Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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Harmony of Japanese Music, King KICH 2021 (1991)

The Rough Guide to the Music of Japan, World Music Network RGNET 1031 (1997)

Yukar, The Ainu Epic Songs, King KICC-5217 (1997)

Ainu shinwa shūsei[Kayano Shigeru's anthology of Ainu myth], Victor (1998)

Hankapuy: Oki featuring Umeko Ando, Chikar Studio CKR-0102 (1999)


IX. Developments since the Meiji Restoration

1. Introduction.

2. Western art music.

3. Popular music.

4. Traditional music.

Japan, §IX: Developments since the Meiji Restoration

1. Introduction.

The Meiji period (1868–1912) saw Japan open its doors to the outside world after more than two centuries of isolation. The government adopted a policy of thorough and rapid modernization and Westernization. Although the primary aim was to catch up militarily and economically with its rivals, the Confucian world view suggested that all spheres of culture were interlinked; thus the education system and even the performing arts also had to be modernized.

The sections that follow describe developments since the onset of Westernization in three distinct music spheres in Japan: the Western classical music world; the world of popular musics, both Western-style and Japanese; and the world of hōgaku, Japanese traditional classical and theatre musics (for the world of folk song, see §VII above). These three spheres, while developing in relative isolation from each other, also interacted in significant ways. Japanese composers in the Western idiom have, perhaps ironically, come ever more to draw on their Japanese roots, Takemitsu tōru and Miki minoru being prime examples. Traditional musicians seeking new directions have primarily turned to the West, although to varying degrees. Popular composers of the early 20th century often worked in three idioms: Western-style compositions (albeit with Japanese lyrics); ‘new folk songs’ in near-traditional style; and a hybrid that draws on the pentatonic major and minor scales. The more adventurous among recent pop musicians reflect globalization by mixing Western, Japanese and other elements in the best post-modern tradition. Recent years, for example, have seen arrangements by commercial musicians of shōmyō with other instruments and musical styles (e.g. synthesizer, shamisen) or for the concert stage (see under Recordings below).

Given that the national education curriculum has since the 1870s virtually excluded traditional music, it might be surprising that the latter survives at all. Western elements are indeed in the ascendant, but indigenous elements remain strong (see §4 below).

Japan, §IX: Developments since the Meiji Restoration

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