Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


Japanese Contemporary Piano Music: Cultural Influence and Identity

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Nora Engebretsen-Broman (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Jeremy Wayne Wallach (Other)

Third Advisor

Mikel Kuehn (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Committee Member)


In an increasingly globalized community, a composer's cultural heritage may or may not manifest itself in their compositions. Conversely, manifest influences from different cultures may not coincide with the composer's identity. This document examines the piano works of three active Japanese composers, Dai Fujikura (b. 1977), Jo Kondo (b. 1947), and Joji Yuasa (b. 1929), through the lens of cultural influence. Analyses of representative pieces are contextualized in relation to the composers' opinions on the importance or relevance of writing music that embodies their own identity and cultural heritage. Examples of Japanese elements incorporated into Western-based composition include a circular rather than linear conception of time, ma as manifest through relationships and dualities, pulse-driven organization of rhythm, nature references, noise as an inseparable component of performance, and other extra-musical considerations.

A brief overview of identity and globalization, along with an examination of numerous historical texts of both Western and Japanese origin, provide context for identifying these Japanese elements. Orientalism and musical exoticism provide additional grounding in scholarly work from Western sources about Eastern cultures, focusing specifically on music.

These analyses offer insight into the differing ways cultural influences manifest in Japanese composers as a starting place. It is my hope that performers recognize the importance of seeking out the composer's intentions to align the performer's interpretation with the composer's artistic vision.