Journal article

Intermediality and the discursive construction of popular music genres: the case of ‘Japanese City Pop’

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  • Handai ongaku gakuhō / Journal of Handai Music Studies. - 2020, vol. 16, no. 17
English Commonly said to embody the 'urbane' and 'refined' lifestyle of metropolitan Tokyo and to prefigure the transnational and consumerist characteristics of today's mainstream J-Pop, Japanese City Pop has undergone several recontextualizations since it first surfaced in the last quarter of the 20th century. I use City Pop as an example to interrogate the intermedial qualities of the processes at work in the emergence and sustenance of popular music genres. I first examine some common multi-semiotic (aural, visual and textual) characteristics of the musical products most commonly classified as City Pop, conceptualizing the genre as an example of intermedial translation. I then relate the results of this examination to select material from a small diachronic corpus of Japanese-language musical intertexts built from music history books, disc guides, and newspaper and music magazine articles published between 1977 and 2016. I identify actors in the discursive construction of City Pop as a genre and trace changes in the musical and extra-musical qualities attributed to it. Our contemporary understanding of the term 'City Pop' and our perception of the artists it points to are shown to have been strongly shaped by enthusiast press articles and popular musical histories written by a relatively small number of Japanese music journalists who integrated disparate and often contradictory artistic productions into a coherent genealogical narrative centered on the folk-rock band Happy End. My findings indicate the comparatively strong importance of etic text-based narratives over emic musical properties or short-term music industry marketing strategies in the construction of City Pop as a popular music genre, pointing to the fundamental primacy of language/writing in what Jens Schröter has termed ‘ontological intermediality.’
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Institut de plurilinguisme
  • English
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  • RERO DOC 329598
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