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‘Japanese music’ can be popular

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2002

Abstract

Traditional genres, modern popular music, ‘classical’ concert music and other styles of music-making in Japan can be viewed as diverse elements framed within a musical culture. Bourdieu's concept of habitus, and Williams' of dominant, residual and emergent traditions, are helpful in formulating an inclusive approach, in contrast to the prevailing demarcation between traditional and popular music research. Koizumi Fumio first challenged the disciplinary separation of research on historical ‘Japanese music’ and modern hybrid music around 1980, and the influence of his work is reflected in a small number of subsequent writings. In Japanese popular music, evidence for musical habitus and residual traits of past practice can be sought not only in characteristics typical of musicological analysis; modal, harmonic and rhythmic structures; but also in aspects of the music's organisation, presentation, conceptualisation and reception. Among these are vocal tone and production techniques, technical and evaluative discourse, and contextual features such as staging, performer-audience interaction, the agency of individual musicians, the structure of corporate music-production, and the use of songs as vehicles for subjectivity. Such an inclusive approach to new and old musical practices in Japan enables demonstration of ways in which popular music is both part of Japanese musical culture and an authentic vehicle for contemporary Japanese identity.

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Research Article
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© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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