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Seeking Japanese Identities: Piano Music in the Early Showa Era

Ayaka Kondo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In recent years, Japanese music has become increasingly familiar to international audiences, especially with the influence of pop culture. Although the music is widely recognized as Japanese, it is most often written in a Western musical style. Without question, the musical idiom of traditional Japanese music is considerably different from both Western music and Japanese music today. The concept of Western music was cultivated only after the mid-nineteenth century in Japan. Under Japan’s Westernization policy, it was first emphasized adopting “matured” Western music. However, as Japan cultivated an internationally influential state, the global and domestic social shifts profoundly impacted the music scene. As a result, Japanese composers began creating more innovative works in the early Showa era (1926-1989). They started to create Japanese-style compositions in the form of Western music. The first chapter briefly reviews the musical scene in Japan during pre-modernity. More specifically, this chapter focus on how Japanese people accepted Western music when it was first introduced in Japan in the sixteenth century, along with the Christian religion. It will also explain why Western music was abandoned and Japanese music flourished during the Edo period (1603-1868), which is most associated with traditional Japanese music today. The second chapter examines the acceptance of Western music during the Meiji era (1868-1912). This discussion provides a general framework for understanding how Japanese composers ultimately integrated Western musical elements into their own culture. The third chapter focuses on the Japanese musical scene from the Taisho (1912-1926) through the early Showa era. The following fourth chapter assesses the writings of music critics and composers in the years immediately before World War II. Lastly, the fifth chapter discusses specific piano works composed during the early Showa era. Analyzing selected piano works by Kiyose Yasuji, Matsudaira Yoritsune, and Ifukube Akira and studying how these composers adapted Japanese elements into their music is the foremost goal of this chapter.

Subject Area

Music|Music history

Recommended Citation

Kondo, Ayaka, "Seeking Japanese Identities: Piano Music in the Early Showa Era" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29999934.