Shibata, Yasuko: The Pleasure of Polish-Japanese Relations: Polish Discourse on the “Love” of Japanese of Fryderyk Chopin’s Music

This paper critically examines the social function of the music of Fryderyk Chopin in Poland by focusing on its notable presence in Poles’ discourse on Polish-Japanese relations.
The word “Chopin” very often appears in Poles’ utterance regarding the friendly relations between Japan and Poland. The indescribable chemistry between the Poles and the Japanese is explained through their shared love of Chopin’s music not only by heads of state, ministers, diplomats, economic and cultural elites of Poland, but also by Polish journalists, academics and ordinary citizens, both in ceremonial settings and at casual encounters with Japanese.

Poland has been one of the European countries that offer Japanese music students, musicians, creative professionals and citizens of late modernity the possibilities of pursuing their desired forms of musical activity. Despite the fact that the popularity of Chopin’s music in Japanese music institutions and among amateurs is often outshone by that of German composers in reality, the visible presence of Japanese in Polish music universities, Chopin-related music festivals and competitions in Polish cities seems to have formed Poles’ collective imaginary on the love of “all Japanese” of the music of the “Polish” Chopin and have produced their unique discourse on the pleasurable friendship between the two nations.
Questions arise: What emotional and cultural values of Chopin’s music are emphasized by the political, economic and cultural elites in Poland in their reference to Polish-Japanese relations, and what function do they have in the self-presentation in the Polish diplomatic discourse? How is Japanese “otherness” represented in the critics’ and citizens’ discourse on the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition? What are the changes of such other-presentation in the history of the Chopin Competition? How does the image of Japanese people’s love of Chopin’s music affect Poles’ sense of nation and their cultural identity?

The empirical materials analyzed for answering these questions on the basis of a method of critical discourse analysis include: public utterances of Polish politicians and diplomats, journalists and music critics, as well as the in-depth interviews conducted by the author in 2017-2020 with Polish musicians and music amateurs, the organizers and participants of Chopin-related music festivals and competitions in Poland, and with Poles engaged in the reception of Japanese culture.Shibata, Yasuko: The Pleasure of Polish-Japanese Relations: Polish Discourse on the “Love” of Japanese of Fryderyk Chopin’s Music.