Pulling Out All the Stops: Organalogical Semiology and the Japanese Regionalization of the Pipe Organ




Laws-Nicola, T. J.

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Multimedia works since eighteenth-century opera have employed the pipe organ<sup>1</sup> to evoke a range of indexical signs. In Western culture, various pipe organ timbres attribute to the church, marriage, death, and white male megalomania. Through globalization, these tropes have been transferred to non-Western cultures, but not necessarily with the same intertextual baggage. This research focuses on the adoption and transformation of the pipe organ in recent Japanese animation, anime henceforth, from 1972–2019. Given the Western origins of the instrument and its Western tonality, the pipe organ in Japanese culture acts as a signifier for a gothic view of the past world from which the pipe organ came—the colonizing West. Through a study of 182 anime series and their soundtracks, this thesis demonstrates how the pipe organ has come to represent violent change, including signifying antagonists, corrupt institutions, and catastrophe while simultaneously not featuring as many religious tropings such as weddings and funerals. For example, pipe organ continues to accompany antagonistic megalomaniacs such as Orochimaru in <i>Naruto</i> (2002–2007) just as it does in Western film. The instrument signifies institutions such as the militant theocracy in <i>Blassreiter</i> (2008) and the church in <i>07 Ghost</i> (2009). Composers weaponize pipe organ music to instigate variants of destruction with examples ranging from individual death in <i>11 Eyes</i> (2009), to nuclear destruction in <i>Terror in Resonance</i> (2014), and extremes such as the destruction of a parallel universe in <i>Bokurano</i> (2007). It is also worth noting that the pipe organ itself is used for destructive machinations in <i>Lupin the Third part 3</i> (1985) and experimentation in <i>Angels of Death</i> (2018). As with Western multimedia, composers have begun employing pipe organ as a device for parody. The use of parody shows an acceptance of this regionalized trope as norm. In this thesis, I exhibit regionalization through topics carrying similar denotations as multimedia in the West, but with differing or new connotations put forth by an underrepresented group of composers within American musicological curricula—Japanese composers for the anime medium.



Pipe organ, Semiotics, Anime, Regionalization, Organalogy, Multimedia, Semiology, Music, Japanese animation, Film, Corpus study, Music, Popular music


Laws-Nicola, T. J. (2019). <i>Pulling out all the stops: Organalogical semiology and the Japanese regionalization of the pipe organ</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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