Music Research 音楽の研究


In this blog I tend to write about the music I have written or my observations on classical music. It is very different from the writing that I do as an academic researcher – which is not supposed to be about me or my personal views. Thus far I have not done much academic writing about music. The only piece I had done until very recently was a review article in the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus that discussed a performance of Ikebe Shinichiro’s choral work, The Devil’s Gluttony. Ikebe’s work is based on Morimura Seiichi’s writings about the horrific wartime vivisections perpetrated by Unit 731. As I wrote in my review essay (which you can read here), “I was driven more by curiosity derived from my interest in war history than by any particular musical expectations. I simply wanted to find out what Unit 731 could possibly sound like musically.”

However, last year I was asked to write an essay about music in the United Kingdom for a book titled Music of the World (Chikyu no ongaku). This book contains short chapters by many of my colleagues at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies about music’s social and cultural contexts in nations around the world. It is the type of group project ideally suited to a university like TUFS with its many professors specializing in world languages and cultures. My essay was about my experiences of growing up with music in the UK from the first record I ever purchased, to playing in university orchestras, and through to the British music I hear in Japan. The book was published in late March. Please do have a look at the publisher’s website and get a copy if you are interested!

This mini-project deepened a feeling that I have had for quite a while now. It is time to bring music more into my research on war memories and tourism studies. I want to research more actively how war memories can be conveyed in music, and also how music inspires people to travel. So, in a new website that I have created called “War Memory Tourism: A research and teaching resource”, there are two sections related to music. The first (see here) deals specifically with music and Japanese war memories. It gives some important examples of memories conveyed through music, including Ikebe’s piece. The second (see here) will be more about classical music and war/travel. In 2022 this section is “under construction” because this is research I want to do in the future. However, I have already made a start during fieldwork in places such as Coventry (where Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem was premiered, see the blog post Armistice Day) or in Tosu city in western Japan, where the story of kamikaze who played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata before flying their mission became well known via the film Summer of the Moonlight Sonata (see the photo above).

Thinking in the opposite direction, I am wondering whether one day I might write a piece of music inspired by war or by travel. Having not experienced war directly myself, I do not see how I could match the intensity or authenticity of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad” or the brooding melancholy of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which was completed just after the First World War. Perhaps travel offers more opportunities, particularly as the restrictions of the Covid-19 era are lifted. I have long admired Strauss’ Alpine Symphony, and from Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave to Dvorak’s New World Symphony the classical music repertoire is full of “musical travelogues”.

For now there are no concrete plans for a piece on war and/or travel. But what I do know for certain is that the various aspects of my writing activities are drawing ever closer together. Over time there will be more links between this music website and the other two websites I manage (see the illustration below). My essay in the recently published Music of the World, therefore, feels like a starting point: from now on, writing music and researching music will go hand in hand much more.

10 April 2022

このブログでは、私が作曲した曲や、クラシック音楽に関する所感について書くことが多いのですが、学術研究者として執筆する場合はこれとは全く異なり、私自身や、私の個人的な見解について書くわけではありません。これまでのところ、私は音楽に関するアカデミック・ライティングはあまり行ってきませんでした。ごく最近まで手掛けていた唯一の音楽に関する学術論文は、池辺晋一郎の合唱作品「悪魔の飽食」の公演に関する総説論文で、「Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus」誌に掲載されました。池辺の作品は、戦時中に731部隊が行った、おぞましい人体実験について書かれた森村誠一の著作を基にしています。拙稿(こちらよりお読み頂けます)で述べた通り、「私は音楽的な期待が特にあったというよりは、戦争史への関心からくる好奇心に突き動かされていました。単純に、731部隊を音楽で表現した場合、どういうものになり得るのかを知りたかったのです」。