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16 January 2024

New book explores contemporary music audiences in Japan

In the new book, Dr Rafal Zaborowski investigates the relationship between music, generation and society in Japan.

Music Generations in the Digital Age book cover fragment showing a person wearing headphones against pink background

Music Generations in the Digital Age: Social Practices of Listening and Idols in Japan by Dr Rafal Zaborowski, Lecturer in Digital Culture at the Department of Digital Humanities, was published by Amsterdam University Press in December 2023.

The book stems from a decade of ethnographic research into practices of listening. I have been fascinated by our engagements with music, as they are multimodal, encompassing sonic, visual and bodily experiences. They can enhance moods, transform our perception of time but also be used as markers of social, national or generational identities. And, especially with the rise of streaming platforms and digital devices, a significant part of meaningful practices of listening is background or incidental.

Dr Rafal Zaborowski, Lecturer in Digital Culture
Dr Rafal Zaborowski

'This is particularly interesting in Japan which is still one of the largest global music markets and has had a rather unique path towards the digital. Japan has also been highly influential regionally and globally in developing the idol and virtual idol industry, as discussed in-depth in the book. Plus, Japanese music audiences are very well versed in the intricacies of production and distribution, which in turn is known to creators and producers who aim to benefit from that', says Dr Rafal Zaborowski.

Music Generations in the Digital Age is a unique ethnographic work at the intersection of cultural, media and music studies. In the book, Dr Rafal Zaborowski explores multiple levels of engaging with music in the digital age: participation, interpretation, circulation and cultural production. The book looks into the Japanese idol culture and investigates, in particular, the success of virtual idols – music acts where performers are animated characters or holograms.

Highlighting intergenerational music consumption, yet showing that music and artists can have very different generational meanings, Zaborowski develops a new approach to music’s ‘circuit of culture’. Exploring parasocial relations and the fans of virtual idols, this book brilliantly documents how music generations produce pop’s sometimes surprising and always salient meanings. Listen to Rafal Zaborowski — you’ll think about music, culture and generational identities in a whole new way after reading this superb study.

Matt Hills, author of “Fan Cultures”

The book launch for Music Generations in the Digital Age will take place on 17 January in the Embankment Room, Macadam Building. Register here.

In this story

Rafal Zaborowski

Lecturer in Digital Culture