E. Taylor Atkins

Frenemy Music? Jazz and the Aural Imaginary in Wartime Japan

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Jazz; Japan; Fascism; Colonialism; Orientalism.

In my 2001 book Blue Nippon: "Authenticating Jazz in Japan", I argued that despite an attempted «total jazz ban», the music survived as «salon/light music» or «hidden jazz», and that musicians from the interwar jazz age found ways to contribute to the «new cultural order» of wartime. Taking advantage of more accessible aural and discographical data than was available in the 1990s, here I expand on these findings, arguing that the principal contribution jazz musicians made to the war effort was to construct an aural imaginary of Japan's Asia-Pacific empire. As the imperial boundaries and front lines moved outward from the archipelago into China and Southeast Asia, musicians and recording companies rushed in behind to create sound pictures and tone poems of newly conquered or occupied terrain. Their songs normalized the Japanese imperial presence in Pacific Asia, making distant lands objects upon which to gaze - with one's ears - making «enemy music» friendlier.

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