Tomoko Sauvage

Feminale of Music

Photo of the composer Tomoko Sauvage in front of bowls filled with water. Microphones are hanging in the bowls.

Her musical experimentation is grounded on a live-performance-based practice that investigates the improvisation and interaction with the environment – the acoustic space and medium affected by architecture, temperature, humidity and human presence.

Tomoko Sauvage was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan. After studying jazz piano in New York, Sauvage moved to Paris in 2003, where she currently works and lives. Through listening to Alice Coltrane and Terry Riley, she became interested in Indian music and studied improvisation of Hindustani music. In 2006, she attended a concert of Aanayampatti Ganesan, a virtuoso of Jalatharangam – the traditional Carnatic music instrument with water-filled porcelain bowls. Fascinated by the simplicity of its device and sonority, Sauvage immediately started to hit China bowls with chopsticks in her kitchen. Soon her desire of immersing herself in the water engendered the idea of using an underwater microphone and led to the birth of the electro-aquatic instrument. Tomoko Sauvage worked on this »natural synthesizer« which combines water, ceramics and hydrophones (underwater microphones). Porcelain bowls, water drops, waves and bubbles as well as hydrophonic feedback and electronics are the main ingredients of her instrument that generates the sculptural and fluid timbre. Through primordial elements augmented by technology, enlivened by ritualistic yet playful gestures, Sauvage's work contemplates, tunes and connects with both the material and the immaterial in keeping a fragile balance between hazard and mastery. For example, there are parameters in her performances that cannot be planned. Sound space, temperature as well as humidity have a great effect on their performances or even the evaporation of water, which is influenced by the presence of the audience.

Sauvage has published two solo albums, Ombrophilia (and/OAR, 2009) as well as Musique Hydromantique (Shelter Press, 2017). Her compositions have been diffused on radios and TV's such as BBC, France Musique, NPR, ORF and Deutschlandfunk Kultur. Sauvage's performance has been presented at international festivals and venues including: The Long Now – Maerz Musik (Berlin), Centre Pompidou Metz, Roskilde Festival, Unsound Festival (Krakow), Nyege Nyege Festival (Uganda), V&A Museum (London), Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid) and Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. Her installation work has been exhibited at art centers and museums such as: Sharjah Art Foundation (UAE), Ex Teresa (Mexico City) and Empty Gallery (Hong Kong). In 2016, she was the artist in residence at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Colorado).

*Supported by La Pommerie/ CRAFT (creation of the porcelain bowls, Limousin, France) and Aquarian Audio (Hydrophones, USA)


Feminale of Music

Live interview with the composer Tomoko Sauvage 

Musik Pieces

Calligraphy, published, composed and produced by Tomoko Sauvage can be found on »Musique Hydromatique«, 2017 Shelter Press

Fortune Biscuit, published, composed and produced by Tomoko Sauvage can be found on »Musique Hydromatique«, 2017 Shelter Press

PRESENCES électronique 2013, published by Ina GRM, 2013


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Mon, 06.04.2020 – Fri, 01.05.2020

The ZKM honors female composers with a four-week digital festival