hosokawa shuhei on Tue, 9 Feb 1999 09:50:02 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Tanabe Hisao and Japanese Ethnomusicology [1/2]

[part 1 of 2]

In Search of the Sound of Empire:
Tanabe Hisao and the Foundation of Japanese Ethnomusicology

SHUHEI HOSOKAWA, Tokyo Institute of Technology


The Westernisation of Japanese academic life in the Meiji
period (1868-1912) did not stop at the learning of Western
knowledge. It also required an assimilation of various
processes of knowledge (re-)production--in terms of both
educational organisation and ideology.
Ethnology/anthropology came to Japan in the late nineteenth
century offering one of many new modes of knowledge
(re-)production, in this case a way for the West to regard
the non-Western Other. Once on Japanese soil, however, its
West/non-West paradigm was overlaid with a Japan/Asia one.

It has been widely argued that anthropological/ethnological
practice is complicit with colonialism in whatever form it
may take. Under German or British influence, Japanese
anthropologists before the 1940s made scientific expeditions
to various places in Hokkaido, Mongolia, China and
elsewhere. Broadly their research was usually motivated by
desires to discover the origin of the Japanese race and to
study colonial management methods. Their 'field' was almost
always located inside the empire and this geographical limit
was determined mainly by politico-ideological factors.[1]

Such was also the case for Japanese ethnomusicology. Since
its beginning this discipline was not immune from the
colonial project of the State. This paper will examine the
prewar writings of Tanabe Hisao, the first Japanese
musicologist who conducted fieldwork 'abroad', considering
how his work was planned and carried out, how the
problematic concepts of Asia and its variants operated
within it, and how one can read musicological writings as
colonial text.

In Korea: the resurrection of Gagaku

Tanabe Hisao (1883-1984), with a degree in physics
(acoustics) from the Tokyo Imperial University, began
working as both a professor of music history and music
commentator around 1905. He specialised in Japanese music
and dance, but was also an expert in areas of Western music.
His first books included A Guide to Western Music (1906) and
Acoustics and Music (1908); these were followed by more than
thirty books intended both for the general public and for
specialists. In the mid-1910s, he was also active in
establishing 'New Japanese Music' (shin Nihon ongaku) with
the well-known koto player-composer Miyagi Michio (the
founder of the Miyagi School) and the shakuhachi master
Yoshida Seifu_. These two distinguished musicians aimed at
creating new types of composition for traditional
instruments, which were sometimes inspired by Western music
forms. Their experiment was criticised by traditionalists,
but Tanabe defended them in print by insisting that the
modernised Japan should not restrict itself to traditional

Tanabe was a great advocate of renewing Japanese music
traditions. In a parallel endeavour, he took on the task of
establishing the katei odori (home dance), a style of dance
reminiscent of the Edo period but rescued from its
association with the city's pleasure district (yu_kaku) where
it had been performed by professional female
dancer-hostesses. The new home dance was to maintain a
tradition of elegant choreography--but purged of vulgarity
and sexuality, and thus suitable as domestic entertainment
for the Western-influenced model family being promoted in
the 1910s and 20s. Both of these two activities for which he
became famous show Tanabe's acute awareness of the need to
modernise existing forms of artistic practice without being
overwhelmed by Western models. The principle of
modernisation without Westernisation was a crucial element
in the Japanese ethnomusicology that he established. He may
have been a traditionalist and a nativist, but he was no

He was also knowledgeable about Chinese classical music and
researched gagaku in the late 1910s. Gagaku, or imperial
ceremonial music, was imported from China via the Korean
peninsula around the seventh and eighth centuries and was
performed in shrines and the residences of noble families.
It has mostly fallen into neglect in China and Korea yet
survives in Japan, though experts still argue about the
degree to which Japan has maintained the original form.[2]

It is no surprise that Tanabe was the first musicologist
dispatched to Korea and China through the financial support
of the Keimei-kai Foundation, then active in colonial
research. He first went to Korea in April 1921. His purpose
was to research and revive Li dynasty court music, then at
risk of extinction. He had become aware of the plight of
Korean classical music through Kami Saneyuki, the leader of
the gagaku group of imperial court musicians. Tanabe's
response was:

   The moment [the maintenance of] classical music and dance forms 
   such as gagaku is allowed to lapse, they will be lost to us for ever. 
   ... This present document [Outline of Korean Music, a manuscript sent 
   by the Li musicians to the imperial gagaku group] would suggest that 
   the gagaku of the Li royal house is one of the treasures of world 
   cultural history. The Japanese government would bear a heavy 
   responsibility if it were to pass into extinction because of the 
   stance being taken by the colonial administration [which was 
   essentially to blame the situation on the financial straits of the Li 
   family]. I intend to exert every effort to prevent its being 
   abandoned. I must go quickly to Korea, investigate the issues 
   thoroughly, and put a proposal to the colonial authorities on the 
   steps required to preserve it.[3]

In stressing the 'heavy responsibility' of the Japanese
government regarding the fate of Korean gagaku, he
acknowledged both the removal from Korea of autonomy in
determining its own cultural affairs and the establishment
of a position within which he, as Japanese, could act.

Tanabe spent two weeks in Seoul (at that time called Keijo_)
and Pyongyang attending and filming performances of Li music
and classic female dance. The events were put on
specifically to facilitate his research, and he described
and classified features including the instruments, the
pitch, the repertoire and the program of ceremonies in a
systematic manner. His analysis was both descriptive and
historical.[4] He demonstrated that the Li instruments used
the Chou (1050 BC? - 256 BC) pitch, different from what had
been adopted in Japan, and that the Li tuning (intonation)
derived from the Tang (618 - 907), just as in the case of
Japanese gagaku.[5]

The influence of Korean court music on Japanese gagaku was
not of itself news to Japanese scholars. What is significant
in Tanabe's 'fieldwork' was how his observation, camera-work
and writing served to objectify Korean court music. Not only
did he read ancient documents written in Chinese as his
predecessors had done, he also gazed, filmed and analysed to
make the classic culture now under colonial inspection a
thing that should be included in the inventory of Japanese
national culture.

His evenings in Korea were no less busy; he would meet with
Japanese political, educational and business elites over
dinners at which local music and dance were performed.
Following his frequent practice in Japan, he also delivered
a public lecture on music. In it, Tanabe referred to his
respect for Li music as the origin of Japanese gagaku, and
to the cultural importance of its preservation.[6]

His goodwill and scientific enthusiasm for this cause cannot
be denied, just as there is no doubting the influence of his
speech to the Keimei-kai after his return to Tokyo on the
decision of the colonial government to provide continuing
support to the art form. Yet it is also obvious that his
deeds implicitly legitimated Japanese rule over the
peninsula since 1910. It was the fact of Japanese
colonisation that had put the existence of Li court music in
jeopardy, but by acting to secure this cultural heritage of
the Korean dynasty Japan was able to cast itself as the
preserver of a long term relationship between 'neighbours'.
Similar inconsistencies emerge on other levels. Tanabe's
reverence for Li gagaku as the progenitor of the Japanese
version did not extend to according it recognition as the
musical expression of a sovereign Korean polity. And how the
Japanese imperial family could come to be represented by an
imported music was a question nobody then dared to ask; few
dare to mention it today.[7]

Gagaku as a "Great Gift" to Great China

The focus of Tanabe's research in China in April and May of
1923 was Chinese ancient music. He concentrated especially
on the Sui (589-618) and Tang (618-907) periods because he
regarded them as the peak of Chinese cultural history. As he
saw it, Chinese music history could be roughly divided into
four phases:

 *  from ancient times up to the Chou dynasty (to 221 BC), in which the 
   foundation of Chinese music was laid (the Ancient Age);

 *  from the Chin dynasty to the Sung (to 1127) and the Mongolian 
   empire, in which China fully absorbed and digested the influence of 
   Persian, Arabian and Central Asian music and developed large 
   orchestral forms (the Middle Age);

 *  from the Ming to the Ching (1368-1912), in which the large 
   orchestra was replaced by the chamber ensemble and in which the 
   theatre music of the present day emerged (the Age of National Music);

 *  from the fall of the Ching to the present, in which the Chinese 
   came to terms with Western music (the Modern Age).[8]

The second phase, the 'Middle Age', was subdivided into two
parts, with the first running to the end of the Tang.[9]
This periodisation, as well as the reverence for Tang
culture, accorded with the general consensus of Japanese
prewar sinologists.

When characterising the music of the Sui and the Tang (the
early 'Middle Age') he often used such words as
'international music in full bloom' and 'the synthesis of
vernacular and foreign music.'[10] The Tang culture is
certainly known for its incorporation of Eurasian cultures
(Persian, Indian, Arabic, etc.) and Tanabe praised it
without reservation:

   In short, in the Tang dynasty, almost all kinds of musical art 
   reached their perfection and were all surprisingly refined. They 
   included instrumental and vocal music, large ensemble and chamber 
   music, form music [a symphony-like genre] and content music [a 
   text-oriented genre], court music and popular music, theatre music
   folk music, and many others".[11] 

No aesthetic judgment is neutral, however. I believe Tanabe
had reasons on two levels for acclaiming the superiority of
Tang music: it had close connections with Japanese gagaku;
and there were also the historical parallels between the
Tang and post-Meiji Japan. Chinese and Persian instruments
of the seventh and eighth centuries which are preserved in
the Sho_so_in in Nara, the then-capital of Japan, show a close
connection with present-day gagaku. Tanabe examined them in
1920 with two gagaku musicians at the request of the
Imperial Museum. He was therefore familiar with the
historical development from Tang music to gagaku.[12] At the
same time, the 'international' culture of the Tang was a
model for modern Japanese culture. In the more explicit
explanation provided by the disciple of Tanabe, Kishibe
Shigeo, the four-step periodisation of China had deep
parallels in Japanese music history: the 'primitive' phase
(to the seventh century), a first 'international' one
(eighth to twelfth centuries), followed by the period of
'national music' (thirteenth to nineteenth centuries,
peaking in the Tokugawa period, 1603-1868) and the second
'international' phase (since the 1868 Meiji Restoration). He
saw a similar evolution in Korea as well.[13] Thus the music
cultures of East Asia were considered to be historically
correlated. And if during the first 'international' period
1000 years ago China's guidance of Japanese music
crystallised in the form of gagaku (an integration of the
Eastern cultures), could not Japan in turn lead Chinese
music in the second 'international' period by way of the
synthesis of the Eastern and Western cultures?

Tanabe's lecture at the University of Pekin on 14 May 1923
gives an insight into his view on Tang music. It was
entitled 'The Universal Value of Chinese Music' and was
delivered a week after he happened to see a student
demonstration against Japan ('Give us back Port Arthur and
Dairen!'--two Manchurian cities in the north east ceded to
Japan after the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95) on National
Humiliation Day, the day of China's forced acceptance of
Japan's Twenty-one Demands in 1915. In front of a
six-thousand-strong Chinese audience (his own estimate),
Tanabe opened his speech by saying:

   Every day you claim that Port Arthur and Dairen should be returned 
   to you. I can understand your position and feel deep sympathy with 
   you. But I am neither a politician nor a diplomat, nor a 
   representative of the military, so I have no idea whether the return 
   of Port Arthur and Dairen to China is a reasonable demand. ... I came 
   here in order to give back from Japan something much greater, much 
   more worthy of respect than Port Arthur and Dairen. What is this
   greater than Port Arthur and Dairen?[14]

This 'great thing' to which Tanabe referred was of course
gagaku, the music descended from the Tang. The recordings of
the supposed 'Tang gagaku' (as preserved by the Japanese
gagaku ensemble) that he brought with him from Japan
'astounded them [the audience]'[15] so much that he was able
to report a sudden cessation of the anti-Japanese outcry
after his lecture. It was also shortly thereafter that the
Research Circle of National Music was established, a group
which enjoyed a fleeting existence at the University of
Pekin but which nevertheless managed to elect him to the
position of emeritus president.[16]

But how did China lose this 'great music' some time in the
'Middle Age', while Japan preserved it down to the present?
Tanabe answered:

   China destroys the cultural expressions of the previous dynasty in 
   each revolution but Japan, on the contrary, preserves such things 
   thanks to the imperial family which has reigned uninterrupted for 
   2,600 years. So I am not begging you [to accept gagaku's return]. I 
   will only exert my influence to have it placed back in your hands
   you sincerely express gratitude to the Japanese imperial family .[17]

Tanabe drew a distinction between two national histories:
one discontinuous and disrupted, the other continuous and
unified; one neglecting its religious and ethical roots
because of destructive 'revolution', the other maintaining
them thanks to the everlasting imperial family. It is clear
that gagaku not only legitimated in his mind the concept of
the never-interrupted family of the Japanese emperor and, by
extension, the kokutai [national polity], but was also the
cultural justification for the Japanese reign in China.

To better contrast Japanese progressive thought with a
Chinese conservative counterpart, he notes how China was
slow in absorbing Western music even though it was
introduced as early as the seventeenth century. That Western
music has scarcely influenced the Chinese 'is in strong
contrast to Japan, where Western music has radically changed
musical forms within less than half a century since its
importation. Few [Japanese] scholars of Chinese music are
yet willing to take a fourth [post-1911, international]
phase seriously'.[18] Thus he accounts for the 'unsuccessful
evolution' of Chinese music in the Modern Age and justifies
his and his associates' indifference to contemporary Chinese

What underlies his conviction that Western music has not
spoiled--but only 'radically changed'--Japanese music since
the Meiji period is the well-known national slogan wakon
yo_sai, or 'Japanese spirit, Western technique', an ideology
that means Japanese know how to absorb the merit of Western
culture (technique) without suffering spiritual detriment.
It is this catchphrase more than any other which is claimed
to hold the key to Japan's success in modernisation.
Western-oriented music education since Meiji has therefore
cut two ways for Tanabe: it brought about the decline of
Japanese traditional music (a domestic dimension); but at
the same time it went hand-in-hand with Japan's timely,
indeed rapid, progress (an international dimension). It was
that achievement which allowed him to assert that Japan was
no longer a disciple of China, as it had been for centuries,
but the master whose role it was to develop the once-great
tradition of Asia to modernity.[19]

This divergence between the two histories, Tanabe supposed,
could ultimately be reversed to converge into one category
of East Asia (to_a) or Orient (to_yo_). Western music may have
the power to arouse animal-like emotions such as pleasure
and joy, but it cannot command moral virtue (toku or
tokusei), the supreme value of humanity. The emotional
effect that Western music exerts on the emotions can be
created only by gimmicks and spiritual decadence. The
material civilisation of the West has undermined the once
developed spiritual culture of the East, especially after
World War I. The only way to establish universal peace is
through the moral virtue of the East, notably represented by
the time-honoured music of China. Therefore, he continued,

   one has to examine the primordial form of East Asian (to_a) music in 
   order to reveal the essence of what we call gagaku. By doing so, we 
   will be able to demonstrate how until the Middle Age the East
   had universal gagaku, a music centred upon moral virtue, and how this 
   music will rule the true essence of music forever. If you can only 
   transfer it [from the 'Middle Age'] to the present day you will be 
   able to lead world culture and promise eternal peace. Thus China will 
   become the spiritual leader of the world.[20] 

The predominance of moral virtue in gagaku means the
cultural dominance of East Asia over the West. Confucianism
gave rise to an ethico-political philosophy of music
(reigaku), according to which music serves to control human
nature and therefore to govern the people (an idea
superficially similar to that of Plato's Republic).  Hence,
'back to the primordial gagaku' means the return to the
ethical essence of Confucianism. In this way, Tanabe
stressed not only ancient China's universality in morals and
music but Japan's superiority to contemporary China in
modernisation and politics. The act of 'repatriating' gagaku
to its origins confirmed both the superiority of Japan to
China in terms of preserving world heritage on the one hand,
and that of the Orient to the Occident in terms of spirit
and morals on the other. As Stefan Tanaka notes,

   [L]ike the Western Orient, it [China or shina] was the respected 
   antiquity, but for Japan it was also one that was older than the 
   beginnings of Europe. In this way Japan was able to place itself on 
   the same level as the Occident and incorporate the figurative future
   the West - into its world. However, contemporary shina was a 
   disorderly place - not a nation - from which Japan could both
   itself and express its paternal compassion and guidance.[21]

>From Sinology to Ethnomusicology

In July 1936, Tanabe and eight other members founded the
To_yo_ Ongaku Gakkai (Society for the Research of Asiatic
Music). Significantly it was not until 1952 that the Nihon
Ongaku Gakkai (Japanese Society for Musicology) was founded,
and then mainly by scholars of Western art music. This does
not mean that no Japanese studied Beethoven, for example,
prior to 1940. In reality, by the 1930s writings on Western
art music (mostly translations, bibliographies and
listeners' guide books) were much more available than those
on Japanese and Asian music. The fact is that the foundation
of the Society reflected the general and explosive interest
in to_yo_ ('the East', 'the Orient', 'things Asiatic') in
Japan. For example, the founding members contributed to
other journals such as To_ho_ Gakuho_ (Eastern Scientific
Report), To_a Ronshu_ (Bulletin of East Asia) and Shin Ajia
(New Asia). Not surprisingly, more than half of the members
had a sinological background. Curiously enough, there were
no folk music scholars in the Society, though the study of
rural songs had already started in the 1910s. This imparted
a rather different character to nascent Japanese
ethnomusicology than that of its Western counterpart. It was
not until the 1950s that folklorists joined the Society.

Their publication, To_yo_ Ongaku Kenkyu_  (The Journal of the
Society for the Research of Asiatic Music), was launched in
November 1937[22] with articles on gagaku, Korean musical
archaeology (sixth to eighth centuries), the development of
German comparative musicology, a bibliography of Tang music,
references to music and dance in Buddhist scriptures, and so
on. Reading through the prewar issues of To_yo_ Ongaku Kenkyu_,
one can easily notice the methodological differences between
the articles on Japan, China and Korea, and the rest. The
former group relied heavily on Japanese and Chinese sources
and discussed ancient ('classic') genres with few references
to the Western literature, whereas the latter principally
comprised a discussion based on previously published work by
Western scholars (comparative musicologists). This was
because the former group formed a branch of Japanese history
and sinology,[23] while the latter was a part of Western
Oriental studies that included ethnomusicology (comparative

Tanabe marked the launch of To_yo_ Ongaku Kenkyu_ with the
following comments:

    In the words of the proverb, 'The Light Comes from the East'. The 
   brilliant culture of Western modernity was [formed from] elements 
   originally imported from the East, which the West accumulated and 
   developed over a long time before giving birth to the exuberant 
   flowers and rich fruits [we now see].

    However, this brilliant culture of Western modernity is at last 
   showing signs of stagnation and decay. Lacking a spiritual culture to 
   match its advances in material civilisation, it cannot help dying 
   unless infused with fresh blood, just like a human body that has 
   exhausted its capacity for growth and begins to age and wither. The 
   sun that rises in the East is about to sink in the West.
    Now the world is again awaiting the light from the East, which is 
   why many Westerners have recently devoted a great deal of effort to 
   research into Asiatic culture. Yet, research into Asia should be done 
   by Asiatics. We Japanese are the hope for Asia, so we have to take
   initiative in the study of Asiatic culture and work hard at it.
    Furthermore, the emblem of culture is art, and the ultimate 
   manifestation of art is music. Music is truly the soul of culture,
   so it must be acknowledged that the essence of Asiatic culture lies
   Asiatic music. We have gathered here to found the Society for
   into Asiatic Music in order to shape an independent status for 
   'Asiatic Musicology' and to contribute to the new world culture by 
   bringing to light the true essence of Asiatic music.[25]
Why should Asian music be studied by Asian scholars? The
German-trained acoustic scientist Dr Tanaka Sho_hei offered
an answer to this question in his piece welcoming the birth
of the journal:

    Though European-oriented scholars have investigated the sound and 
    the form of Asiatic music and published hundreds of books on such 
    matters, they regrettably tend to judge it by Western standards and 
    impose a Western framework of thought [on it] and therefore cannot 
    grasp the true essence [shinzui] of Asia at all.[26]

This distrust of Western science, and especially its
sensibility, is shared by the founding members of the
Society, as is shown in their 'Opening Remarks' in the first
issue: 'It goes without saying that their [European]
research fails to recognise the Asiatic spirit'. Behind this
statement is the idea the West cannot penetrate the Eastern
(Asiatic) 'spirit' (the same scholars probably did not admit
that Japanese researchers failed to recognise European
spirit) or grasp the ideology of the unity of Asia beyond
its ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity.

Asian unity and Japanese synthesis: a discography

The release of the musical anthology To_a no Ongaku [Music of
East Asia], in September (or possibly August) 1941 (Nippon
Columbia) indicates the increase in interest in Asian music
among Japanese just before the Pacific War. Although this
was not the first collection of Asian music released by a
Japanese company (for example, 1938 saw the issue of an
Indian and a Mongolian collection), it received
unprecedented attention from the music press, partly because
of the timing and partly because of Tanabe's influence as
project supervisor. It contained recordings from Manchuria,
China, Mongolia, Java, Bali, Thailand, India and Iran.

Tanabe's main criterion was to avoid the exoticism[27] he
had  found in the 1934 collection Musik des Orients [Music
of the Orient] (re-released on double LP, Folkways FE4157)
by Dr Erich von Hornbostel, one of the founders of
comparative musicology. In it, Tanabe noted, Japan is
represented only by popular and folk songs; no songs from
Manchuria and Mongolia are included; three 'extremely
unpleasant and unartistic' drama songs are heard from China;
five Balinese tunes--a number out of proportion to their
cultural importance in Asiatic music history--appear because
of their exotic appeal for Europeans; from India, vocal
music is included instead of more artistic instrumental
music; no Arabic music tracks are selected, but instead
there are items from Egypt and Tunisia--'Africa' to Tanabe's
sense of geography. This last protest underlines the
distinction between Japan's Asia, centred on Japan and
China, and Europe's Orient, located in the Middle East and
India.[28] The German selection, in Tanabe's view, revealed
that even the best-known Western scholar did not understand
Asian music at all. To counter Hornbostel's work, Tanabe
aimed at 'editing a good collection of East Asian music
judged correctly by us Japanese'.[29]

It is therefore a blunt contradiction to find that To_a no
Ongaku in part recycled, without credit, Music of the
Orient--three tracks from Java, two from Bali, one from
Thailand, and one from Iran, as well as the photographs used
in the sleeve notes. Parallelling the methodological
bifurcation of the Society mentioned above, To_a no Ongaku
broadly consisted of two sections: 'China' (that is,
Manchuria, China and Mongolia) and 'non-China' (Indonesia,
Thailand, India and Iran). While the latter borrowed tracks
>from Hornbostel's anthology and showed Japan's dependence on
Western ethnomusicology, the former used either existing
recordings that were in Tanabe's own collection (China and
Mongolia) or performances from his 1940 field recordings in

Tanabe conceded that East Asian music may sound exotic,
primitive or bizarre to a Japanese audience; but that is
because Japanese music education since Meiji has adopted a
Western model and neglected this other rich mine. As already
mentioned, for him that educational principle had twin
effects on Japanese music--encouraging modernisation on the
one hand and stifling the vernacular sensibility on the
other. If the 'natural' (i.e. 'Asian') sensibility of the
Japanese had been cultivated, then they would appreciate the
'true essence' of Asian music--the Asian sound should not
seem exotic to Japanese ears.

Instead of the references up to the 1920s to Asian music as
exotic, we find during the war numerous remarks on the
similarity of Japanese music to that of Asia. In many
respects the rhetoric changed. The following commentary on
To_a no Ongaku, however, suggests an unchanged Japanese
sensibility and a mixture of nostalgic exoticism and a
reinvigorated 'Asia-is-one' discourse:

   This collection may be thought to sound too simple, too lacking the 
   characteristic complexity that so-called fans of Western music seek. 
   Nevertheless, what it does contain is the Oriental spirit, something 
   utterly absent from music of the West. As this spirit is capable of 
   expressing both thoroughly deep emotions and occasional mysterious 
   solemness, we can have infinite empathy with its simplicity. ... 
   Listening to the vina [Indian string instrument] solo with my eyes 
   closed, I could imagine the life of the people and the mood of
   India, and I even had a vision of the Himalayan mountains - the 
   rooftop of the world - appearing and disappearing with eternal
   over a white sea of cloud. A piece called 'Thanam' by the vina solo 
   evoked that feeling of identity born from shared blood - neither 
   Indian nor Japanese, but Asiatic blood[31].
This picturesque imagery--a hint of mysticism and yearning
for ancient and faraway places--was and is characteristic of
exotica. It is clear that the author of the review was
writing for 'so-called fans of Western music', trying to
make them aware of the oriental beauty and the spirit
expressed in the music's simplicity. Japan's Orientalism
managed to sidestep the old bizarrerie, but only because the
usual underlying complexity-simplicity paradigm was overlaid
with a West-East dualism.

The metaphor of 'Asiatic blood' was crucial to the
expression of empathy with Asian music. In his preface to
To_a no Ongaku, Nagai Ryu_taro_, the Chief of the Department of
East Asian Affairs of Taisei Yokusan-kai (the Imperial Rule
Assistance Association) was astonished by the deja-ecoute
feeling of East Asian music: 'None of the pieces in the
anthology are unfamiliar to my ears at all, and I have the
feeling that I have heard them somewhere before. They are
rather similar to folk songs in Japan.' Then suddenly
Okakura Tenshin's famous phrase that opened his Ideals of
the East-- 'Asia is One'--must have come to mind:

   It is my breath and my blood that I feel circulating in the pieces. 
   Blood is truly thicker than water! And there is another feeling, a 
   kind of tragic gloom. In contrast to the grandeur of European 
   symphonies and the glamour of the American rhapsody, East Asian
   with sad and lonely plaints. This sound, I believe, reflects a sad 
   philosophy of life in our Orient, our Asia, a philosophy born of 
   bitter submission and resignation to long oppression and exploitation 
   by the white race and its dismissal of us as slaves.[32]
Nagai thus associated the sentimental affinity he somehow
felt to East Asian music with the colonial past that
burdened the region. Such a rationale would implicitly
justify the 'liberation' of East Asia by the Japanese
empire. The 'sadness' in East Asian music touched his heart
because East Asians were connected by blood. Thus the
Japanese response to it is one of biological sympathy,
rather than the complacent sense of exoticism to be expected
>from a Western audience. Musical affinity was interpreted as
an obvious sign of Asian unity.

Developing this same line, Tanabe proceeded via an explicit
statement of Japan's superiority in the world:

   Japan is situated in the centre of Asia. Just like the rivet of a 
   fan, Japan is located on a point where all the marine and land routes 
   converge. Therefore from ancient times to the present, all cultural 
   routes converge on our country, and [the genius of] Japanese 
   originality gathers, accumulates, integrates, digests and synthesises 
   all cultures. This is how the original Japanese culture was made, and 
   nowadays European and American cultures enter Japan and contribute to 
   the building up of contemporary Japanese culture. Thus Japanese music 
   is not merely one strain of East Asian music; it is rather the 
   synthesis of East Asian music and the synthesis of world [universal] 
   music. Hence, we should consider Japanese music separately from East 
   Asian music. Hornbostel's Music of the Orient cannot be accepted even 
   as a homage to exoticism, because it includes only nagauta, shinnai, 
   hauta [vocal genres popular during the Edo period] and oiwake [a type 
   of rural song] as Japanese music and treats them on the same level as 
   Mongolian music.[33]
In another context Tanabe wrote that Japanese music was 'the
museum of Asiatic music',[34] in the sense that it contained
all the significant characteristics found in Asian music
traditions. Japanese music was more than one of the Asiatic
musics: it was the matrix of all of them. (The metaphor of
'museum' certainly implies the privileged position of the
'collector' in relation to the collected.) Hornbostel's
fallacy was twofold: an improper choice of Japanese music
(the inexcusable exclusion of gagaku) and the inappropriate
juxtaposition of Japan with Mongolia. Gagaku is Japanese
music's badge of supremacy, a distillation of Tang music
which was in turn an amalgam of Eurasian instruments and
sound. Japanese gagaku thus crystallises the 'essence' of
all the East-Asian cultures--just as contemporary Japanese
culture, thanks to its incorporation of (rather than
subordination to) the West, has become wholly universal.[35]

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