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“World Graphic Scores: Between the Notes of a Transpacific Avant-Garde”

February 26 @ 4:15 pm

Kaneda's Lecture poster image. All text on webpage.

What can graphic musical scores tell us about sounds yet to be heard, as well as the stories that may be told about their creators and their worlds? This paper begins with an examination of two exhibitions of graphic scores, both held in Tokyo in 1962. I offer a historical perspective on the role of graphic scores in locating Japan as a meeting place for a transnational avant-garde. The first exhibition, titled 4 Composers, took place at the Tokyo Gallery. The second, held at the Minami Gallery, was the Exhibition of World Graphic Scores, which co-organizers critic/artist Kuniharu Akiyama and composer Toshi Ichiyanagi planned to coincide with John Cage and David Tudor’s visit to Japan. Both exhibitions demonstrated active engagement with the contemporary international avant-garde, and strikingly foreshadow experimental artistic practice today. The two exhibitions attest to the cultivation of a new transnational avant-garde that challenges the dominance of Western Europe and North America as the uncontested sites of origin and invention in narratives about experimental practice. At the same time, the Tokyo avant-garde also produced its own structures of power and omissions. To this end, in revisiting the two exhibitions, I engage in a process of historical projection inspired by Saidiya Hartman’s notion of “creatively disordering” the archive by proposing an imaginary exhibition. Looking between and beyond the notes of the 1962 exhibitions, what are the possibilities afforded by an exhibition of “world graphic scores” organized today? What are the limits and possibilities of the exhibition format and the graphic score as a medium? The imaginary exhibition recognizes the silencing and disappearance of certain scores from institutional narratives. And yet, it builds new possibilities from the themes that emerged from the two shows, which provided frameworks for thinking about a transnational avant-garde from the vantage point of Tokyo, 1962.

Miki Kaneda, Boston University

Miki Kaneda researches transcultural movements and the entanglements of race, gender, and empire in experimental music and sound, avant-garde and popular music in the 20th and 21st centuries. She has published on topics including the transnational flows of experimental sonic arts, art and the everyday, and video game sound. Her book project titled “Transpacific Experiments: Intermedia Art and Ambivalent Listening in 1960s Japan” is under contract with the University of Michigan Press. She works and teaches at Boston University.

For registration and the Zoom link for this event, please email Melissa Camp at

This lecture is part of the 2020-21 Carolina Symposia in Music and Culture lecture series.


February 26
4:15 pm
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