Songs Young Japanese Children Sing: An Ethnographic Study of Songs and Musical Utterances
Manes, Sean Ichiro
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The purpose of this ethnographic study was to examine Japanese child-initiated songs and vocalized musicking practices at two preschool/kindergarten (hoikuen and yochien) settings. One of the focal points of this study was to investigate the premise that, despite a century of Westernization, the children's underlying musical sensibilities retained predominantly Japanese features. With this in mind, five research questions were crafted: 1) What are the traditional Japanese and Western elements that define the musical expressions of young Japanese children?, 2) What are the repertoire-specific musical expressions of Japanese children's culture?, 3) Which repertoires are being sung, and how often?, 4) What are the musical sensibilities of children in Japanese hoikuen/yochien?, and 5) What are the "events" that surround the singing behavior? What inspires the musical experiences of Japanese children? How are children engaged as they sing or otherwise participate in musical behaviors? Using a participant-observer design, the researcher conducted observations and conversations with children enrolled at two preschool/kindergarten for examples of vocalized musicking activity. Fifty-six children between the ages three and six, from two research sites, were enrolled in the study. At the first research site, located in Sapporo, the researcher conducted fieldwork from June to August 2007. At the second research site, located in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi, fieldwork was conducted during July and August of 2008. Analysis consisted of presenting the songs and vocalized musical utterances and categorizing them into five categories, followed by appropriate contextualization. The five repertoires were: Warabeuta (traditional Japanese-type melodies), shoka (songs commissioned by the Ministry of Education between 1868 and 1945), doyo (songs created by Japanese composers after 1918), gaikokuka (songs imported from the West), and media ongaku ("media music"). From the child-initiated songs and vocalized musicking behaviors at these two Japanese childcare facilities, the researcher found that a near-majority of these behaviors were based on the warabeuta repertoire, suggesting that children's sensibility did maintain a traditional Japanese musical orientation to a degree. However, a significant portion of songs and vocalized musical utterances that utilized Western and hybrid musical features indicated that these Japanese children's musical orientation has evolved beyond the traditional Japanese framework.
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