Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Anthropology & Media, Society, and the Arts, State University of New York (SUNY) / Purchase College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
Difficult Music: Discursive Economies of Knowledge, Listening and Performance within Tokyo's Experimental Music Community

Using sound as a focal point, my dissertation project will investigate the problem of the avant-garde in Japan. Within the contemporary soundscapes of urban Japan, I will focus in particular on noise (noizu), a contemporary avant-garde musical form in which sound is produced through the extreme distortion, manipulation, and deliberate misuse of technology, such as guitar pedals and microphones, and more recently, laptop computers. Although both the U.S. and Europe boast noise scenes and artists, Japan is most frequently invoked as the primary inspiration and source of noise. My project will untangle a genealogy of noise in Japan, a genre which draws upon the avant-garde aesthetics of such movements as Futurism and Surrealism. Noise will serve as an inroad through which to examine the problem of the avant-garde in Japan. Thus, tracing the historical lineage of Japanese noise will necessarily open up larger questions pe1iaining to modernity in Japan as well as the history of the avant-garde in Japan. My project is centered on three domains of inquiry: the history of the avant-garde movement in Japan; the problematic of modernity in Japan; the role of sound, or soundscapes, as a constitutive feature of Japanese avant-garde artistic production. I will examine the historical conditions under which the avant-garde movement in Japan came to be recognized as such, and what the avant-garde means in contemporary Japan. My project will suggest a new direction for ethnographic research on the avant-garde by arguing for the analytical necessity of sound as a constitutive feature of urban modernity. In doing so, my research will reveal a previously unexplored dimension of the project of modernity in Japan by drawing connections between seemingly disparate realms: the avant-garde, sound and noise, and the shocks and sensations of everyday life and modernity.