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Songs from the Period

Japan figured quite frequently as a subject and inspiration for different types of popular music in early twentieth century America--compositions for solo piano, novelty songs, popular ballads, marches, and fox trots, even an occasional tango. This was music written to be performed by professional enertainers as well as by amateurs, and it found its way into countless parlors and community halls. Sometimes the "Japanese" quality of this music was limited to little more than a reference to "geisha" or to "Tokio" in the title or in the lyrics. Other compositions responded to contemporary events like the Russo-Japanese War or made an effort to evoke the tonalities and melodies of traditional Japanese music. This music survives not as recordings but as mass-marketed sheet music with vividly illustrated covers.

The songs from the period available here were recorded in March 2006. Click on "listen now" to hear the recordings.

Piano: Hakan Toker
Voice: Sophia Travis, tracks 2, 3, 4, 8, 9
Voice: Brenda Weber, track 7
Voice: Hakan Toker, tracks 2, 4, 5, 9

A Japanese SunsetA Japanese Sunset [listen now]
Jesse Deppen
Sam Fox Pub. Co., 1916



Mister ButterflyMister Butterfly [listen now]
Words by Ballard Macdonal
Music by Leo Edwards
Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., 1917


I Want to Go to Tokio [listen now]
Rene Davies Quaint Song Triumph
Lyrics by Joe McCarthy
Music by Fred Fischer
Leo Feist, 1914


That Tango TokioThat Tango Tokio [listen now]
Words by Al Bryan
Music by Jack Wells
Jerome H. Remick, 1913


My Little GeishaMy Llittle Geisha [listen now]
Words by James G. Ellis
Music by Adelene Ingram
Monarch Music Publishers, 1916


Japanese Death SongJapanese Death Song [listen now]
Earl Cranston Sharp
Oliver Ditson Company, 1914



Poppy-Time in Old JapanPoppy-Time in Old Japan [listen now]
Music by Will E. Dulmage
F.J.A. Forster, 1915



Little Fighting Soldier ManLittle Fighting Soldier Man [listen now]
Composed and Sung by Lilian Coffin
Music Supplement to Hearst's Boston Sunday American, 1905


The Major of TokioThe Mayor of Tokio [listen now]
"Tokio" song
A Japanese Farcical Opera
Book by Richard Carle
Music by William Frederick Peters
M. Witmark & Sons, 1905

| Last updated: November 10, 2015 | Copyright 2005, The Trustees of Indiana University