The Culture of the Sound Image in Prewar Japan
The Culture of the Sound Image in Prewar Japan
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Table of Contents
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Introduction / Michael Raine and Johan Nordström
1. A Genealogy of kouta eiga: Silent Moving Pictures with Sound / Sasagawa Keiko
2. Katsutaro's Trilogy: Popular Song and Film in the Transitional Era from Silent Film to the Talkie / Hosokawa Shuhei
3. Japanese Cinema and the Radio: The Sound Space of Unseen Cinema / Niita Chie
4. Architecture of Sound: The Modernization of Cinematic Space in Japan / Ueda Manabu
5. 'No Interpreter, Full Volume': the Benshi and the Sound Transition in 1930s Japan / Michael Raine
6. The Image of the Modern Talkie Film Studio: Aesthetics and Technology at P.C.L. / Johan Nordström
7. The Dawn of the Talkies in Japan: Mizoguchi Kenji's Hometown / Nagato Yohei
8. The Early talkie frame in Japanese cinema / Itakura Fumiaki

Reviews and Features

"Alle Aufsätze gewähren einen vertieften und differenzierten Einblick in die Entstehungsgeschichte des japanischen Tonfilms, welcher in der Verflechtung mit den zeitgenössischen musikalischen Medien und eingebettet im ökonomischen, politischen, technologischen und soziologischen Kontext zu verstehen ist. Es werden sowohl die Ästhetik wie auch die Produktionsund Rezeptionsgeschichte in vielfältiger Manier kritisch evaluiert. Raines und Nordströms englischsprachiger Sammelband – einige der Aufsätze erscheinen in erstmaliger Übersetzung aus dem Japanischen ins Englische – ist ein unabdingbarer Beitrag zur historischen Aufarbeitung des japanischen Tonfilms, der sich in seiner Vielfältigkeit und intermedialen Verwobenheit jenseits der westlichen Dominanz etabliert hat."
- Nadine Soraya Vafi (Zürich), MEDIENwissenschaft 03-04 (2021)

"The intellectuals and artists of the Japanese film world were remarkably prolific in the prewar era, exploring their contemporary cinema in technological, industrial, aesthetic, theoretical and musicological terms. The writers of this unique volume — featuring many of Japan’s finest film historians — have followed these same lines to investigate the complex soundscape of the 1930s. Mining that rich archive, they completely overturn our understanding of the conversion to sound and the last gasps of the benshi."
— Markus Nornes, University of Michigan

"In its historical rigour, intermedial scope, and nuanced analysis, this collection showcases the finest historical research on Japanese cinema."
— Chika Kinoshita, Kyoto University

"This is an excellent addition not only to the canon of sound studies in film, but also a signal achievement in Japanese film history and of film history internationally. It provides a rich and deep analysis of the factors at play in the changing field of sound/image relationships in Japan, favouring what I would describe as an almost "ecological" approach to filmic change."
— James Lastra, University of Chicago

"The Culture of the Sound Image in Prewar Japan will serve as an indispensable resource, providing coverage of an essential topic that goes beyond any other English-language book that I can think of."
— Charles O’Brien, Carleton University

"In their effort to examine the 'total social fact' of early Japanese sound cinema as both 'event and experience,' the editors and contributors leave few stones unturned. Those contributors represent some of the most prominent and innovative researchers working on early Japanese cinema today. [...] The scholarship is meticulous, and the insights are fresh and revealing."
- Kerim Yasar, Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 48, No. 2, Summer 2022

"A pathbreaking collection of essays, The Culture of the Sound Image in Prewar Japan masterfully re-reads the history of early twentieth-century Japanese cinema through a careful and thorough examination of the 'intermedial relations between the record industry, radio, and cinema' as 'an extensive field of diverse sound practices' (10)."
- Kyoko Omori, Pacific Affairs, Vol. 95, No. 3

Michael Raine, Johan Nordström (eds)

The Culture of the Sound Image in Prewar Japan

This collection of essays explores the development of electronic sound recording in Japanese cinema, radio, and popular music to illuminate the interrelationship of aesthetics, technology, and cultural modernity in prewar Japan. Putting the cinema at the center of a ‘culture of the sound image’, it restores complexity to a media transition that is often described simply as slow and reluctant. In that vibrant sound culture, the talkie was introduced on the radio before it could be heard in the cinema, and pop music adaptations substituted for musicals even as cinema musicians and live narrators resisted the introduction of recorded sound. Taken together, the essays show that the development of sound technology shaped the economic structure of the film industry and its labour practices, the intermedial relation between cinema, radio, and popular music, as well as the architecture of cinemas and the visual style of individual Japanese films and filmmakers.

Michael Raine

Michael Raine is Associate Professor of Film Studies at Western University, Canada. He has written widely on Japanese cinema, with an emphasis on the transition to sound, wartime image culture, and the Japanese New Wave.

Johan Nordström

Johan Nordström is Lecturer at the Department of Global Education, Tsuru University. He has written on various aspects of the Japanese cinema’s transition to sound, and is currently working on a book on Tokyo based early sound film studio P.C.L., later Toho.