Extreme Exoticism: Japan in the American Musical Imagination

ISBN : 9780190072704

W. Anthony Sheppard
640 Pages
178 x 178 mm
Pub date
Nov 2019
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  • The most comprehensive study on Japanese representation in American music to date
  • Explores Japanese exoticism and representation in virtually every musical genre over the past 150 years
  • Archival research contributes new findings to Asian American studies, film studies, and media and propaganda studies

To what extent can music be employed to shape one culture's understanding of another? In the American imagination, Japan has represented the "most alien" nation for over 150 years. This perceived difference has inspired fantasies--of both desire and repulsion--through which Japanese culture has profoundly impacted the arts and industry of the U.S. While the influence of Japan on American and European painting, architecture, design, theater, and literature has been celebrated in numerous books and exhibitions, the role of music has been virtually ignored until now.
W. Anthony Sheppard's Extreme Exoticism offers a detailed documentation and wide-ranging investigation of music's role in shaping American perceptions of the Japanese, the influence of Japanese music on American composers, and the place of Japanese Americans in American musical life. Presenting numerous American encounters with and representations of Japanese music and Japan, this book reveals how music functions in exotic representation across a variety of genres and media, and how Japanese music has at various times served as a sign of modernist experimentation, a sounding board for defining American music, and a tool for reshaping conceptions of race and gender. From the Tin Pan Alley songs of the Russo-Japanese war period to Weezer's Pinkerton album, music has continued to inscribe Japan as the land of extreme exoticism.


List of Illustrations
Glossary of Japanese terms
Introductions and Acknowledgments

Chapter 1: "Beyond Description:" Nineteenth-Century Americans Hearing Japan
Chapter 2: Strains of Japonisme in Tin Pan Alley, on Broadway, and in the Parlor
Chapter 3: Japonisme and the Forging of American Musical Modernism
Chapter 4: Two Paradigmatic Tales, Between Genres and Genders
Chapter 5: An Exotic Enemy: Musical Propaganda in Wartime Hollywood
Chapter 6: Singing Sayonara: Musical Representations of Japan in Postwar Hollywood
Chapter 7: Representing the Authentic from Japanese American Perspectives
Chapter 8: Beat and Square Cold War Encounters
Chapter 9: Conclusions? or, Contemporary Representations and Reception

About the author: 

W. Anthony Sheppard is Marylin and Arthur Levitt Professor of Music at Williams College where he teaches courses in twentieth-century music, opera, popular music, and Asian music. His first book, Revealing Masks: Exotic Influences and Ritualized Performance in Modernist Music Theater received the Kurt Weill Prize. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Musicological Society and is now Series Editor of AMS Studies in Music (Oxford University Press).

"From Commodore Perry to Katy Perry, from Tin Pan Alley to Takemitsu, this landmark study paints an immense, richly textured, and multifaceted panorama of American musical encounters with Japan. What a remarkable, fascinating, and critically important book!" -- Charles Hiroshi Garrett, editor-in-chief of The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd ed.

"Sheppard's scholarly reach has always been unique within musicology, nor has it ever exceeded his grasp. In order to do justice to the huge topic of Japanese exoticism in American music, he had to acquire an ethnomusicologist's familiarity with Japanese music and then had to learn-that is, invent-ways of making meaningful comparisons between appropriations and representations across the generic board, from popular music to avant-garde, and from theatrical and cinematic to instrumental genres. But that spectacular range was only the beginning. He has applied it to a set of questions that goes to the very heart of music's social and cultural effect. Behind the musical study in Extreme Exoticism lies a study of ethnic and social relations at some extremely fraught historical moments. Sheppard remains a cultural historian at heart, and addresses what is, for a musicologist, a uniquely broad readership." -- Richard Taruskin, author of the Oxford History of Western Music

"In this insightful, wide-ranging book, W. Anthony Sheppard demonstrates in detail how music has helped shape the American image of Japan and 'the Japanese.' Sheppard draws his examples from a wide range of genres, including musical theater, film, popular song, and experimental concert music. This masterful cultural history manages to be at once entertaining, deeply researched, and keenly relevant to life and public debates today." -- Ralph P. Locke, author of Music and the Exotic: Images and Reflections and Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart

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