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Mamoru Fujieda’s Hybrid Approach to Composing for Koto and When I Think of the Crab Fields… 蟹原楽を考えたら。。。(Kanibarugaku wo kangaetara…) an Original Composition for Traditional Japanese Instruments and Voice

Tipp, Devon Osamu (2023) Mamoru Fujieda’s Hybrid Approach to Composing for Koto and When I Think of the Crab Fields… 蟹原楽を考えたら。。。(Kanibarugaku wo kangaetara…) an Original Composition for Traditional Japanese Instruments and Voice. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Mamoru Fujieda (b. 1955) has carved out an intercultural musical world that encompasses his artistic language. Fujieda’s work is informed by electrical activity emitted from plants and its translation into sound, American experimental minimalism and microtonality, Gamelan, and traditional Japanese musics. Drawing on research by Indonesian, American, and Japanese scholars, my dissertation analyzes the Third Collection “Koto-Gamelan Set” (1996; KGS) from his ongoing Patterns of Plants (1995-present) for three kotos.

KGS is inspired by La Monte Young’s Well-Tuned Piano. Using Young’s tuning schema, Fujieda employs a unique musical scale that approximates gamelan tunings. This is done in the same spirit as many American composers of the 1970s who appropriated gamelan as a means of self-expression focusing on tunings to the neglect of other facets of Indonesian music. This is part of an American/East Asian cultural feedback loop that has reached such a level of sophistication that the loop has become a cultural phenomenon with its own language, values, and style. As such, Fujieda’s work demands an intercultural analytical framework; frameworks of conventional Western musical analysis are insufficient.

Despite Fujieda’s claim “[KGS] has nothing to do with the style… of gamelan directly,” (Fujieda 2021) this work is constructed from reimaginations of Japanese, Indonesian, and American musics and should be analyzed from these vantage points. I first compare Young’s Well-Tuned Piano, median Indonesian slendro and pelog scales, traditional Japanese scales, and KGS’ tunings. I then compare typical forms of gamelan degung and slendro works, and Japanese music with Fujieda’s to show how he draws from each source. I then show that Fujieda uses end-weighted structural chords that function similarly to gongs used in gamelan music, ultimately creating structures that resemble the cyclicity of gamelan and gagaku compositions.

It is imperative to analyze musical works like KGS from angles that encompass non-Western modes of listening. Doing so creates greater artistic flexibility and forces musicians and scholars to rethink the concept of art music in the 21st century. Fujieda’s KGS represents a problematic but unique hybridized approach to writing for non-Western instruments that, despite issues of cultural borrowing and identity, remains worthy of analysis.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Tipp, Devon Osamudot11@pitt.edudot11
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairRosenblum,
Committee CoChairMoe,
Committee MemberWilliams,
Committee MemberOyler,
Date: 11 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 March 2023
Approval Date: 11 May 2023
Submission Date: 28 March 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 73
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: koto, gamelan, intercultural music, just intonation, microtonality, jiuta, sokyoku, gagaku
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 11 May 2023 11:21
Last Modified: 11 May 2023 11:21


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