Critical Reflection: ‘Kandagawa’ and Prosthetic Memory
With this short script Kandagawa I tried to engage Halbachs’ ideas on collective memory and Landsberg’s concept of ‘prostetic memory’. Photos, video and song have been drawn upon to present a memory of a place, the Kanda River that runs near Waseda University in Tokyo, and a time, my personal experience of the annual cherry blossoms. I hoped to engage what social memory can mean across cultures and generations with an eye towards the power of music and ritual.
The video of the cherry blossoms for me was an interesting one because even though I currently work quite a bit in video most of my memory recording occurs through photography. The found video of the cherry blossoms was a treat in that it got me thinking about the value of the different ways I attempted to capture this particular season in Japan. I have countless photos of cherry trees taken both on my handheld camera and my camera phone. It’s the accidental video of the cherry blossoms that inevitably stands out to me now because of its later discovery.
The photos brought about to me the memory of the Kanda River during cherry blossom season which I wanted to engage not only the perspective of my own personal nostalgic mood as presented by Grainge but also from a larger Japanese cultural perspective. The ritual of ‘hanami’ the cherry blossom viewing parties held in Japanese parks and the song of ‘Kandagawa’ by Kaguyahime provided an entry point to that. While Grainge identifies nostalgia as having two separate components, the mood and the mode, the Japanese concept of ‘natsukashii’ centres firmly on the mood. The presentation of the song ‘Kandagawa’ hopefully engages the ‘natukashii’ through its exploration of a sadness in parting that is frequently likened to the falling of cherry blossoms.
The concept of collective memory is entrenched in Japanese culture through the strong associations of annual seasonal changes and the rituals that go along with them. Hanami the flower petal viewing parties that occur each spring have iconography and ritualized procedures that create national identity through the shared memory of these yearly events.
Japanese folk music, and possibly all folk music, with its recurring themes of loss and exploring painfully sweet memories can be interpreted as a type of prostetic memory. The binding of memories to a place and time with cues of classical Japanese scales and harmonies along with particularities of Japanese culture presented with a romantic tone. Burgoyne states that media “intervene[s] in the cultural work of defining national memory” (1997:106) In this way the song ‘Kandagawa’ intervenes in the memories of Japanese college students and presents a prosthetic and collective element to the nations ideas of youthful romance and college.
Burgoyne, Robert. “Prosthetic Memory/ National Memory: Forrest Gump.” Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. 104-19.
Landsberg, Alison. “Prosthetic Memory.” Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. 25-48.
Halbwachs, Maurice. “On Collective Memory.” Univ of Chicago Press, 1992.