Masumi Timson

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Masumi Timson holds a Master's degree (師範 – Shihan) in Koto and Shamisen from the Seiha School of Japanese Traditional Music, one of the most prestigious koto schools in Japan. She plays both classical and contemporary koto music, and also sings Japanese classical songs with koto and shamisen accompaniment. She enjoys collaborating with a variety of western musical instruments to explore a wide range of musical genres from Jazz, Blues, and Tango, to Mozart.

Masumi has participated as a session musician in recordings of several Pink Martini albums including Hang on Little Tomato, and their collaboration album 1969 with legendary Japanese singer Saori Yuki. As a regular guest musician, Masumi has performed with the band at various venues including Carnegie Hall, The Town Hall in New York, the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

She has also played at events for the Grand Rex in Paris, Tokyo Billboard Live and Tokyo International Forum in Japan.

Masumi also organizes and directs the Sakura Koto Ensemble, a collection of musicians (link1, link2) based in Oregon who play traditional Japanese instruments, sometimes collaborating with musicians of western musical instruments. The group periodically performs at multicultural festivals, school events, and at the area retirement homes.

The Blue Bird Trio combines the esoteric nature of traditional Japanese music with the drama of tangos, the improvisatory free flowing nature of jazz, and the transparent beauty of Debussy. Courtney Von Drehle on accordion (3 Leg Torso/Klezmocracy), Kazue Suzuki on piano and melodica (Vony & Kazz, former Monmouth Taiko member), and Masumi Timson on Koto, blend the instruments and music of Eastern and Western cultures in a moving and uncommon musical synthesis. The Blue Bird Trio has performed in Japan and Oregon.


Masumi currently teaches at several universities in Tokyo, and continues performing solo and with various musical groups and artists both in Japan and the USA.

About the instrument

The Koto is the traditional and national musical instrument of Japan. It was introduced to Japan in the 7th century from China as part of the royal court music ensemble. Until around the 15th century, it was played exclusively in the court tradition to accompany court songs on ceremonial occasions. By the mid-17th century, it became widespread outside of the court music ensemble and enjoyed by ordinary people. In the Edo Period (1603-1867), the ability to play the koto was regarded as one of the highest accomplishments for women, and many daughters of wealthy families practiced the koto from a young age.

The standard koto is about six feet long and ten inches wide, and typically made of Paulownia wood. It has thirteen strings of equal size and tension. A bridge is placed under each string, and moving these bridges up or down results in an infinite range of tunings. Various modifications of sound are made by pressing or pulling the strings with the left hand. Although the koto is a Japanese traditional musical instrument, it can be played in collaboration with any western musical instruments.

 

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