Focus: Music in Contemporary Japan explores a diversity of musics performed in Japan today, ranging from folk song to classical music, the songs of geisha to the screaming of underground rock, with a specific look at the increasingly popular world of taiko (ensemble drumming). Discussion of contemporary musical practice is situated within broader frames of musical and sociopolitical history, processes of globalization and cosmopolitanism, and the continued search for Japanese identity through artistic expression. It explores how the Japanese have long negotiated cultural identity through musical practice in three parts:
Part I, “Japanese Music and Culture,” provides an overview of the key characteristics of Japanese culture that inform musical performance, such as the attitude towards the natural environment, changes in ruling powers, dominant religious forms, and historical processes of cultural exchange.
Part II, “Sounding Japan,” describes the elements that distinguish traditional Japanese music and then explores how music has changed in the modern era under the influence of Western music and ideology.
Part III, “Focusing In: Identity, Meaning and Japanese Drumming in Kyoto,” is based on fieldwork with musicians and explores the position of Japanese drumming within Kyoto. It focuses on four case studies that paint a vivid picture of each respective site, the music that is practiced, and the pedagogy and creative processes of each group.
Grounded in the fields of Ethnomusicology, Anthropology, Popular Music Studies, and Japanese Studies, this book explores the underground Tokyo hardcore scene, ultimately asking what play as resistance through performance of the scene tells us about Japanese society in general. Matsue highlights the complicated positioning of young adult Japanese in contemporary Japan as they negotiate both increasing social demands and increasing problems in society at large. Further drawing on theories of play, identity building, and the construction of gender, all informed by the increasingly influential field of Performance Studies, the book offers a highly interdisciplinary look at the importance of musical scenes for expressing resistance at the turn of the 21st century. Within the underground Tokyo hardcore scene this resistance is expressed through play with individual and collective identity, in intimate and potentially illicit spaces, with an arguably challenging sound and performance style.