About the book
Updated: Mar 29, 2020
I wrote a book for the general public called, Japan’s Musical Tradition: Hogaku from Prehistory to the Present. The title may sound daunting but really, the less you know about Western music, the easier it is to understand Japanese music. This is because without any preconceived notion about music, you will be able to approach it with an open mind.
Basically the book illustrates how Japanese music developed from a different musical tree. The roots were anchored on different soil and nurtured by remote people with their own needs and logic for music. As a consequence, the resulting fruit is different but just as beautiful, tempting, and nutritious to the human soul.
To follow the development of Japanese music, I start with Japan’s pre-prehistoric people’s beliefs and aesthetics, particularly the Shinto norito (religious incantation) that are relevant today. Musical elements gleaned from the incantations carry a certain Japanese-ness, like mitochondria, that have been passed onto new genres by every generation of composers. Recently, the late NHK conductor, Hiroyuki Iwaki, said that the works of today’s composers contain the embedded Japanese philosophy. This book helps discover the Japanese musical mitochondria persistent in Japanese music.