Daryl Jamieson


Current Research Interests

My current aesthetics research interest is in the conceptions of time and simultaneity in Zen/Chan Buddhism and its philosophical descendants, especially Kyoto school philosophy and aesthetics. I am currently going back to look at Nō and poetics of place (utamakura). This research has already had a great influence on my own compositional praxis, and is the background of my recent published scholarship.

Published Papers or Presentations

Spirit of Place: Zeami’s Tōru and the Poetic Manifestation of Mugen

in Japanese Studies

Zeami Motokiyo was one of nō’s most important theorists and practitioners, and mugen nō one of his most sophisticated innovations. Using the play Tōru as a model, this article explores how Zeami’s nō utilised waka theory and Buddhist aesthetics that were current in his time. I will particularly focus on his use of utamakura, a poetic device of intertextual allusion via place names. In the second part of the article I will analyse Tōru’s text and music through the lens of Kyoto School philosopher Ueda Shizuteru’s theory of language. In positioning poetic spirits of place on stage, Zeami shows the power of language to manifest something like conventional reality. When watching mugen nō, the music and poetry combine to create a place wherein the audience shares the aesthetic-spiritual experience of the spirit of place manifesting in our communal mind. His staging of the opening up of the hollow expanse is the beauty of Zeami’s art.

Keywords: Zemai, nō, Japanese aesthetics, Buddhist philosophy, Ueda Shizuteru, Kyoto School, aesthetics of music

Field Recording and the Re-enchantment of the World: An Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Approach

in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism vol 79/2, pp 213-26

Nonfictional field recording is a genre of music (sound art) which offers a glimpse of art beyond our late-capitalist age. The ongoing ecocide which we, in a state of abject detachment, are witnessing and abetting calls out for artists to reconnect and reengage with the nonhuman world that has been deemed valueless by our civilization. Countering the disenchantment of nature wrought by scientism, human-centrism, and above all capitalism necessitates a dissolving of the barriers we set up between ourselves and our environment, a task which can be only accomplished via religion or art: an art—like field recording—which affords reconnecting its audience with the enchantment of the ignored world surrounding them.

In this article, Toshiya Tsunoda’s exemplary Somashikiba (2016)—recorded in locations forgotten by civilization—will be examined via interpretive tools adapted from Ueda Shizuteru’s Kyoto School aesthetics and Takahashi Mutsuo’s poetics. Ueda’s philosophy offers a way of understanding perception which eliminates the subject-object division. Takahashi’s project of recovering the spirituality of place through poetry is a model of historically and politically engaged art. Looking, as these contemporary Japanese thinkers have done, to the precapitalist, pre-formalist past to rediscover (sound) art’s function as a medium which reconfigures the listener’s perception of reality, I argue for the urgency of sound art such as Tsunoda’s which aids in the re-enchantment of the world to a future beyond capitalist, humanist “civilization.”

Keywords: field recording, Toshiya Tsunoda, nature, Japanese aesthetics, ecoaesthetics, Buddhist philosophy, Ueda Shizuteru, sound art, aesthetics of sound, Takahashi Mutsuo

Icelandic Kami

in Nordlit 46, pp 318–331. https://doi.org/10.7557/13.5473

Utamakura is a traditional Japanese technique of recognizing, interpreting, and utilizing the web of intertextual meanings which have accrued around particular place names over centuries of poetic practice. In general, these utamakura places were originally (in the 7th-9th centuries) associated with Shintō gods (kami), though in later periods the web of meanings in most cases came to include (and often became dominated by) secular rather than spiritual associations. Japanese poet Takahashi Mutsuo, who has published both poetic and theoretical works on the subject of utamakura, seeks to recover the original spiritual power of utamakura place names. He has also expanded the concept to include places of mythic spiritual importance outside of Japan, mostly in the Greco-Roman world.

Taking inspiration from Takahashi's revivification of this mediaeval poetic device, I am currently in the midst of a three-year project to write a series of (at this point seven) multimedia chamber music pieces called the utamakura series, pieces inspired alternately by traditional Japanese locations and locations in Northern Europe. My 2018 piece utamakura 2: Arnardalar for violin, piano, and fixed audiovisual media is an exploration of the Icelandic valley of Arnardulr in the Westfjords, the setting of a key early scene in the Fóstbræðra saga. My work draws on both the saga's descriptions of the place and the current place as it is today, highlighting the flux of time and exploring the power of art to infuse itself into – and change perceptions of – physical locations.

In this paper, I will explain the conceptual processes involved in writing the piece, with an emphasis on the intercultural aesthetic of my work and how Japanese philosophy of art and religion can offer a creative new perspective on the Scandinavian lands which are the settings of the North's oldest literature.

Keywords: utamakura; Ueda Shizuteru; Takahashi Mutsuo; Nō; Japanese aesthetics; Icelandic sagas; Fóstbræðra saga; Intercultural artistic practice; Multimedia music

Canada’s Musical Mosaic and Cultural Appropriation

paper presented at the Japanese Musicological Society regular meeting, 11 July 2020

Canadian culture prides itself on being a mosaic, that is, a space where different immigrant cultures come together without losing their identity. In terms of music, Canadian composers have been variously influenced by cultures which are not their own – for example, Colin McPhee was one of the first western composers to explore Gamelan music, Harry Somer’s adapted a Nisga’a song in his masterpiece Louis Riel, Canada’s most famous composer Claude Vivier undertook a major formative journey to Asia (including Japan), and Christos Hatzis makes post-modern collage music from a wide range of European and native Canadian sources.

Recently this kind of intercultural borrowing has been problematised and criticised in both the popular media and academic circles as cultural appropriation. By looking at some classics of Canadian contemporary music through this lens, this paper will ask where the balance between freedom of artistic expression and sensitivity to cultures outside your own lies. I will also consider whether this debate has any implications for Japanese artists and audiences.

Keywords: cultural appropriation, orientalism, Canadian contemporary music, Claude Vivier

Uncanny Movement through Virtual Spaces: Michael Pisaro’s fields have ears

in MUSICultures 45 (1-2), pp 238-54

Michael Pisaro’s fields have ears is a series of ten pieces that embody an ecological approach to composition. The guiding idea behind the series is that the location of a sound is as (or more) important than its timing, and that how a listener understands a sound is affected by both the listener’s and the sound’s position in space. This paper uses the series as an exemplary example of James Gibson’s ecological thought in composition through its foregrounding of motion and space, and its creation of uncanny virtual worlds combining musical sounds, noise, and field recordings. It also explores the idea that Gibsonian perception has significant affinities with Kyoto School aesthetics, and analyzes Pisaro’s music utilizing methodologies from both disciplines.

Keywords: Michael Pisaro, Wandelweiser, ecological perception, Kyoto School

Hollow Sounds: toward a Zen-derived aesthetics of contemporary music

in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism vol 76/3, pp 331-40

To attempt to fill a perceived gap in Japanese aesthetics concerning music, this paper sketches a possible way into conceptualising a Zen- or Kyoto-school-derived aesthetics of contemporary music. Drawing principally on Kyoto-School philosopher Ueda Shizuteru’s theories of language’s three levels (signal, symbolic, and hollow words), the author proposes a similar distinction between different kinds of musical experience. Analogous with Ueda’s analysis of poetry, the oscillation of signal or symbolic sound and hollow ones is found to be what gives certain contemporary music its spiritual power. By applying this poetic-religious theory of language to music, an entirely new way of understanding contemporary music becomes apparent. As test case of this new approach, Morton Feldman’s 1970 work The Viola in My Life (2) is analysed. The final section addresses the differences between this method of understanding via nothingness and traditional Idealist approaches via the Absolute.

Keywords: Kyoto School, Ueda Shizuteru, Morton Feldman, Jonathan Harvey, aesthetics of contemporary (atonal) music

I also wrote a short introduction to the ideas in the paper which was published on the blog Aesthetics for Birds.

I have always been interested in both the theoretical aspects of music as well as the practical business of music making. When I was a PhD student, I published two musicological articles, the abstracts of which are below:

Real Frogs in an Imaginary Pond: Magical Realism and Morton Feldman’s Untitled Composition for violoncello and piano

presented at the 2006 International Musicological Society’s annual meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden

The crucial phrase in the Oxford Dictionary of Art’s definition of magical realism is that art which is magically real ‘infus[es] the ordinary with a sense of mystery’. Meanwhile, Morton Feldman claimed in 1977 that the most important thing that his music can do is ‘make... something idiomatic sound fantastic, even though it’s conventional.’ In this paper, I explore further aspects of magical realism as a broad, multi-disciplinary artistic movement spanning eight decades of the plastic and literary arts, and ask whether there is anything in abstract music that could also be described as ‘magically real’.
After the validity of musical magical realism is established, I look in-depth at how magical realism works in a single piece, Morton Feldman’s Untitled Composition for violoncello and piano (1981). Feldman, whose aesthetic aims, towards the end of his career, seem allied with those of magical realism, is an ideal candidate for exploring the outer fringes of the magical realist technique because of his deep knowledge of art and his painterly (as opposed to literary) approach to composition. I focus on Untitled Composition because of its conventional (‘ordinary’) instrumentation (violoncello and piano) and its fantastic, magical, mysterious, yet idiomatic use of those instruments.

Marketing Androgyny: the evolution of the Backstreet Boys

Popular Music (2007), 26/2, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp 245-58.

The trend in popular culture away from idealising mature, strong ‘men’ in favour of young, androgynous ‘boys’ can in part be traced to how pop music impresarios such as Lou Pearlman present sexuality to their huge market of young listeners. During their time under the management of Wright Stuff, 1996–1998, the Backstreet Boys were the most popular manufactured boyband in the world, and as such influenced the sexual development of millions of young women and men. This paper examines how, during this period, the presentation and marketing of the Backstreet Boys, and their youngest member Nick Carter in particular, encouraged queer readings, and how those subtle queer subtexts in the music and videos may have affected their (mostly) young, uncritical audience.