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Abstract

Cultural Translation in Two Directions: The Suzuki Method in Japan and Germany The Suzuki Method represents a significant contribution by a Japanese, Suzuki Shin'ichi (1898-1998), to the teaching of musical instruments worldwide. Western observers often represent the method as "Japanese," although it could be called "Western" with equal justification. Suzuki left no detailed description of his method. Consequently, it is open to multiple interpretations. Its application, whether in Japan or elsewhere, represents an act of translation with its adaptation to local conditions involving creative processes rather than mere deviations from a supposedly fixed original.

To illustrate the importance of historical context, the author discusses Suzuki's life and work, sheds new light on the significance of his studies in Germany in the 1920s, and explains the method's success in Japan and abroad by examining local and historical circumstances. Besides Japan, the author focuses on Germany, where Suzuki received most of his formal musical education. In contrast to other Western countries, particularly North America, the method has been slow to spread in Germany, although Japanese and Germans sometimes like to point out cultural affinities between the two countries.

While this is an historical study, the suggested conclusion for music educators is that they judge the Suzuki Method on its pedagogical merits rather than on its Japanese provenance and that they continue the process of creative adaptation.

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