Log in to
Email Address
Forgot your password?
Not a member? Sign up now!

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


PhD diss., Brown University




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 main point is that we fail to do justice to composers and practitioners of Western music in Japan if we understand their work merely as the product of a happy joining of the ranks of the “international contemporary” scene. She also indicates (perhaps subtly) that Cage’s “influence” was not one-way, pointing out that long before Cage’s arrival in Japan, musicians such as Mayuzumi and Takemitsu pioneered ideas later made popular by the American artist and composer . While Herd focuses on orchestral, instrumental, and choral music for professional musicians by professional composers, she does include brief mentions of electronic works by composers such as Takemitsu and Yuasa, and mentions the Orchestral Space event which included Ichiyanagi, Yokoo Tadonori, and other classical and popular music/musicians (including chindonya street performers). Archival research, score analysis and historiographic work stand out over ethnographic concerns (although Herd’s knowledge of ethnographic studies in Japan clearly figures in her writings). While she conducted various interviews, her own analysis prevails over the “voices” of her subjects.

Key Concepts: change, continuity, nationalism, neo-nationalism, avant-garde, experimentalism