150 Years of Modern Japanese Music


Contact with modern Western culture in the second half of the nineteenth century gave Japanese music a new start. The military bands on Commodore Perry’s black ships gave loud notice that Japan’s long period of isolation was at an end, and the English lessons and hymn-singing of American missionaries heralded the advent of a new age. With the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the new government proactively incorporated Western music into Japan’s school curricula as an attempt to build up capabilities in music appropriate for a modern nation. For the next hundred and fifty years, notwithstanding occasional sidesteps imposed by political climate, modern Japanese music has progressed in step with other arts and culture genres to construct the flourishing culture of music that we see today. This exhibition follows that historical progress to trace the development of modern Japanese music over those hundred and fifty eventful years. The core of the exhibits comes from the Meiji Gakuin University Archives of Modern Japanese Music. These exhibits are augmented by precious materials loaned by archives, museums, and private collectors throughout Japan. The result is a multi-dimensional and dynamic presentation of the music-focused cultural history of Japan since the nation came out of isolation.

●Meiji Gakuin University Library Archives of Modern Japanese Music

The Archives of Modern Japanese Music opened on May 26, 2011. The previous July, the Modern Japanese Music Foundation’s Documentation Centre for Modern Japanese Music (opened in 1987) had donated to Meiji Gakuin University Library the 500,000-item collection of materials relating to music in Japan’s modern period that the centre had collected, preserved, and exhibited over the years. After close to a year of preparation, the archives were ready to open to the public. As a research archive for modern and contemporary music in Japan, the institution will continue to collect, preserve, and exhibit documentation and historical materials relating to Western music in Japan from the Meiji Period (1868–1912) onwards. Materials in the archives include handwritten and first-edition scores by composers such as Yamada Kosaku, Hashimoto Kunihiko, Akutagawa Yasushi, and Takemitsu Toru, records of the activities of performers such as Yasukawa Kazuko and Iwashiro Hiroyuki, and libraries and originals of reports from researchers and critics. In addition, there are music books, magazines, recordings and programmes for performances in Japan. In whole, the archives represent an extremely valuable cultural heritage.


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