Junko Oba

Associate Professor of Music
Hampshire College Professor Junko Oba
Contact Junko

Mail Code MB
Junko Oba
Music and Dance Building 104

Junko Oba, associate professor of music, holds a B.A. from International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Wesleyan University, where she trained as an ethnomusicologist and sound recording archivist.

She teaches ethnomusicology, popular music studies, music theory, and Asian studies courses. Her research interests include traditional and contemporary Japanese music cultures; performative identity politics in Asian diasporas, especially in Brazilian expatriate communities in Japan; national and nationalized identity performances in the trans- and post-national world; music and collective memory construction; and organology and music instruments building.

As a musician, she trained to perform piano, koto (Japanese long zither), and jiuta shamisen (Japanese long-necked lute). At Hampshire, she has been playing viola da gamba in an ensemble in the Five College Early Music Program.

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • "Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream." - the song that begins with this phrase is one of the most famous songs enjoyed by many as a canon. Canon involves multiple voices (instrumentalists as well as singers) that chase after each other and together weave out a harmony and a musical texture called polyphony. It is a fun communal music-making process with a wide variety of styles (and different names, e.g., round, catch, chase), and a long profound history. This class is designed to introduce the fascinating history and stories of various canons, from the very old to the very new, and the art (and fun!) of polyphonic music-making to anyone who is interested in communal music-making with little experience. Students read a wide variety of literature, listen to assigned musical examples, and participate in the analysis of each canon they learn to sing. They also learn some simple techniques to write their own canons. Musicians of ALL levels are welcome. Keywords: music, performance, community, singing

  • "Asia" is a diverse, dynamic, and complex phenomenon, whose locus and boundaries have been constantly changing in reality as well as in people's imagining. The more you know about its diverse cultures, their histories and expanding global outreach, the more difficult it becomes to nail down what "Asia" really is. This course invites students to explore "Asia" by using its expressive cultures as an entering point, and experience their distinctive aesthetics, sensibilities, cosmologies, and social values as reflected and embodied in their much-adored cultural heritages in music, theatre, and dance as well as in everyday religious and secular practices. Case studies are drawn from South, Southeast, and East Asia with special attention to performing arts' storytelling functions. Through reading and some hands-on performing practices, students examine how each society and culture in these case studies documented, enacted, negotiated, and rewrote their cultural memories. No previous training in performing arts is necessary. Keywords: Asia, music, performing arts, cultural memory.

  • "Listening" occupies a special place in Japanese cultures. Indications abound in literature, folklore, and everyday practices that listening has been nurtured as multisensory experiences and that it encompasses a wide range of phenomena. Whether it be in the haiku poetry reading, religious ceremony, political protest, or mundane activity, listening enables people to transcend spatiotemporal boundaries, connect with the intangible and the invisible, and engage in the world and life in a deeper philosophical consciousness. This course explores Japanese sound cultures, with special attention to the underlying unique conceptions of "listening": how have people in Japan cultivated distinct sensibilities in listening, and how, in turn, such sensibilities have constituted Japanese sound cultures. No previous training in music is necessary to take this course. Keywords: Japanese cultures, sounds, listening, acoustic sensibilities

  • This course builds upon students' basic understanding of the mechanisms of diatonic harmony as a sonic world-building tool. Through analysis, performance, and composition, we will further develop a solid working understanding of the principles of melody, harmony, and form common in many musical traditions that we consume in our everyday lives. Assignments will include writing short melodies and accompaniments as well as more detailed compositional and improvisational projects. We will use our instruments and voices to bring musical examples to life in the classroom. There will be a diagnostic evaluation administered in the first class to ensure that students have an ability to read both treble and bass clefs, have a good grasp of intervals and triads, and that they are ready to apply them in analysis and composition. Email the instructor to take the diagnostic evaluation (joba@hampshire.edu). The instructor's permission will be given based on the result. Keywords: music, music theory, diatonic harmony

  • Every culture bears unique sensibilities to sounds. People cultivate distinctive ways of hearing, understanding, and relating to them. These sensibilities are also re?ected in the processes of sound- and music-making. Different instruments are devised to encapsulate distinctive cultural values not only acoustically but also visually in their material forms. This course aims to explore diverse music cultures of the world through the lens of organology (the study of musical instruments). We examine a wide range of sound-making devices in their current sociocultural and historical contexts. Our investigation encompasses subjects such as social functions and signi?cations of the instruments, e.g., ritual objects, status symbols, and exotic commodities, myths and symbolism attributed to the instruments, technology and craftsmanship involved in the fabrication, and ecological and ethical concerns for the use of certain materials, e.g., exotic wood, tortoise shells, and ivory. (keywords: musical instruments, material culture, ethnomusicology, sounds, music)

  • Ethnomusicology is a field of music scholarship, which examines a wide range of music and music-related human activities with distinctive sociocultural perspectives and methodologies. This course offers an introductory experience of the field for students pursuing ethnomusicological projects in their Div. II and III and those interested in exploring this relatively unknown field. Students will be introduced to the historical development of the field since its emergence in the late 19th century and more recent critical discourses, subjects that many ethnomusicologists investigate, and how they approach them. Fieldwork being a central methodology, students will learn how to plan and execute their research, document, analyze, and interpret ethnographic research information, how to preserve and share their research findings, and ethical issues pertaining to the handling of individual and collective cultural properties. The course also includes a brief introduction to other methodologies such as archival, organological, and iconographical research. (keywords: music, ethnomusicology, field research methodology)