Music in Japan
Like Japanese culture in general, Japan’s music has been stereotyped both as very old/traditional and very modern/Western, a dichotomy that fails to take into account the many rich layers of history that have combined to create the landscape we see today. This course walks through several different genres and periods in the history of Japanese music, allowing students to become more deeply familiar with types of music that they may have heard before, and to get to know new repertories that may be more unfamiliar. In order to proceed from the more to the less known, the course moves in backward chronological order, beginning with recent music that most of us have heard somewhere, like popular anime and video game soundtracks. From there we move deeper back into the twentieth century, examining the postwar genres that gave rise to more familiar recent ones, and from there to the songs that accompanied Japan’s turn to colonial empire in the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. Finally, we end by learning what we can about the music that predates sound recording and Western influences.