Tomoko Sauvage, Japanese musician and artist active since mid 2000's, investigates the sound and visual properties of water in different states, as well as those of ceramics, combined with electronics. Water drops, waves and bubbles are some of the elements she has been playing with to generate the fluid timbre. Sauvage's approach is attached to questions of alchemy, meditation and balance between hazard and mastery.

Musique Hydromantique is her second solo album archiving many years of her performance-based practice on the waterbowls. It is about experimentation and improvisation with the environment - acoustics affected by the architecture, temperature, humidity and the human presence. Hydromancy is a method of divination by means of water. Unpredictable bubbles and water ripples become oracles. Evaporation and acoustic space constantly play a chance operation. Through primordial materials and ritualistic yet playful gestures, Musique Hydromantique questions contemporary divination.

All the tracks are live-recorded without electronic effects or editing. Listen to it here or via soundcloud.


Performance view at Centre Pompidou Metz


Tomoko, what's your current mood?

When did you know you wanted to become a musician?
I always knew I liked music very much but I wasn't encouraged to choose music as a profession. I also didn't know what I could do with music until quite recently.

How does your Japanese heritage influence your work?
It's the sensual relationship to nature. Japanese don't feel guilty to prioritize sensual pleasure as seen in bath culture. Through my instrument with amplified bowls of water, I'm looking for pleasure, aural but also visual and tactile, more than anything else. When I let kids play my instrument, they cannot stop and become somewhat spacey. I guess I'm the same.

What brought you to experiment with water?
When I became interested in Indian music, I met a rare disappearing instrument, Jalatharangam, traditionally used in South India. It was composed with many porcelain bowls, tuned with the quantity of water and tapped with sticks. Fascinated by the simplicity of the device and its sonority, I imitated this instrument. When I started to amplify the bowls with an underwater microphone, it became a new electro-aquatic instrument.

What would be the ideal setting for listening to your music?
On the cover of my new album, I asked the listeners to listen to it at night or very early in the morning. I realized that our aural sensitivity changes between daytime and nighttime. It's due to the distracting sound pollution caused by human activity. But I'm also wondering if it's related to animal nocturnality.

Do you make music for money, for people or for yourself?
With regard to my new album Musique Hydromantique, I feel that I made it in honor of the instrument - waterbowls.  It's an incredible instrument with which I shared magical moments in many places for many years. It accompanied my difficult period around 2013-14. This music comes from a deep need for healing myself and my surroundings. In this album, I didn't want to use any electronic effects nor editing (which I usually do) to show the purest form of the instrument.

What means the following to you?

Freedom. It's one of the most important things for any artist. I imagine that we all have to keep the balance between a free mind and a critical one. It helps me to travel, learn from kids and above all….dream!

Spirituality. The term spirituality does not really exist in Japanese. If spirituality means awe of nature or unknown, it exists in many places and many people I saw and it is part of my musical practice treating hazards. 

What makes you happy?
My loved ones in good health.

Your latest obsession?
Well, I was obsessed by my musical technique - underwater feedback - for a long time. It's a special acoustic phenomenon controlling the frequency, volume, and interaction with acoustic space. Now I know it well and it's time to do new things. There's nothing obsessional. However, it's a super exciting period for me with lots of new projects, ideas and inspirations.

Interview Christina Rabe
Photography Sébastien Grisey & Jens Ziehe