You have to ask yourself, when you’re an artist, what you expect of your audience. I often ask this question of musicians. “A headache?” said one girl a few years ago. So it has something to do with the body. If you’re a performing artist, the question becomes crucial, because you are right there. You have to envision the kind of world you want to be in, and you have to share it. If you’re a woman, this is inescapable. Your body is already an object of art, and it is part of your music, and the beauty of your music. You can see this in two local artists with extremely polar visions but the same passionate, cerebral core.
Yoko Miwa plays jazz in the classic style. Trained as a pianist in Kobu, Japan, she was the favorite student of Minoru Ozone, a “Living National Treasure,” and became quite established in Japan’s jazz world before her city was crushed by the 1995 earthquake. Now she teaches at Berklee, and she has a deep popular base in Boston and even New York. Her work is about intimacy. She reaches best those people who really know what her music is like. It is a complex weave of beautiful strands, and these can shimmer for the new listener; but for an initiate, it creates an inner world.
Andrea Pensado is Argentinian and came to Salem, MA after an international career and study in composition and choral music in Poland. Her early work is strictly composed, with the niceties of European classicism reining in the strange, eerie sounds that finally came to the forefront when she, in her words, “just got bored” and decided to play primal, radical noise. She does this with scratch-like sounds on her laptop and witchy screeching with her voice. This is a music to push you out from where you are. Freedom music, the music of the future. It is an exhilarating challenge, and it can be rigorous.
But Miwa is rigorous too. Her technical/conceptual mastery of the keyboard is daunting, and there are deep motifs and leitmotifs structuring the lyrical music. Both musicians have a deep love and respect for beauty. While Pensado’s work has roots in the nihilism of Dada, it is exuberant and full of positive energy. It’s as if she were using a chisel and Miwa were using clay, each reaching a similar body either way. And this leads us to new worlds.
Pensado and Miwa are fullest in performance, and they are seminal artists. This presents a question: Will we still recognize their accomplishment when they are gone? Two answers are possible. We could think of dancers like Isadora Duncan or Martha Graham, of whom we have no record at all but of course who have legacies—in the movements they perpetuated and in the spirit of the dance, as it is carried on into new traditions. On the other hand, there are Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker. We listen to their records and say they are great artists, but we don’t really know, even though we know. What we know is it will never be the same as it was on 52nd Street. Only The Beatles will ever be immortal on record, because it was their primary focus. It was all they did. Pensado and Miwa are as great as the Beatles, but the moment to hear them is now.