015
Theme “Technology / Genetic Science / Arts” - Tracing the Path of Evolution, in Holistic Contemplation of Present and Future Civilization - (Finished)

Masahiro Miwa

Masahiro Miwa

Dean and Professor, IAMAS (Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences)
・algorithmic composition
・media art
・vocal (speech) synthesis

Title of Presentation

“New Religious Music –The Potential of the Arts in Electricity Civilization”

Religious music, which is frequently contrasted with secular music, has been also referred to as church music in the West and the concept of musical composition itself derives from the history of music for religious purposes. Although artistic music had evolved as an alternative to church music since the Baroque period and succeeded religious music, I feel that in fact the history of its composition has ended in modern society in the face of music transmitted by media. Under such circumstances, I am currently attempting to reinterpret my works as religious music in a broader sense. Although such an attempt of mine is not attributable to any particular religious belief, I wish to redefine the meaning of human arts, which have always existed throughout our history, as one form of religious pursuits in essence, and hopefully, to become a successor to such endeavours. In other words, the arts (music) for me no longer concern cultural issues but they are a losing “gamble” for the survival of our humanity.

In this regard, we must not forget that today we all live in unprecedented circumstances. This means the human world based on highly sophisticated technologies—an environment “which exists on the premise that electricity continues to be provided at all times without fail while thinking about our responsibilities and the future of our children directly leads to the efforts for ‘further development of technologies. *’” I decided to define such a world simply as “electricity civilization.”

In the lecture, I will try to explain my activities as pursuits for the potential of the arts in electricity civilization as defined above over composition/music. Specifically, I will talk about two scopes of my composition activities that seem completely different: those related to “reverse simulation music” and “the Formant Brothers” or my creative unit with Nobuyasu Sakonda. As an example of the former which is known as algorithmic composition, I would like to introduce a piano piece automatically generated by a self-feedback system. For the latter, I hope to present a religious piece by G.B. Pergolesi performed by artificial singing utilizing a MIDI accordion as a practical example of contemplation over synthesized voices and their subjects.

[Collaborators for Prof. Miwa’s lecture]

Presentation Movie


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A brief Biography

Masahiro Miwa was born in Tokyo in 1958. In 1974, he started his music activities mainly with a rock band which he formed with friends at Kunitachi High School. In 1978, he moved to Germany. He studied composition under Isang Yun at the Berlin University of the Arts, and from 1985, under Günther Becker at Robert-Schumann Music College. After graduation, he worked as a composer based in Germany while serving as a part-time instructor at Robert-Schumann Music College and the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. In 1996, he returned to Japan as a founding member of the Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences (IAMAS), where he has been a professor since 2001.

Since the latter half of the 1980s, Miwa has pursued the potential of composition utilizing computers. He has been particularly prolific in works based on the method known as algorithmic composition and his works have been globally acclaimed, including at the International Computer Music Conferences (ICMC 88, Cologne) and the Prix Ars Electronica. He has also taken part in collaborative projects with many artists, ranging from an opera with Shinjiro Maeda and artistic pieces with Noriaki Ogasawara and Martin Riches to performances with Nobuyasu Sakonda. His broad array of activities also includes production of CDs and publication of writings.

Miwa was a member of former Methodicism, a group of artists. He currently serves as the “big brother” of the Formant Brothers, a creative unit that utilizes synthesized voices. He is also the director of the Japan Federation of Composers, the chairman of the Japanese Society for Electronic Music, a member of the Japanese Society for Sonic Arts, and the head of the steering committee of the Inter-College Sonic Arts Festival.

Details of selected Awards and Honors

・Honorable mention at the Hambacher Preis International Composers’ Competition, West Germany (1985)
“A man who is not a poet (composed for the violin)”

・The first place at the 10th Irino Prize (1989)
“Red Riding-Hoods Accompanist: for mezzo-soprano and computerized automatic playing piano”

・The second place at the 19th Music Today Composition Contest (1991)
“Let Us Sing and Pray to Pachamama!: for clarinet, horn, bassoon, string quintet, and endless tape

・The first place at the 14th Concorso Internationale Luigi Russoro, Italy (1992)
“Dithyrambe: for tape”

・The Muramatsu Prize New Artist Award (1995)

・The Akutagawa Award for Music Composition (2004)
Bolero by Muramatsu gear engine: for orchestra

・The Golden Nica for Digital Music at the Prix Ars Electronica, Austria (2007)
The Gran Prix in the Digital Music Category with Reverse Simulation Music

・Honorable Mention at the Prix Ars Electronica (2008)
In the Hybrid Art Category with Thinking Machine (joint composition)

・Honorable Mention in the Prix Ars Electronica (2009)
In the Digital Music Category with “Le Tombeau de Freddie / L’Internationale” (joint composition)

・The 61st Minister of Education Award for Fine Arts (2010)

A list of selected Publications

Musical works

The New Era: Monologue opera (2000)

Bolero by Muramatsu gear engine: for orchestra (2003)

369: homage to Mr. B.: for strings (2006)

Lux aeterna luceat eis, machina: for orchestra (2011)

Bugaku Sanmeiraku (Gagaku) (2011)

Variations Themed on a Line from Manyoshu: for MIDI accordion and wind and string ensemble (2013)

Artistic works

Matarisama Dolls (joint production with Noriaki Ogasawara; 2003)

Thinking Machine (joint production with Martin Riches; 2007)

Books (as a sole author)

Computer Age no Ongaku Riron (JustSystems, 1995)

Miwa Masahiro Ongaku Geijutsu Zenshiko 1998-2010
(Artes Publishing, 2010)

Many scores published by MotherEarth


Red Riding-Hoods Accompanist (Fontec, 1995)

Gesänge des Ostens (Fontec, 1998)

The New Era (2001), Silhouette of Words, or Alleluia (2001)

Muramatsu gear: le sacre du printemps (Fontec, 2012)