Undergraduate Research

Article Title

An Autoethnicographic Approach to Composing Japanese American Music


When I say “Asian American music,” I usually get the impression that people do not have much of a sense of what that means, regardless of if they are Asian Americans,1 musicians, or both. Yet, I have found that there is no straightforward answer to the question of how exactly to define Asian American music. It could be defined in terms of Asian American people, Asian American meaning, Asian American sounds, or some combination of those factors. Considering and exploring several definitions of Asian American music, I present here one possible conception of Japanese American/Asian American music in fundamentally integrated theory and practice. The basic premise of this integration is autoethnography, or the study of oneself or one’s own group. As I read existing literature on Asian American music and classical Japanese music, I wrote a series of autoethnographic reflections, connecting the scholarship to my own personal experiences of being a mixed second generation Japanese American from small town Ohio. I then used these reflections to compose, perform, and record three pieces of music UR Volume 2 | Issue 2 | Summer 2022 • 66 that engage the theoretical concepts I encountered in specific and intentional ways. In addition to this Asian American content of the compositions, I created Asian American form by drawing on the music of the shakuhachi (Japanese vertical bamboo flute). The body of this paper comprises description of and commentary on the compositions and the ideas with which they interact.