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Assembled landscapes: The sites and sounds of some recent shakuhachi recordings

Browning, J. ORCID: 0000-0001-7013-7959 (2016). Assembled landscapes: The sites and sounds of some recent shakuhachi recordings. Journal of Musicology, 33(1), pp. 70-91. doi: 10.1525/JM.2016.33.1.70


This article examines the folding together of music and landscape in some recent albums featuring the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute that today animates an active and international music scene. Through analysis of the texts, images, and sounds on these albums, I explore the reimagining of the shakuhachi's musical geography as the instrument reaches new players and places in Europe, Australia, and North America. Using recordings that incorporate environmental sounds alongside the shakuhachi, I examine ideas about the perceived authenticity of particular sounds, performance spaces, and recording aesthetics. These recordings unsettle our thinking about the relationship between music and landscape in several ways. First they document performers' connections with particular sites, yet complicate any notion that the shakuhachi is related to a single place or nation, signalling a distinctly contemporary sense of place. Second, the centrality of mediation in these artistic projects makes technology crucial to the production of the natural and renders the naturalness of the shakuhachi audible in new ways. Third, the use of environmental sounds provokes questions about agency and the boundaries between human and non-human sound-making. By treating these albums as assemblages of material, social, technological, and natural elements, I reveal the lively and complex character of otherwise everyday musical objects.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Published as The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 33 No. 1, Winter 2016; (pp. 70-91) DOI: 10.1525/jm.2016.33.1.70. © 2016 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.
Publisher Keywords: Assemblage, global scene, landscape, mediation, recordings, shakuhachi
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
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