Current Writing Projects

Currently I have two book projects on the go, although I’m concentrating my efforts on the first at the moment.

As I was finishing Not by Love Alone, I began to work on another book about music and modern Japan. My ideas about the book have evolved since then, and will almost certainly continue to do so until my final draft. So here is my current plan:

Music and the Rise of Modern Japan

Playing in the Global Concert

Japan impressed the world by the speed with which it became a modern nation that could compete with the Western powers on their terms, and, after its defeat in 1945, with its rapid recovery and ‘economic miracle’. The country’s rise to a major player on the stage of Western classical music has been equally spectacular. Music and the Rise of Modern Japan, presents the story of Japan’s musical modernization and argues that far from being a side-show, it was part of the main action; an important vehicle for bringing the people of Japan into the modern world and onto the global stage.


Part One: Global History and Musical Modernity

Chapter 1: Global history – Modernity – Musical Modernity

Chapter 2: Musical Encounters and the Globalization of European Art Music

Chapter 3: The Case of Japan

Chapter 4: Japan and the United States: Eurocentrism versus National Music

Part Two: In Search of a New Sound of Music

Chapter 5: Changing Geopolitics, Changing Epistemes

Chapter 6: Music for the Nation: A New Language and a New Body

Chapter 7: Civilizing Citizens: Music Reform

Chapter 8: A Nationwide Network: Shikama Totsuji and The Musical Magzine (Ongaku zasshi)

Chapter 9: A Modern Performance: Japanese Melodies – Western Instruments

Part Three: The World, Japan, and Sendai

Chapter 10: Local Pioneers

Chapter 11: Kate I. Hansen: Musical Missionary and Musician with a Mission

Chapter 12: The World in Sendai



For my second book project, I am hoping to edit and publish selected writings of Kate I. Hansen. Kate Ingeborg Hansen (1879-1968), a native of Logan, Kansas, spent most of her life as a missionary and music teacher in Sendai in Northern Japan. In the over 30 years she spent there from 1907 to 1941 and then again from 1947 to 1951 she not only did much for music education in the provincial town. Her letters and other writings reveal her to be an astute observer of musical culture in Sendai as well as a lively writer. I will certainly devote a chapter to her in my new book, Sounds of Modern Times, but her writings deserve a wider audience. This project, however, depends on my locating the copyright holders and receiving their permission, so fingers crossed!

Finally, I am still fascinated by the lives and activities of Meiji people in general, even though I’ve shelved a previous book project, playfully entitled ‘The Meiji Miracle’. How did these people cope with the upheavals their country experienced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? How did they face the future in a present which seemed to be so different from the past that the past no longer appeared as a useful point of reference? – I started writing short biographies of selected Meiji Japanese from different areas of life with a view of turning them into a book. I had already published a series of short biographical articles covering the entire history of Japan for the German Japan-Magazin, published by the late Dieter Born. I actually completed a manuscript, but finding a publisher proved a challenge and at some point I lost momentum and turned my full attention to what eventually became Not by Love Alone. However, a few months ago I presented the prospectus to the members of a staff writing group and received some valuable suggestions.

I was too busy with my other projects to attempt the thorough revision of the manuscript in time for the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration. Instead, I started mining the manuscripts for possible blog posts and have posted blogs about Ogawa Masataka 小川正孝, Tanaka Shôzô 田中正造, Sakamoto Ryôma 坂本龍馬, Tokugawa Keiki 徳川慶喜, and Yoshida Shoin 吉田松陰 and others. The anniversary year has passed,  but so much happened in the Meiji period (1868-1912) that for the next 44 years there’ll be some kind of ‘Meiji 150’ anniversary every year. I haven’t posted another biography for a while now, but I intend to continue the series (on and off!).

Contact Margaret Mehl.