Songs for Modern Japan

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The years between 1900 and 1950 were a whirlwind of change in Japan, with increasing modernism, consumerism, and influence from the West, alongside a revolution in sound and mass-produced images via movies and radio. Like no other objects, sheet music covers graphically embody this vortex of sights, sounds, events, and ideas.

Music scores presented songs ranging from traditional Japanese folk tunes to movie scores, Western jazz, opera, and patriotic marches. Publishers of music churned out sheets bound in graphic covers as diverse as the music within, illustrated in both Japanese- and European-influenced styles.

Featuring vibrant reproductions alongside essays by leading scholars, Songs for Modern Japan provides a window into Japanese society and culture during this half century of immense change.

About the Authors

Kendall Brown is Professor of Asian Art History at California State University Long Beach

Anne Nishimura Morse is William and Helen Pounds Senior Curator of Japanese Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Hiromu Nagahara is Associate Professor of History at M.I.T.

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  • 5
    Beautiful book

    Posted by Maida Sperling on Jun 5th 2024

    The book of sheet music covers from Japan is fascinating from the viewpoint of the western influence in the illustrations and the written history of the collection. The book is designed as elegantly as the covers themselves.