Voices of Women / Stimmen der Frauen

Project Overview

This is an ongoing project by Michiko Saiki. Through a close collaboration with female-identifying composers, she aims to build a platform for them and their unique “voices” using the genre of the Vocalizing Pianist.

Project Description

The vocalizing pianist is an emerging genre of contemporary classical music, in which the pianist speaks, sings, and/or acts while playing the piano simultaneously. Due to the pianist’s vocalization, the vocalizing pianist genre makes the performer’s body and gender an integral element of the performance. The voice draws the audience’s attention to the corporeality of the performer and reveals the normative conceptions and gender ideologies inscribed on the performer’s body. I argued in my doctoral dissertation, The Vocalizing Pianist: Embodying Gendered Performances (2017) that the voice acts as a medium to connect the audience to the performer intimately and that with intimacy and vulnerability as force, those intimate gendered performances can potentially break the audience’s stereotypes and gender ideologies — especially when a personal story, which does not fit any of the traditional cultural norms or stereotypes, is embodied through performer’s voice and body.

In my ongoing project, the Voices of Women (Stimmen der Frauen), I re-imagine the theoretical framework of l’écriture féminine (feminine writing)*, a concept developed by the French post-structural feminists, Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray, as a new aesthetic concept, realized through musical performance. Cixous and Irigaray claim that women can dismantle patriarchy (or phallogocentrism) by exploring and developing women’s language, a language rooted in the female body and female sexuality. They believe that women can retrieve their voice as a subject through the very language itself, although language has disadvantaged women, as claimed by Simone de Beauvoir. L’écriture féminine strives to be something that cannot be defined and cannot be evaluated by historical (patriarchal) criteria. Lécriture féminine gives us an opportunity to interrogate the validity of historical aesthetics and grants new value to expressions that would have been dismissed as non-serious or non-academic if evaluated by traditional historical criteria. 

With Cixous’s concept, “writing the self,” as motto, I collaborate with female-identifying composers and create intimate female-centric performances. The composers will write their ‘selves’ through their compositions and I will write my ‘self’ by embodying those female protagonists in performance. This project aims not only to challenge the audience’s unconscious gender stereotypes and cultural norms, but also to dismantle the historically masculinist aesthetic tendencies in music. I would like to inscribe these composers’ names, their stories, and their voices into history and cultivate a better environment for the future female composers and musicians. 

Commissioned Works / Composers

Hannah Skowronek (USA) – Words from Three of Us (2014)
Rafaele Andrade (Brazil) – Pills (2018)
Fojan Gharibnejad (Iran) – “X” (2018)
Junyu Guo (China) – Lied deines Schattens (Song of Your Shadow) (2018)
Beste Özçelebi (Turkey) – For Them… (2018)
Jue Wang (China) – a vacant nursery room I. Lullaby (2019)
Farnaz Modaressifar (Iran) – MÂ[H] (2021)
Eiko Tsukamoto (Japan) – partage (2021)
Giulia Lorusso (Italy) – Till we are called to rise (2022)

Past Programs

Vol. 3
Michiko Saiki – You and Me (Installation)
Farnaz Modaressifar – MÂ[H]
Victoria Jordanova – Solitude Calls Me By Every Name (arr. Michiko Saiki)
Jue Wang – life in stillness (arr. Michiko Saiki)
Eiko Tsukamoto – partage
Giulia Lorusso – Till we are called to rise

Vol. 2
Victoria Jordanova Prayer
Beste Özçelebi For Them…
Fojan Gharibnejad “X”
Michiko Saiki a…i…u…e…o…
Jue Wang a vacant nursery room I. Lullaby
Amy Beth Kirsten h.o.p.e.

Vol. 1
Fojan Gharibnejad “X”
Amy Beth Kirsten (speak to me)
Junyu Guo Lied deines Schattens
Beste Özçelebi For Them…
Marisol Jiménez Islas Migrantes

Past Performances / Conference Presentations / Workshops

18. February 2022 Solo Recital as part of Contemporary Insights Concert Series – die naTo, Leipzig, DE
21. June 2019 Solo Recital at International Dialogues in the Museum One World Resistance Art for Peace and Development – Museum of Women’s Culture Regional-International Women in One World Fürth, DE
27. November 2018 Solo Recital at Unerhörte Concert Series, BKA-Theater Berlin
20. October 2018 Lecture Recital at Feminist Pedagogy: Museums, Memory Sites and Practices of Remembrance – Istanbul, Turkey
22. September 2018 Lecture Recital at Bringing New Music to New Audiences’ Conference – De Montford University Leicester, UK
6. July 2018 Solo Recital at ZfGM Festival, Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig
10. February 2018 Conference Presentation – French-German Colloquium at HMT Leipzig

Publications / Reviews

Heunis, Loudine. Michiko Saiki’s Voices of Women: On Acceptance and Affirmation. (Concert Review) The Leipzig Glocal. February 27, 2022.

Heunis, Loudine. Stimmen der Frauen. (Concert Preview) The Leipzig Glocal. February 11, 2022.

Hazirlayanlar, Yayina. (ed. Meral Akkent & S. Nehir Kovar) Feminist Pedagogy: Museums, Memory Sites and Practices of Remembrance. Women’s Museum Istanbul, 2019. (pp. 278-285)

Ed. Franger, Gaby. Alltag Erinnerung Kunst Aktion: Rück Blick Nach Vorne. Frauen in der Einen Welt e.V., 2019. (pp.33-36)

Isenmann, Joscha. “Michiko Saiki – In weibliche Klangräume eintauchen” Interview. (in German) , August 30, 2019.

Saiki, Michiko. The Vocalizing Pianist: Embodying Gendered Performance. Dissertation. Bowling Green State University, 2017.

Artist Residency 2020 at Royaumont Abbey in France

25.-29. January 2022 – Voices of Women Artist Residency Program at the Royaumont Abbey. Fully funded by Fondation Royaumont.


voices [dot] of [dot] women [dot] official [at] gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: