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Mimesis stories: composing new nature music for the shakuhachi

Browning, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-7013-7959 (2017). Mimesis stories: composing new nature music for the shakuhachi. Ethnomusicology Forum, 26(2), pp. 171-192. doi: 10.1080/17411912.2017.1350113


Nature is a widespread theme in much new music for the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute). This article explores the significance of such music within the contemporary shakuhachi scene, as the instrument travels internationally and so becomes rooted in landscapes outside Japan, taking on the voices of new creatures and natural phenomena. The article tells the stories of five compositions and one arrangement by non-Japanese composers, first to credit composers’ varied and personal responses to this common concern and, second, to discern broad, culturally syncretic traditions of nature mimesis and other, more abstract, ideas about the naturalness of sounds and creative processes (which I call musical naturalism). Setting these personal stories and longer histories side by side reveals that composition creates composers (as much as the other way around). Thus it hints at much broader terrain: the refashioning of human nature at the confluence between cosmopolitan cultural circulations and contemporary encounters with the more-than-human world.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Ethnomusicology Forum on 3 Aug 2017, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Shakuhachi; Composition; Nature; Mimesis; Organicism; Musical Naturalism
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
M Music and Books on Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
Text - Accepted Version
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