Of dual identities in Asian music education

Tadahiko IMADA, SangAh SEOK, Hung-Pai Mimi CHEN, Chi Cheung Lawrence LEUNG, Chee Hoo LUM

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


This session could be seen as the regional discussion of ISME Policy Commission in Asia. One of the missions in this commission is ‘to examine and explore issues concerning cultural, education and media policy development and implementation’. As a result, we have invited present and past commissioners, participants, as well as other researcher from various Asian regions to discuss the issue we have encounters pertaining to culture and policy in music education. In addition, other researchers who are interested in this issue are all welcome to join our discussion and commission. European music’s autonomy and hegemony has been believed and taken for granted for at least a century, and this tradition based on Western aesthetics has exerted a great influence on music education in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. However, Asian music traditions differed fundamentally from the music tradition of the West. The European concept of tonality or key functions, for example, was absent from those Asian sound cultures. In this discussion, questions are asked about: 1. Introductions of Euro-American Music into Asian countries. 2. How traditional and folk music in Asia survives. 3. How music educators in Asia should deal with this duplicity. 4. How music educators in Asian develop music education policies for the future. Korea: (Korean traditional music has its name called “gugak,” which literally means ‘national music’ but has been relative concept of ‘western music.’) Compared to popularity of K-pop music, the number of listeners of gugak has been absurdly small. Music educators suggest that having students experience gugak in school education is the key for traditional music to survive and insist to raise the percentage of covering gugak in statutory curriculum. Although music teachers who are used to western music have difficulty to teach gugak, but the difference between western/ gugak has been the facilitation to broaden the concept of music and enrich the understanding of music. Taiwan: Western music was introduced into Taiwan via missionaries from the Netherlands and Spain in 17th century. During Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), Western music was brought into the school education system and had since became the main stream of music education in Taiwan. After long years of ‘westernization’, the traditional music itself, and the dissemination of traditional music and folk music have been “squeezed” into a marginal status. In recent years, however, Taiwan society seems to start to reconsider the spirit and value of traditional music. On one hand, education system puts more weight on advocating traditional music, e.g. implementing the learning of traditional music into the curriculum guidelines. On the other hand, musicians in traditional music field start to integrate Western elements into their works to create the 'new-breed'. Nowadays, in the trend of globalization, music educators should consider the balance and challenge between ‘new’ and ‘tradition,’ ‘Western’ and ‘East,’ and ‘internationalization’ and localization’ in developing a curriculum, an educational document or a policy. Hong Kong: Hong Kong has been a British colony since 1842 and was handed over to China on 1 July 1997. Its education system has been heavily influenced by the British, particularly in schools run by the missionaries. The learning of music before the handover concentrates mainly in European music. Chinese music is at the periphery of the music curriculum. This study will review the situation after its handover and the way forward. Singapore: The difficulty in pinning down the musics of Singapore and its implications for music education is 45 the uncertainty and flux in articulating both a national and cultural musical identity in this fast changing young nation with an immigrant population that is continually growing larger than its original migrant inhabitants. Beyond influences reminiscent of the British colonial days and the traditions of early Chinese, Malay and Indian migrant populations, the economic impetus driven by governmental policies towards Singaporeans becoming global citizens tugs further at issues of identity and belonging from an already shaky core. This presentation attempts at highlighting some key dilemmas from the standpoint of music education in Singapore. Japan: “Japanese classical literature is known for the privileging of landscape and its description,” (Karatani, 1989, p.263). The same thing applies to traditional Japanese sound culture (including the sound installation, Suikinkutsu and Noh performance) in terms of the intimate relationship between sound culture and soundscape, and its description. However, this natural flow or balance of influence between sound culture and soundscape was broken off by an argent introduction of European logos in the 1880s. From 1887 to the early 20th century, there arose a movement for the “Unification of the Written and Spoken Languages,” in order to create a new written language in place of existing one. Since then, music education in Japan, for example, has been struggling with two 19th centuries. This presentation attempts to contribute to that discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


Imada, T., Seok, S., Chen, M. H.-P., Leung, C. C., & Lum, C. H. (2015, July). Of dual identities in Asian music education. Paper presented at The 10th Asia-Pacific Symposium for Music Education Research (APSMER): Music education for the future generation, Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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