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Interview with Naoko Terauchi: Co-Winner of the SEM 2018 Bruno Nettl Prize

Monday, October 14, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Stephen Stuempfle
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Interview with Naoko Terauchi:
Co-Winner of the SEM 2018 Bruno Nettl Prize

By Jesse Fivecoate, Indiana University Bloomington

Naoko Terauchi, Professor of Japanese Performing Arts at Kobe University, was a co-winner (with co-translators/editors Elizabeth Markham and Rembrandt Wolpert) of the SEM 2018 Bruno Nettl Prize for What the Doctor Overheard: Dr. Leopold Müller’s Account of Music in Early Meiji Japan (Cornell University Press, 2017). The Nettl Prize is awarded each year to
recognize an outstanding publication contributing to or dealing with the history of the field of ethnomusicology, broadly defined, or with the general character, problems, and methods of ethnomusicology.

Terauchi began her undergraduate studies at Tokyo University of the Arts in the Department of Musicology. At the time, most students in the department were focused on Western music. This was not the case for Terauchi, who was interested in gagaku (Japanese imperial court music). She became familiar with the field of ethnomusicology through courses established by Professor Koizui Fumio and also learned from Professor Yokomichi Mario, who studied the performance of traditional Japanese arts. These two figures continued to influence her interdisciplinary study of gagaku, which has included analysis of music, history, ritual, social life, and the economics of performance.

In trying to understand gagaku and all of its intersections with Japanese life, Terauchi came across the documents of Leopold Müller, a Prussian medical specialist who worked in Japan. While Müller’s research illustrates a number of important social aspects of gagaku during the latter half of the nineteenth century, there was a language barrier. Terauchi observes: “Musicologists who are good at German are usually interested only in German music . . . So, Müller’s notes have been a kind of unavailable source to Japanese for a long time, despite their rich contents on Japanese music.”

It was
Terauchi’s collaboration with Elizabeth Markham and Rembrandt Wolpert (both at the University of Arkansas) that revealed the fruitful extent of Müller’s writings. Terauchi notes that the process of working on this project with Markham and Wolpert was similar to the research of Müller himself: “What I found during the process of translation is that Müller had a lot of collaborators, both Japanese and Westerners, in getting information on Japanese music. Without their help, Müller could not have written those notes. Likewise, without Rembrandt and Elisabeth’s work, I could not have finished my translation.”

Terauchi states that she is extremely pleased and honored to have received the Bruno Nettl Prize for What the Doctor Overheard. She hopes that the work will help inform other scholars of Japanese music and that this body of scholarship will continue to grow. She also hopes that the recognition of this work will inspire more incorporation of historical approaches in the scholarship of ethnomusicologists in general. 

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