Margaret Mehl

Published On


Page Range

pp. 345–386


  • English

Print Length

42 pages

11. The World in Sendai

Chapter 11, ‘The World in Sendai’ investigates the types of ‘Western music’ that were actually performed in concerts in Sendai. This is the main theme of. Based on the programmes of local concerts between 1907 and 1921 published in the magazine Ongakukai (World of music), this chapter shows how local concerts, in which different groups came together to perform an eclectic repertoire to a mixed audience, helped transform the people of Sendai into members of a nation within a wider world of nations. The modern institution of the public concert represented a space where Japanese and foreigners met and played and listened to music that was being performed and heard worldwide. The repertoire included a wide range of genres and countries of origin. Together, this variety, and the locations, scenes, and stories evoked by the pieces reveal much that is obscured by the blanket term, ‘Western music’. Works from the narrow canon of the ‘great masters’ of European art music, in fact, represented only a small fraction of what was performed. For example, the programme of a concert in Sendai in February 1916 included the ‘Tipperary Song’, sung by a Japanese high school student. Published in 1912 and first recorded in 1914, the song evokes to this day the image of British Soldiers marching in the First World War. In fact, three months after the Sendai concert, in the naval battle of Jutland, 26 survivors of the wreck of the Tipperary were reportedly recognized and rescued, when they sang, ‘It’s a long, way...’ It is hard to beat this conjunction as an illustration of music’s power as a force of global integration.


Margaret Mehl

Associate Professor at University of Copenhagen

Margaret Mehl is a historian of modern Japan with a special interest in musical culture. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen, having previously held appointments at the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Stirling, and Berlin. As well as a doctorate from the University of Bonn, Margaret Mehl holds a Dr. Phil. (Habilitation) from the University of Copenhagen. She has lived and worked in Japan as a researcher on several occasions, where she has had affiliations with the University of Tokyo, and with Waseda University. Margaret Mehl has published widely on the history of historiography, education, and music in modern Japan. Her previous books include History and the State in Nineteenth-Century Japan (which has been translated into Japanese), Private Academies of Chinese Learning in Meiji Japan: The Decline and Transformation of the Kangaku Juku, and Not by Love Alone: The Violin in Japan, 1850–2010. When she is not reading, writing or teaching, Margaret Mehl enjoys playing her violin and has performed in amateur orchestras and chamber ensembles in several countries.