International Computer Music Conference 2016 Music Track

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In Praise of Shadows

This work is inspired by the essay, “In Praise of Shadows” by the Japanese novelist, Junichiro Tanizaki written in 1933, at the birth of the modern technological era in imperial Japan. The essay describes the ways in which shadows or emptiness are integral to traditional Japanese aesthetics in music, architecture, and food, right down to the design of everyday objects. For instance, the depth of color and delicate painting on Japanese laquerwere is designed to be seen in soft candlelight. A type of light quickly becoming obsolete at the time of his writing. As Tanizaki explains, “We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates… Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” Simultaneously, the essay is concerned with how the modern sensibility and excessive illumination of Edison’s modern light affect Japanese aesthetics and culture. 

As modern life has become increasingly alienated from materiality, pushing into a virtual, digital domain. In Praise of Shadows is an eulogy for our collective loss of the tangible. Using material as actual instrumentation it highlights the real world and our presence within it.


Kotoka Suzuki     web site
School of Music
Arizona State University
United States

Kotoka Suzuki is a composer focusing on both multimedia and instrumental practices. She has produced several large-scale multimedia works, including spatial interactive audio-visual work for both concert and installation settings, often in collaboration with artists and scholars from other disciplines. Her work reflects on life, breath and wind, and often conceives of sounds as physical form to be manipulated through the sculptural practice of composition.

Suzuki’s work has been featured internationally by performers such as Arditti String Quartet, Pacifica String Quartet, Continuum, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM), Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra (Germany), and Earplay Ensemble, at numerous venues and festivals such as Ultraschall, ISCM World Music Days, ZKM Media Museum, Inventionen, The Stone, ICMC and Music at the Anthology (MATA). Among the awards she has received include DAAD Artist in Resident Berlin (Germany), Bourges Prize in Multimedia, Norton Stevens and North Shore fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Howard Foundation Fellowship, and Robert Fleming Prize from Canada Council for the Arts. She has held residencies at MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Djerassi, Ucross and Center for Arts and Media (ZKM).

She received a B.M. degree in composition from Indiana University and a D.M.A. degree in composition at Stanford University. She taught at the University of Chicago and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Her work is published on Edition RZ, EMF Media, Albany, IMEB records and Signpost Records. She is an associate composer at the Canadian Music Centre since 2001.


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