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2·5×6 metres of space: Japanese music coffeehouses and experimental practices of listening

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 December 2007

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This article describes a specific history of technological mediation in the circulation of popular music by examining local practices of listening to recordings in Japanese kissaten (often shortened to kissa and meaning, loosely, ‘coffeehouse’). In postwar music kissaten, Japanese listeners were socialised to recordings of foreign music through new modes of hyper-attentive listening. While jazz kissa (though famous as crucibles for radical pro-democracy politics and the explosion of modern urban cool in post-war Japanese cities) encouraged local listeners to develop musical appreciation through the stylistic classification of distant recorded sources, later experimental music kissa helped forge unique local performance scenes by disturbing received modes of generic classification in favour of ‘Noise’. I recount the emergence of a genre called ‘Noise’ in the story of a 1970s Kyoto ‘free’ kissa Drugstore, whose countercultural clientele came to represent ‘Noise’ as a new musical style in its transnational circulation during the 1990s. This ethnographic history presents the music kissa as a complicated translocal site that articulates the cultural marginality of Japanese popular music reception in an uneven global production; but which also helps to develop virtuosic experimental practices of listening through which imported recordings are recontextualised, renamed and recreated.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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