CAPS Project: Influences of Western Music as Affective Media on the Asia-Pacific Region: 2016 Meeting #1

2pm-6pm, Saturday, October 8
3-101 (Building No.3), Seikei University

Let us announce our “Influences of Western Music as Affective Media on the Asia-Pacific Region” Project, sponsored by Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS), Seikei University, will hold the first semiyearly meeting in the 2016 academic year. The speakers and their titles are:

#1 Yuki Gen’naka (Tokyo University of the Arts)
“Like Some Cats from Japan: David Bowie, Kansai Yamamoto and Japan’s First Appearance in the History of Rock Music”

#2 Kei Hibino (Seikei University)
“What Americans Learned in Scarlett (1970): The Mirroring Effect of Intercultural Collaboration”

Discussions follow the two presentations.

Open Meeting
Any interested party is welcome.

Although the language used is mainly English, Japanese is used when necessary.

“Like Some Cats from Japan: David Bowie, Kansai Yamamoto and Japan’s First Appearance in the History of Rock Music”

As its title suggests, this presentation will (re)consider David Bowie’s famous stage costumes designed by Kansai Yamamoto as Japan’s first appearance in the history of rock music.
In (so-called) rock music, there is an evolutionary view of history, where both individual musicians and the genre as a whole should aesthetically grow and mature by studying and incorporating a variety of musics. It directly reflects the historical process of the early “rock ’n’ roll,” originally considered children’s music, evolving into “rock,” a form of art like classical or jazz, the earliest example of this model being the history of the Beatles.
David Bowie (1947-2016), in his earliest career from 1969 to 1974, began to broadly employ the visual elements in his works and performances, by which, it has been regarded, he developed rock music into total art. While this is part of the “growth” or “maturity” of rock music itself, it also gave Japan the first access to the canonical history of rock music. It was by Bowie’s visualization of rock, or rock musicalization of the visual, that enabled some cats from Japan he liked, fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto and photographer Masayoshi Sukita for example, to appear in rock history as essentials in Bowie’s achievement. Furthermore, it should account for the mode of Japan’s presence in and contribution to rock (or popular) music, for example, electronic instrumental music like YMO.

Yuki Gen’naka. 20th American literature and contemporary American culture. His published works include: “Race and Aesthetics in William Faulkner’s Light in August: From Racial Politics in the Civil War to Formalist Aesthetics in the Cold War” (Studies in English Literature Japanese 83 [November 2006]), 「Games People Play:『八月の光』におけるジョーと南部の権力ゲーム」(“Games People Play: The Joe-South Power Game in Light in August”)(下河辺美知子編『アメリカン・テロル 内なる敵と恐怖の連鎖』彩流社[2009]所収)「Who Hates the Bo(b) Dy(lan) Electric?:ボブ・ディランの電化を語る政治・文化・歴史の言説」(“Who Hates the Bo(b) Dy(lan) Electric?: The Political, Cultural and Historical Discourses About the Electric Dylan”)『現代思想 総特集ボブ・ディラン』(2010年5月臨時増刊号),「『仏作って、魂を探す。』:ピチカート・ファイヴと日本のポピュラー音楽の真正性」(“The Boddha Statue and the Soul: Pizzicato Five and the Authenticity in the Popular Music in Japan”)(遠藤不比等編『日本表象の地政学 海洋・原爆・冷戦・ポップカルチャー』彩流社[2014]所収), and「ザ・レヴォリューション・アンド・プリンス 音楽アメリカ民主主義」(“The Revolution and Prince: Music, America and Democracy”)『現代思想 総特集プリンス 1958-2016』(2016年8月臨時増刊号).

“What Americans Learned in Scarlett (1970): The Mirroring Effect of Intercultural Collaboration”

Presenting Scarlett in January 1970 at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo was an epochal event in the Japanese history of producing American musicals. Based on Gone with the Wind, it was written in Japanese by Kikuta Kazuo (1908-1973), a prolific, popular dramatist and novelist who had managed the Theatre Division of Tohô as one of its executives since 1955. On the other hand, the music and lyrics were composed by Harold Rome (1908-1993), an American composer and lyricist noted for Pins and Needles (1937), a union-themed musical revue. Rome, director Joe Layton, conductor Lehman Engel, choral arranger Trude Rittman, set and lighting designer David Hays, and many other American staff members were invited to Tokyo to join the rehearsal that would last for almost two months.
Through this long, unprecedented collaboration process, the Japanese staff learned a lot about making integrated musicals. Even though Japanese had assimilated operettas and revues before WWII, they only had a vague idea about the new trend of American musicals accelerated by the unexpected hit of Oklahoma! in 1943. Not familiar with musical numbers tightly woven into the story, the Japanese performers used to stop acting to sing, as many opera singers still do. Starting with mounting the Japanese-translated version of My Fair Lady in September 1963, Japanese had produced a lot of postwar American musicals like No Strings (March 1962 Broadway, June 1964 Tokyo), Annie Get Your Gun (May 1946 Broadway, November 1964 Tokyo), West Side Story (September 1957 Broadway, November 1964 Tokyo) and so on. Nevertheless, they were slow in learning that in integrated musicals actors keep acting while they are singing and dancing so that the illusion of realism will not be broken. The Japanese performers, accustomed to the time-honored idea of revues having their accomplished art of singing and dancing showcased, had considered their musical numbers opportunities to exhibit their artistry and personalities to command applauses at the cost of the continual unfolding of the story.
As the Japanese saying goes, “Your child on your back will show you where to walk in crossing the river.” The process of education can sometimes be reciprocal. Tohô spent as much as US $ 1,500,000 to produce Scarlett, which had been expected to exceed the profit, because Kikuta decided that hiring the American staff would be an investment for the future of Japanese productions of American musicals. However, Americans were not only teachers. They were taught by Japanese what American musicals were and what they were not. Seeing Japanese sticking to the old customs and conventions of old-fashioned musical comedies, they more clearly realized what they had left behind.
This accounts for Layton’s concept of the show as a flowing, ever-changing story with music and dance without employing usual show-stopping numbers. Yet Scarlet’s constant use of music and dance to make the story appear to be “flowing” betrays how it is not. The sheer length of the original novel made it difficult to make the much shorter stage version a unified whole; the best adaptor could pick up several impressive episodes and contrive some musical “bridges” to hide the disjunctive storyline. At the same time it reveals how much postwar American musicals depend on the ideal of integration—the well-constructed structure of the story being told with music and dance enhancing the feeling of solidity.
When Rome called Scarlet “the goddamest musical,” he did not pay a lip service to Kikuta and Tohô. In 1972, he and Layton took the English production to London after they reworked a lot in their (eventually unfulfilled) attempt to mount it on Broadway. For, they saw in the work a possibility of pushing integrated musicals a step further. When Japanese might have had Scarlet fit into a revue-like episodic framework, they Americans made it more like a realist drama.

Kei Hibino. Theatre history and theory. His published works include: 「近代化された情動:カルメン・ミランダとレヴューの終焉」(”Modernized Affect: Carmen Miranda and the Death of Revues”) (下河辺美知子編『モンロー・ドクトリンの半球分割』彩流社[2016]所収)「松竹新喜劇とはどんな演劇だったのか」(”What was Shochiku Shin Kigeki?”)(神山彰編『商業演劇の光芒』森話社[2014]所収)”Oscillating Between Fakery and Authenticity: Hirata Oriza’s Android Theatre” Comparative Theatre Review 11:1 (2011).

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