Using a group of Japanese‐born experimental musicians who make their lives in Tokyo and New York as a case study, this article examines how new musical genres are created, shared, and mediated through layers of circulations, identities, and locations. The author argues that these musicians’ lives and music have a kind of “noisy” quality, complicating genre boundaries and identity binaries in their wake. Through ethnographic “thick descriptions” and the words of the musicians themselves, the author shows the web of musical genres, languages, geopolitical identities, and gender relations that combine to make up the texture of musical performances.

This article is also thinking through and with a sea change in the study of Japanese music. In recent years, building on the work of scholars of Japanese cultural studies, ethnomusicologists have critiqued how monocultural and mono‐ethnic mythologies have influenced the study and production of Japanese music. Ethnomusicology and area studies are Cold War enterprises, designed to create research that would help maintain that world order, educate Americans as global leaders, and change hearts and minds in foreign lands, leading to a cultural conservatism that often led scholars to focus on “traditional” Japanese music. Recently, however, research on Japanese music has increasingly focused on popular and experimental musics and examines how Japanese contemporary identity is created and maintained through music. Thus this article gives readers a view of how US‐based Japanese music scholarship is moving away from such Cold War paradigms and contributes to this shift in studies of Japanese music and culture.

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