Tokyo Listening: Sound and Sense in a Contemporary City

Tokyo Listening: Sound and Sense in a Contemporary City

by Lorraine Plourde


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Ethnographic analysis of urban music in Japan

Tokyo Listening examines how the sensory experience of the city informs how people listen to both music and everyday, ubiquitous sounds. Drawing on recent scholarship in the fields of sound studies, anthropology, and ethnomusicology and over fifteen years of ethnographic fieldwork in Japan, Lorraine Plourde traces the linkages between sound and urban space. She examines listening cultures via four main ethnographic sites in Tokyo—an experimental music venue, classical music cafes, office workspaces, and department stores—looking specifically at how such auditory sensibilities are cultivated. The book brings together two different types of spaces into the same frame of reference: places people go to specifically for the music, and spaces where the music comes to them. Tokyo Listening examines the sensory experience of urban listening as a planned and multifaceted dimension of everyday city life, ultimately exploring the relationship between sound, comfort, happiness, and productivity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819578846
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Series: Music / Culture
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

LORRAINE PLOURDE is associate professor of media studies and anthropology at Purchase College, State University of New York. Her research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Fulbright-Hays, and the Northeast Asia Council for the Association for Asian Studies.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Listening to the City: Distraction, Attention, and Ubiquitous Listening 1

1 Learning to Listen to Onkyo: Ear Training as Sensory Attunement 15

Interlude I City Noise and the Avant-Garde 36

2 "A Place Where Time Moves Slowly": Analog Listening in the Music Cafe 41

Interlude II New Experiences in a New City for New Women: Ambient Sound for Refined Women 74

3 "Feeling Uncomfortable Without Sound": Muzak as Affect Management for Office Workers 78

Interlude III Retro Shopping Arcades Muzak 103

4 Sonic Air Conditioning: Ubiquitous Listening as Mundane Comfort 107

Conclusion: Tokyo Listening, Listening to Tokyo 132

Notes 135

Bibliography 155

Index 165

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This is an excellent, much-needed study of the "gentle, ubiquitous, cacophonous" soundscapes of Tokyo. Plourde combines descriptions of Tokyo's sites of listening—experimental-music venue, classical-music café, department store, office—with insightful analyses to link seemingly disparate listening cultures in compelling and unexpected ways."—David Grubbs, author of Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording

"This original and fascinating study makes an excellent contribution to the subject of sound and urban spaces."—Michael Bull, professor of sound studies, University of Sussex

"Plourde's book expands the field of sound studies, and adds significant new contributions to anthropological and ethnomusicological works on Japan. This thoughtful and engaging work reveals an efficacy and possibility for expansive studies of impact of sound in everyday life."—Jennifer Milioto Matsue, professor of music and anthropology, Union College

"With this groundbreaking, long-anticipated ethnography of sonic experiences, Plourde plunges the reader, ears first, into the deep noisiness of contemporary urban Japan. Tokyo Listening brings to life a world of environmental sounds, auditory sites, and sensory resonances, vibrating sympathetically with this special city and its subjects."—David Novak, author of Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation

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