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

  • No description available

  • This course introduces students to basic mechanisms of diatonic harmony. Through analysis, performance, and composition, we will build a solid working understanding of basic principles of melody, harmony, and form common in many musical traditions that we consume in our everyday lives. In the first half of the course, we explore composition in 4-part polyphonic texture with and without modulation. In the second half, we explore modes as storytelling devices. Throughout the semester, we study different ways to build a larger coherent structure from smaller melodic motifs and harmonic progressions. Students attend two class meetings and one ear training session per week. Multiple ear training sessions will be scheduled according to class members' availability (typically in the early evening or Friday afternoon). Student interested in taking this course need to take the diagnostic evaluation in the first class Keywords:Music theory, harmony, voice-leading, modes, storytelling

  • "Listening" occupies a special place in Japanese cultures. Indications abound in literature, folklore, and everyday practices that listening has been nurtured as a multisensory experience 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. Course materials (readings and case studies for analysis) are drawn from diverse sources across different art forms and history, e.g., literature, architecture, theater, film, martial arts, contemporary popular culture media, as well as quotidian sound-making and listening activities. No previous training in music is necessary to take this course, but the required coursework includes weekly listening exercises, various analysis assignments, occasional virtual hands-on and group activities. Through these exercises, selected readings, and class discussion, students are invited to open their ears, senses, and minds to unique cultural values, sensibilities, and practices of listening in Japanese sound cultures and rigorously question their own practice and conception of "listening." Keywords:Japan, listening, sounds, sensibilities

  • No description available

  • This course explores the ways in which sound is organized into musical structures. It is intended for students with little or no background in music who would like to develop a theoretical and practical understanding of how music works. Topics include the physical properties of sound; the basic vocabulary of building blocks of Western music, fundamental musical concepts and associated symbols (scales, key signatures, intervals, triads, rhythm, meter); and an introduction to musical form analysis with examples representing diverse musical cultures. Attendance to two class meetings and one small group practicum section per week is mandatory. The time of practicum section will be decided according to students' other course schedules (typically late afternoon, early evening, or Friday). Daily assignments include extensive practice in music reading, sight singing, ear training, and critical listening. Students compose two short pieces, one for midterm and the other for final. KEYWORDS:Music, Music theory

  • Every culture bears unique sensibilities to sounds. People cultivate distinctive ways of hearing, understanding, and relating to them. These sensibilities are reflected 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 through the lens of critical 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 cultural significations of the instruments; myths folklores, and symbolism; technology and craftsmanship involved in the fabrication; and ecological and ethical concerns for the use of certain materials. This is not a sound design course. No previous music training is necessary, but students need to be prepared to do fairly heavy reading and critical unpacking of course materials. KEYWORDS:Musical instruments, material culture, ethnomusicology, sounds, music

  • This is not a kind of "World Music" survey course that simply offers you a little taste of exotic music that people create in some faraway places or nearby ethnic neighborhoods. Although we study different musical ideas, practices, and cultures originated in different parts of the world throughout the course, the primary purpose of this course is to examine "World Music" as a genre of music, a commodity, a discourse, and a cultural phenomenon of our own. Through case studies, we look deeply into our society's political, economic, intellectual, and creative mechanisms that have contributed to the emergence of "World Music" and its continuous operation, despite various controversies. No previous training in music is necessary to take this course, but students need to be prepared to do fairly heavy reading and critical unpacking of course materials for each class. Keywords:Music, ethnomusicology, media studies, cultural anthropology

  • Risk and Responsibility Trail Map Proposal

  • "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.