Composer or Academic? 作曲家?研究者?



For many people who know me as an academic and Professor of Japan Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, this music website might raise some eyebrows. But, it has long been my dream to be a composer alongside whatever else I did to earn a living. I never thought composition would pay the bills … in truth I have never wanted it to pay the bills. Composition is something I do on my terms and in my way.

So am I a composer or an academic? On the surface it seems like I am an academic. That is the day job. But to me the answer more complicated. While the time I can devote to music these days is significantly less that what I must devote to academic life, the reality is that my musical aspirations long pre-date any academic aspirations.

The first time a composition of mine was performed in public was in the summer of 1990. I was 17 at the time, and I played my Serenade for Solo Violin and String Orchestra with the Mill Hill School orchestra in a school concert. By contrast, the first time I presented my research in public was at a conference in 2001 during the early stages of my DPhil.

The first time my music was played by professional musicians to a paying public was in December 2000. At that concert in Nagaoka, Japan, three of my chamber works were played: Memories of Japan, Rainy Day, and Reflections. The first professional presentation of my work as a researcher came the following year, when my article ‘“Shampoo for Extra Damage”: Making Sense of Japanized English’ was published in Japan Forum, the official journal of the British Association for Japanese Studies.

If the magnum opus of an academic is the PhD or monograph, then the magnum opus of a composer is a symphony or other large-scale orchestral work. My Requiem, a 37-minute work for choir, orchestra and baritone solo, was completed in 2000 and first performed in 2002. By contrast, I completed my DPhil in 2004 and the book based on it was published in 2007.

And the final comparison relates to being commissioned to do work. Once again, composition predates research. In 2002 I was commissioned to write a choral work for the opening concert of the 2003 Mill Hill Music Festival. I was not asked to write a paper for publication by an academic colleague until 2007.

The comparisons are not perfect, but the simple point is that I was serious about composition long before I was serious about research. It was not until about 2009 that my academic output exceeded musical output in terms of completed works presented in public. It had long been clear to me that while academia offered a way to earn a living, composition as I wanted to do it did not. From around 1999, there was never any doubt in my mind that while I wanted to be a professional academic, I only ever wanted be a “professionally-minded” composer.

Composition took a back seat from 2004 to 2016 as I built my academic career. But now I am returning to the research/music balance – or perhaps work/life balance – that I had before. I see research and composition as twin siblings. Both require long hours of study to learn the styles, conventions and techniques of the genre. Both start with a blank piece of paper that gradually gets filled up during hundreds of hours of thinking, experimenting, writing and rewriting until the end product feels right. Both end with ink on a page, whether sentences or staves, that somebody else will read, interpret and use, and hopefully they will find to be of high quality, meaningful and original. The creative process feels complete when others incorporate the research/music into their own professional lives through citation or public performance. And both are subject to scrutiny and criticism, and require of me the confidence to say, “I stand by what I wrote.”

In short, the writing processes for research and music feel very similar to me, although research must be more dispassionately logical, while music allows the full expression of the emotions. This necessary difference is why I find research and music complement each other.

While research and music are equally important to me personally, I am always aware which one is my career and which is my hobby. But, I want to pursue both with the same professionalism. For many years I feared I would not be possible to do both. But, the internet made it possible. I will tell that story in the next blog post.

17 July 2018



私の音楽作品が初めて公に演奏されたのは、1990年の夏でした。当時私は17歳で、Mill Hill Schoolオーケストラと共に「ソロバイオリンと弦楽器のためのセレナーデ」を、学校の音楽会で演奏しました。一方で、私が研究成果を初めて公表したのは、2001年の会議の場で、博士課程の初めの頃でした。

プロの演奏家による、有料のコンサートの形で、私の作品が初めて演奏されたのは2000年12月のことでした。長岡でのこのコンサートでは、私の室内楽作品のうち3作品(「日本の思い出」、「外は雨」、及び「リフレクションズ」)が演奏されました。一方で、プロフェッショナルな研究者としての初めての発表は、この翌年のことでした。英国日本研究協会のジャパン・フォーラムという公式ジャーナルに、私の論文‘“Shampoo for Extra Damage”: Making Sense of Japanized English’(「『エクストラダメージのためのシャンプー』:和製英語を読み解く」)が掲載されたときのことです。


最後の比較は、依頼を受けているかという点です。この点においても、作曲が研究より先でありました。2002年に、翌年のMill Hill音楽祭の開会に際した合唱の作品を依頼され、報酬を受けました。一方で、2007年になるまで、出版に向けた論文の執筆依頼を研究者仲間から受けることはありませんでした。