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The day music disappeared

Yoshihiro Kanno
Composer and Professor at Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Intermedia Art and Science

The Great East Japan Earthquake, the unprecedented earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11th. Many lives and possessions were lost. Also, a new danger was born in the nuclear disaster that followed. And on that day, from the Tohoku region north, music disappeared. Almost all concerts were cancelled, and music vanished completely from television and radio programs. Even theme music to news programs and short musical signs called sound logos were all taken away. The background music of morning news programs etc., which is the topic of my research and I am in the middle of verifying various good and bad points, all disappeared for at least a few days.

There are some voices saying "it is improper at a time like this."

Admittedly, there were various factors such as the fear of aftershocks, power shortages due to the nuclear crisis and the cancellation of the transportation and planned power cuts, so we cannot define that the concerts were suspended merely because they were improper. However, somewhere in my heart, I feel there is an overwhelming sense that "entertainment is improper." When the Emperor passes away, the order that bans all public music and dancing is issued. In the Meiji era, it was a total cancellation order, but it changed to a call for "restraint" in the Showa era. But the essence was unchanged. After this disaster, NHK and TV and radio programming from the Tohoku region north "restrained in holding entertainment." In order to relay accurate information, news programs mustn't add audio effects, and for a few days, and correctly in my opinion, there was no music, which can be said led to the presentation of accurate information. Even NHK stopped playing their laid-back music which I call the "laid-back weather forecast" that is played even on rainy and windy days. This is a welcome stance, which had ever realized only when typhoons approached. It is pleasing to say that even private news stations took the righteous path to relay "accurate news" by cutting background music, but behind this return to the righteous path was the fear of being labeled "improper."

When considering those in the disaster area, plainly saying "it is improper for those left behind to desire serenity," would cause uproar. Consequently, we were repeatedly bombarded with AC Japan commercials saying "Is it an echo?" As a result, uneasiness, ill-feelings and stress increased. To elaborate on this, many universities cancelled their graduation and entrance ceremonies. In other words, there was unspoken pressure that it would be "improper" to hold "celebratory" events when thinking of the survivors, so we reverted to that position. On the road to recovery, the National High School Baseball Tournament was held. But, musical instruments were banned at the venues. It is unconceivable to think that this was put in place to ease the souls of the victims who suddenly lost their lives. I personally feel that music has a role to play, so I am in the midst of writing a new Shomyo [Japanese Buddhist Chorus] "The Ten Oxherding Pictures" from Ten Manual of Zen Buddhism, a chorus of 45 voices praying for the resurrection of souls. I would like to take a moment to think of others.

Yoshihoro Kanno's new Shomyo "The Ten Oxherding Pictures", a chorus of 45 voices praying for the resurrection of souls, will be performed for the first time at the National Theater (Haybusa-cho, Chiyoda Ward) on September 10, 16:30.

Yoshihiro Kanno
composer and professor at Waseda University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Intermedia Art and Science

University of Fine Arts and Music with the Master's Degree in 1980.In 1979, he won the Prince Pierre of Monaco Musical Composition Award for his "String Quartet". In 1994, his "Les Temps des Miroirs--L'Horizontale du Vent" for ryuteki, sho, and electronic music became the recommended work of International Music Council sponsored by UNESCO.
Kanno's compositions are founded on three genres--the Western orchestral music, the Japanese traditional instruments, and the computer music. Employing the various elements freely and unboundedly, he has composed a number of pieces based on Japanese idioms and traditions.