Jun Hee Lee (PhD Candidate, History)
In Chorus with Cold War Allies: the Rise and Fall of the Utagoe Movement’s National Music Paradigm
Please join us for the final Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop next Friday, May 24th at 3-5 PM. We are proud to be hosting Jun Hee Lee (History, PhD Candidate) as he presents a draft of his dissertation chapter, “In Chorus with Cold War Allies: the Rise and Fall of the Utagoe Movement’s National Music Paradigm.” Jun Hee offers us the following abstract:
From its humble origins as a choral group within the Japan Communist Party’s youth association, Nihon no Utagoe gained prominence and notoriety through the 1950s as a singing movement of national scale, giving birth to multitudes of choruses across workplaces and localities in Japan. Since the early 1950s, Utagoe began calling for the creation of “national music” (kokumin ongaku) – a body of music befitting a democratic Japan that was to stand in opposition to “decadent” culture instigated by the mass media and American imperialism. While the term had prewar and even wartime precedents, Utagoe’s national music had both “Japanese” and foreign reference points, including Soviet/Russian songs and later American folk music. In the 1950s and 1960s, Russian and Soviet music served as an example of national music which Utagoe’s leadership figures sought to emulate. American folk music, on the other hand, turned out to be a mixed blessing towards the end of the 1960s, as it caused a serious division within Utagoe over how to treat the “commercialized” version of the genre produced in both the United States and Japan. By examining manners in which individuals and groups from Utagoe translated and incorporated songs from the two Cold War super powers, this dissertation chapter illustrates how the “national music” paradigm informed Utagoe’s musical and political worldview in both domestic and international contexts for the first two decades of the movement (1953-1973), during which Utagoe cultivated its self-image as a part of (socialist) international solidarity against American imperialism and its aggression toward national cultures.