Music of Japan Today
Music of Japan Today is an ongoing series of international symposia addressing Japanese music. Since 2003, the symposia have taken place at UMBC.
Organized by Dr. Kazuko Tanosaki and Dr. E. Michael Richards of the music department, Music of Japan Today has grown into one of the largest gatherings dedicated to Japanese contemporary music outside of Japan, and the only one to couple scholarly presentations with musical performances. Music of Japan Today has been supported by the Embassy of Japan (Washington, DC), the Japan-United States Friendship Commission (Washington, DC), the Japan Foundation NY, the Asian Cultural Council (NY), and the Association for Asian Studies, among other organizations. Guest composers and performers from Japan who have participated include Joji Yuasa, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Akira Nishimura, Tokuhide Niimi, Toshimitsu Tanaka, Masao Honma, Harue Kunieda, Isao Matsushita, Masao Endo, Hiroyuki Itoh, Hiroyuki Yamamoto, Shirotomo Aizawa, and Masataka Matsuo, Mari Akagi (piano), and Retsuzan Tanabe (shakuhachi).
Music of Japan Today 2007 was comprised of paper presentations, panel discussions, performances, and lecture-recitals concerning contemporary Japanese music from a number of viewpoints, disciplines, and expertise. The music scrutinized is reflective of a fusion of aspects characteristic of contemporary Japanese and other Asian and/or Western societies, while at the same time deeply rooted in a traditional culture (Japan) that has evolved over many years. This new musical/aesthetic confluence has developed in Japanese music through a number of paths, including imitation, adaptation, assimilation, indigenization, transculturation (cross-fertilization), acculturation, and syncretism.
At the center of the 2007 symposium, presenting views as artists from inside Japan, were three Japanese composers of international stature. These composers represent a generation born after 1960 - composers who were pupils of Yuasa, Miyoshi, Ikebe, Noda, and Kondo. Hiroyuki Itoh, a winner of international composition prizes in Europe and Japan (including the prestigious Akutagawa Award), has been commissioned and performed by major ensembles including the New Japan Philharmonic, the Nieuw Ensemble, and the Arditti Quartet; Hiroyuki Yamamoto, whose works have been performed at Forum '91 (Montreal), Gaudeamus Music Week '94 (Holland), and ISCM World Music Days (2000 in Luxembourg and 2001 in Yokohama), has received prizes for his work, including the Japan Music Competition, Toru Takemitsu Composition Award, and Akutagawa Award; and Shirotomo Aizawa, winner of an Ataka Prize, and composition prize from the National Theater in Japan. He has studied composition in Tokyo, Berlin, and Vienna, and conducting with Seiji Ozawa, among others. All three composers lectured on their music, participated in panel discussions, and worked with performers in rehearsals (masterclasses) of their music that was performed during the symposium.
Also delivered and discussed at the symposium were papers by eighteen musicologists, theorists, ethnomusicologists, composers, performers, and sociologists/anthropologists from England, Austria, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, and throughout the US, presenting insider and outsider views.
Finally, close to 40 works of 20 Japanese composers were performed during the symposium, including ten works (4 of them premieres) of the guest composers, as well as music by seventeen other Japanese composers. Performances included computer music by mid-career composers, chamber music for Western instruments, chamber music for Japanese instruments, and a work for a combined ensemble of Japanese and Western instruments. In addition to guest international performers, more than 100 UMBC students and faculty performed at the symposium.
Papers from Music Japan Today 2007 have been published (2008) by Cambridge Scholars Publishing (UK) in a book annotated and edited by Drs. Richards and Tanosaki, entitled “Music of Japan Today.”