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Experimental Music in Japan (A Short List)

Scroll down to see an annotated short list with a main focus on English-language texts on experimental music in 1960s Japan. This list is intended as a starting point from which we hope to develop a growing list of sources on experimental music in postwar Japan.

This list is not an authoritative bibliography. It can grow. Are crucial texts missing? Out-of-print publications that should be included? We welcome your additions, with commentary and links to the material if possible, and we encourage you to send us feedback on the list in general.

Author

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Miki Kaneda

Lecturer, College of Fine Arts, School of Music, Boston University Harvard University As a scholar and teacher, Miki aims to increase meaningful conversations between researchers and practitioners of sonic and visual arts in order to address the... Read more »
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Experimental Music in Japan (A Short List)

Scroll down to see an annotated short list with a main focus on English-language texts on experimental music in 1960s Japan. This list is intended as a starting point from which we hope to develop a growing list of sources on experimental music in postwar Japan.

This list is not an authoritative bibliography. It can grow. Are crucial texts missing? Out-of-print publications that should be included? We welcome your additions, with commentary and links to the material if possible, and we encourage you to send us feedback on the list in general.

Show More

Scroll down to see an annotated short list with a main focus on English-language texts on experimental music in 1960s Japan. This list is intended as a starting point from which we hope to develop a growing list of sources on experimental music in postwar Japan.

This list is not an authoritative bibliography. It can grow. Are crucial texts missing? Out-of-print publications that should be included? We welcome your additions, with commentary and links to the material if possible, and we encourage you to send us feedback on the list in general.

Source contents

Japrocksampler: How the Post-War Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock 'n' Roll

From the unabashedly personal perspective of a musician (who toured in Japan) and a record collector, Cope writes about music in a way that moves beyond disciplinary boundaries found in academic writing. Aiming to introduce readers not only to Japanese rock and experimental music but also to Japanese underground culture after 1945, Cope’s book places the music in its historical and political...

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Yogaku: Japanese Music in the Twentieth Century

Galliano’s text examines the “infiltration of Western music into Japan” since the Meiji era. The book’s preface gives a brief history of earlier Japanese music and aesthetics, paving the way for a broad, comprehensive overview of contemporary Japanese music. Galliano emphasizes the beginnings of Western music in Japan as a social project. She presents yogaku in Japan as a model in which the...

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Radicals and Realists in the Japanese Nonverbal Arts: The Avant-Garde Rejection of Modernism

Havens’s book is highly valuable as an introduction to artists across multiple disciplines and for its emphasis on the oral testimony of Japanese avant-garde artists who were active in the 1950s and 1960s. Focusing on what the author calls “the most progressive” individuals involved in “the nonverbal arts” in postwar Japan, Havens offers a view of a changing terrain of artistic politics. The...

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Change and Continuity in Contemporary Japanese Music: A Search for a National Identity

Herd provides a comprehensive overview of the history of Western music in Japan. The text is clearly structured in chapters organized chronologically and by theme. It relates the story of classical/contemporary music in Japan as one that is not just about borrowing and “East-West” hybridity, but also about the development and social purposes of Western music in Japan since the Meiji era. Herd’s...

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Nihon no denshi ongaku (Electronic Music of Japan)

An expansive chronicle of electronic music in Japan concentrating on the period between 1950 and1980. Focuses on tape and early electronic music rather than pop/rock forms. The book includes interviews with key figures (musicians, composers, engineers), a year-by-year history of developments in Japanese electronic music, an extensive bibliography, discography, and a list of major mechanical,...

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The Beginnings of Electronic Music in Japan, with a Focus on the NHK Studio: The 1950s and 1960s

Drawing on her background as a radio producer, Loubet provides, over the course of two articles , an overview of early electronic music in Japan. The narrative focuses on the context of NHK Studio (Nihon Hoso Kyoku, or Japan Broadcasting Corp.) and the influence of electronic music-making at German radio stations. Loubet’s research combines historical research and interviews with insiders. Her...

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An Annotated Bibliography of Japanese Electroacoustic Music

Loubet’s bibliography of Japanese electronic music cites various sources in English, German, and Japanese from journals, books, radio broadcasts, archival resources, and liner notes.

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“Scream Against the Sky”: Japanese Avant-garde Music in the Sixties

In this essay, Uno-Everett (a C-MAP visiting scholar in 2012) makes a case for the political currents in 1960s avant-garde music, which has often been characterized as apolitical by composers, scholars, and critics. Focusing on the Sogetsu Art Center between 1960 and 1964, Uno-Everett discusses the roles of Yoko Ono, Yuji Takahashi, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and John Cage in shaping a radical...

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Experimental Music in Japan (A Short List)

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Additional Books

Posted on 14 Feb

a few additions for you to consider.

Would think you at least need to include these three books on Toru Takemitsu. Peter Burt's book - The Music of Toru Takemitsu (Music in the Twentieth Century) since it is one of the few English texts on him. The book by his wife Asaka - A Memoir of Toru Takemitsu. And of course Toru Takemitsu's own Confronting Silence: Selected Writings which if you only list one should be the one.

There is also a great book on Yasunao Tone - the out of print Yasunao Tone: Noise Media Language (Critical Ear) - a PDF of it is available at http://www.errantbodies.org/Yasunao_Tone.html - though if you can find the original book it does come with a CD. He also released a box set in Japan that has a book though that book is not about him it's poems he adapted into sound pieces.

In Japanese Takehisa Kosugi released his own autobiography (dream of an English translation one day). There are also numerous catalogues related to his art work / installation activity - often expensive but some creative googling will bring them up.

Also in Japanese Toshi Ichiyanagi, who should be known for a lot more than just being Yoko Ono's former husband, published a book called "Listening to the Sound - Notion of Music" in 1984 - again sadly untranslated. There is also a thesis on Ichiyanagi with a good bibliography at http://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/64647/SASAKI-THESIS.pdf

A catalogue of the graphic scores of Joji Yuasa with texts in Japanese called "exhibition 2007” can be bought Stateside from http://www.mimaroglumusicsales.com/artists/joji+yuasa.html

Though it's not a book it might be relevant to add there's a DVD about Matsuo Ohno called "The Echo of Astro Boy's Footsteps" it's been released on DVD / BR in Japan but without English subs - has shown in the UK a number of times but is yet to show in the US. Aside from this, the documentary on Takemitsu's film music "The Film Music of Toru Takemitsu" and Ohno's documentary on the Taj Mahal Travellers "Taj Mahal Travellers" on tour I don't know of other films about this scene / these composers - might be good to add a list of films in which they did music though since there is quite a few of those - a number of them showed at the ATG fest at MOMA and even here in the Matsumoto section there are some but the composers are not always credited.

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a few additions for you to consider.

Would think you at least need to include these three books on Toru Takemitsu. Peter Burt's book - The Music of Toru Takemitsu (Music in the Twentieth Century) since it is one of the few English texts on him....

Show more »

additional recommendation of anthology of translations assembled by Roger Reynolds in the 1980s

A JOSTLED SILENCE: Contemporary Japanese Musical Thought Edited by Roger Reynolds; translated by Sumi Adachi with Reynolds published in 3 parts in the journal Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter 1992; pp. 22-80 Vol. 30, No. 2, Summer 1992; pp. 60-100 Vol. 31, No. 2, Summer 1993; pp. 172-228 (School of Music DN-10 / University of Washington / Seattle, WA 98195 Tel: +1 206 543 0196)

Good material here that alas did not get published as a book in the late 1980s when it was assembled and almost released by Sam Francis's Lapis Press (Santa Monica, CA) after a change of management there. As its copyeditor and an erstwhile Japanist I was most excited as very little material of the type was then available.

There were a number of essays, including a longish piece by Takemitsu Toru that begins as a meditation at a performance in Indonesia and ranges across topics as far afield as volcanoes and John Cage, pieces by Ichiyanagi Toshi, Yuasa Joji, and Takahashi Yuji. (All listed according to then-current convention with surname last.) At least I hope they all made it into the journal--it's available on JSTOR.

Happy fishing.

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additional recommendation of anthology of translations assembled by Roger Reynolds in the 1980s

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Mk c map

Great additions!

Posted on 25 Feb

These are great, Gamall and Joseph! Thanks for the additions.

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These are great, Gamall and Joseph! Thanks for the additions.

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This Source is part of: Sogetsu Art Center