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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Wadaiko in Japan and the United States: The Intercultural History of a Musical Genre
by Pachter, Benjamin Jefferson, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2013, 439; 3573267
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a musical history of wadaiko, a genre that emerged in the mid-1950s featuring Japanese taiko drums as the main instruments. Through the analysis of compositions and performances by artists in Japan and the United States, I reveal how Japanese musical forms like hōgaku and matsuri-bayashi have been melded with non-Japanese styles such as jazz. I also demonstrate how the art form first appeared as performed by large ensembles, but later developed into a wide variety of other modes of performance that included small ensembles and soloists. Additionally, I discuss the spread of wadaiko from Japan to the United States, examining the effect of interactions between artists in the two countries on the creation of repertoire; in this way, I reveal how a musical genre develops in an intercultural environment. Further, I explore the relationship between compositions and reoccurring themes of discussion like ‘tradition,’ thus illuminating the relationship between music making and talking about music.

The majority of English-language scholastic literature about wadaiko is concerned with the social context of the genre. Similarly, most studies have dealt with groups that emerged prior to 1980, focusing upon the large ensembles that arose during this time rather than the soloists and small ensembles that have emerged in recent decades. With my focus on repertoire, and the construction of a history from the beginning of the genre to the present, I look to broaden the scope of academic discourse about wadaiko.

This dissertation begins with an overview of my main research aims, prominent theoretical issues, my research scope and methodology, and a literature review. I discuss the chronological development of wadaiko in Japan and the United States in Chapters 2 through 7, focusing upon several groups and individual artists and their music, identifying how they have guided the development of the genre. Chapter 8 serves as the dissertation’s conclusion, in which I summarize the previous chapters while also examining the relationship between music making and representations of ‘tradition,’ conceptions of originality, issues of performance rights, and the transmission of wadaiko knowledge and the role of language in this process.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Yung, Bell
Commitee: Helbig, Adriana, Jordan, Brenda, Wintraub, Andrew, Wong, Deborah
School: University of Pittsburgh
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 74/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian Studies, Music
Keywords: Drumming, Intercultural, Japan, Taiko, Tradition, Wadaiko
Publication Number: 3573267
ISBN: 978-1-303-43048-0
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