The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

The Modernity of Voices: A Comparative Study of Gramophone Records Distributed in Taiwan, Shanghai and Japan

Joint Research Coordinator LIOU Lin-Yu

Reserch Theme List


This project examines gramophone records distributed in Taiwan and Shanghai by Japanese record companies prior to 1945. Its aim is to elucidate how these records influenced the development of the recording industry and music in these two places. The research will focus on vocal performances and songs recorded in East Asia. Besides numerous examples of storytelling, these early recordings also include speeches, film dialogs, and theatrical performances, as well as music.

Through working with such vocal recordings, the research will focus primarily on two points.

First, by comparing recordings sold in Taiwan, Shanghai, and Japan, we identify the distinctive musical tastes of each region, their similarities, and the aspects in which each region is unique, as well as the connections between them.

Second, we examine how the society, culture and music of each region influenced its respective recording industry.

The musical cultures of Taiwan and Shanghai share many similar features, and consequently the lists of recordings from these regions overlap substantially. There are, however, significant differences in record production between Taiwan, where the record industry was set up and controlled by Japanese companies.  In Shanghai, European and American labels financed the beginnings of the music industry after which Japanese companies arrived and built their business. A comparison of records from Taiwan and Shanghai will, we believe, illuminate the influence of media development, Japanese control, and interregional contact in the modern history of music in East Asia.