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Professional Aspirations in Exile

The Modest Careers of Migrant Japanese Musicians in Europe
Beata M. Kowalczyk
p. 101-122

Résumé

This paper utilizes qualitative and quantitative analysis to examine the careers of foreign (non-EU) musicians living and working in Europe, and in particular, the second phase of a career in classical music of Japanese musicians in France and Poland. It focuses on the endeavors of both male and female musicians to remain in the profession, in the face of a number of interrelated sources of inequality (i.e., socio-cultural origins, ethnicity, gender and class) (Winker/Degele, 2011) that have a structuring impact on their professional and life decisions. This analysis foregrounds ethnicity (nationality), socio-cultural origins, and socially contextualized gender as the most significant elements in the second stage of the career-making process. In other words, this article takes an intersectional stance (Crenshaw, 1995) to examine the process of performing a “modest” career in music for male and female Japanese migrant artists as a process of “working out a compromise” between what is desired (a passion for music and aesthetic satisfaction), what is professionally achievable (in France and Poland), and what is expected upon an eventual return to Japan.

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I. Introduction

1This article elaborates on the second stage of Japanese musicians’ occupational careers in Europe, namely in France and in Poland. Its purpose is to demonstrate how male and female Japanese musicians inhabit a disparate socio-cultural context – both in France and Poland – as they continue their music career into its second phase, adapting to a failure to translate their music skills into a soloist career, which is considered the model path in the social world of classical music (Westby, 1960 ; Faulkner, 1973 ; Wagner, 2015). An intersectional analysis of this process (Crenshaw, 1995 ; Win­ker/Degele, 2011) will bring to the fore various interacting categories (i.e., age, gender, socio-cultural origins, ethnicity and class) that reflect the dynamics and main tensions in musicians’ careers – at least to an extent, since the Japanese remain active subjects in this process – and ultimately prompt musicians to accept a modest professional situation once they have elaborated a rationalization for this and adopted strategies for attaining alternati­ve sources of satisfaction (in their professional and private lives) that support their occupational decisions.

2To the best of my knowledge, no studies have systematically traced the professional biographies of Japanese musicians in Europe from a sociological stance. Scholars who have dealt with the topic of classical music in an Asian (i.e., Japanese) context have either explored the relations between Japanese or Asian and Western music traditions (Watanabe, 1982 ; Yang, 2007 ; Yoshihara, 2007) or presented individual careers viewed from an autobiographical or biographical perspective (cf. Ishikawa, 2001 ; Ando, 2010). Hence, this study is a pioneering sociological investigation of the European career trajectories of Japanese musicians, grounded in qualitative data.

3Extant research on musicians’ careers in general brings into focus age (as a determinant of career advancement), the social practices related to the practice of this profession (i.e., the specificity of interactions, division of labor, construction of reputation) and gender (male and female roles in the context of reproduction and production) as the elements that largely shape a career in musicianship and help determine how it is pursued in the second stage.

4Age brackets are associated with the “socially expected duration” (Merton, 1984) of phases in an ideal career model, which in the social world of classical music is designated by the soloist’s path (Westby, 1960 ; Wagner, 2015). The upper age limits for prospective musicians have been recently lowering due to the appearance of very young Asian musicians on the world stage, whose high level of technical skills have led to increasingly fierce competition among musicians (Wagner, 2015). But it has generally been accepted for decades that once one reaches the age of 25, she enters the phase of her career trajectory when she can no longer expect a “turning point” (Hughes, 1971) in terms of achieving the status of a world-renowned music star. Orchestra musicians can continue to expect upward mobility for just ten years longer, until the age of 35 (Westby, 1960 ; Faulkner, 1973 ; Lehmann, 2002 ; Coulangeon, 2004). The second phase of a music career begins around these age boundaries, and proceeds along a rather predictable course in terms of occupational mobility.

5Social practices related to the execution of professional musicianship affect the im-/possibility of remaining in the profession. Namely, the specifi­city of a musician’s job constantly exposes instrumentalists to the risks of progressive deskilling (Kofman, 2012, 2016), downward movement and de­professionalization if they fail to keep up with the minimum technical requirements of commercial projects (Faulkner, 1973, 1983 ; Faulkner/Anderson, 1987 ; Wagner, 2015). Musicians are only as good as their last per­formance, as one once told Robert Faulkner (1983). This means that a music career is conditioned on instant performance (the quality of playing) and that a musician’s reputation is subject to ceaseless renegotiation. This concerns all types of careers, although freelancers are more vulnerable to professional precariousness (Coulangeon, 2004) than orchestra musicians or music teachers. This profession is carried out under high pressure and high demands in terms of performance quality, particularly for those pursuing freelance careers. Musicians cannot refuse a job, while each acceptance of a performance is decisive for the future course of their career. A failure to meet quality expectation can prevent future calls from potential employers (Faulkner, 1973, 1983 ; Faulkner/Anderson, 1987).

6Lastly, musicians’ careers are impacted by gender through a social order that in the majority of societies (depending, for example, on the development of an infrastructure to support working mothers) continues to allocate reproduction tasks to women and production duties to men (Ravet/Coulangeon, 2003), thus navigating their professional aspirations into the private and public spheres, respectively. At the second stage of their music career trajectory, married men and women may both concentrate on the practical side of their work, carried out to support their households in less prestigious orchestra ranks (Lehmann, 2002 ; Ravet/Coulangeon, 2003 ; Ravet, 2007) ; however, men more often seek to fulfill their aesthetic expectations outside of work by taking up more artistically rewarding activities, whereas women tend to subordinate their professional pursuits to family life.

7The examination of 95 careers of Japanese musicians, out of which 50 careers were studied in detail based on in-depth qualitative interviews, revealed that their professional pursuits in the second phase develop amidst such tensions, to which must be added their migrant status (Sayad, 1999), which affects them in a variety of ways (i.e. the need to obtain residence and work permits, access to jobs on the music market, the right to be granted social benefits, and the socio-cultural particularities of the sending and receiving countries) and frames their situation as both an emigrant and immigrant. This paper investigates how aging migrant-musicians coordinate their career in its second phase and how or to what extent their status as a migrant affects this career or musicians’ decision to remain in or withdraw from the profession.

8The three following issues drive the analysis presented in this article : (1) why do Japanese musicians leave their country to establish themselves in Europe ; (2) how do male and female musicians develop their professional careers in Europe (France and Poland), and whether this is dependent on their being able to obtain a stable position in an orchestra or in academia, or are freelancing on short-term projects ; and (3) why do these musicians persist in their modest careers in spite of the occupational precariousness experienced, a frequently low level of job satisfaction, and moderate professional recognition. In other words, in focusing on the second stage of the professional careers of Japanese musicians, this paper aims at an understan­ding of how the migration project affects male and female Japanese careers objectively (work environment) by changing their professional situation, and subjectively (professional satisfaction, identification) by impacting their perception of their occupational track in Europe in the context of the gender order they had internalized earlier in Japan.

II. Methodological framework

9The demonstration developed in this article is based on material retrieved with the use of three kinds of qualitative tools : semi-structured in-depth interviews, irregular observation, and both quantitative and qualitative analysis of extant data : statistics from websites and archives (private and institutional). The main evidence for tracing the experience of the first stage of musicians’ careers from a retrospective standpoint comes from qualitative, semi-structured individual interviews conducted with Japanese musicians in their mother tongue. 50 semi-structured interviews were carried out with male and female Japanese classical musicians of various specializations in their mother tongue. These individuals were recruited for the study on condition of having experience with being educated and leading a professional and private life in Europe (i.e., 25 interviewees were based in France and 25 in Poland). The vast majority of respondents consisted of professionally active, long-term sojourners age 30-45, most of whom were female pianists, especially in the Polish group.

10I also examined 45 careers of Japanese musicians as presented in music competition catalogues, in the press in the form of interviews or articles, and on websites. To verify my findings, I discussed the material with 20 professionals, whom I call “experts” from the music milieu (i.e., music professors, sound directors, orchestra musicians etc.), who had previously cooperated with Japanese musicians.

11This data has been supplemented by various informal observations (i.e., recitals, music lessons) ; an analysis of data from private and institutional archives (Fryderyk Chopin University of Music [hereinafter referred to as FCUM], Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris [hereinafter referred to as CNSMDP]) ; official documents (i.e., statistics from music competitions, orchestras in France and Poland) ; and musicians’ private blogs and websites. I also collected statistics from music conservatories, music competitions, and French and Polish orchestras, and consulted both archives and websites to ground the results in a broader context. I compared two substantially disparate environments – French (with long migration traditions) and Polish (still relatively closed for migrants) – with the aim of distilling the impact that various structural and socio-cultural environmental idiosyncrasies have on career dynamics.

III. Leaving Japan to settle in Europe

12The Japanese musicians travelled to Europe for educational purposes, at least this is how they explained their decision to move to Europe. Some headed abroad shortly after high school to enroll in full-time studies, while others waited until they graduated from university in Japan, with the aim of participating in a postgraduate music apprenticeship in Poland/France. Deeper analysis of testimonies in the interviews about life in Japan leads one to conclude that education was most likely merely a pretext concealing other reasons that prompted this mobility. Among the many socio-cultural aspects of life in Japan that fueled musicians’ migration, two elements appeared repeatedly in the majority of statements : (1) a gender-based division of social roles that today still erects barriers for women who would like to join the production sphere in a full-time mode, traditionally reserved for men, and which channels them into reproductive tasks ; (2) the working conditions of professional musicians in Japan. I shall briefly elaborate on each aspect, since both of them impact career making in the second phase.

A. Musicianship in the context of a patriarchal society

  • 1 ______________________________ It is interesting to note here the proliferation of knowledge about (...)

13In corroboration with extant studies on the subject (Watanabe, 1982 ; Yoshihara, 2007 ; Yang, 2007) the research demonstrates that the Japanese ascribe to classical music a symbolic value as a universal apparatus of social distinction1. The awareness among Japanese parents of the practice of exposing children to music at a very young age (two or three years old, depending on the instrument) should be ascribed to the fact that the mastery of musical technique has been adopted as a tool of social advancement, mo­deled on Western mechanisms of social distinction. In this sense, classical music has replaced the traditional mechanisms which used to serve this purpose in Japan, i.e., proficiency in Japanese poetic forms or Japanese instruments such as the koto. Private music classes offered by piano manufacturers such as Yamaha and Kawaii – a uniquely Japanese system of music education – have partly satisfied this social demand for music education (as a tool for social advancement).

14In terms of a bourgeois education, notwithstanding a general social reco­gnition of skills in instrument use, a paradox in the vocational situation of classical musicians in Japan is that transforming these skills into a profession is unacceptable for men. This paradox is closely related to the patriarchal “gender order” (Ehara, 2001) which still pervades in Japanese society. According to the traditional gender role division, a man should hold a fixed position as the one responsible for economically supporting the household. Both male and female respondents frequently emphasized that musicianship was not considered a masculine job, due to limited perspectives for stable and profitable working conditions (orchestra member or teaching post). The uncertainty of employment (e.g., underinvestment in the music sector, cau­sed both by low public interest plus a low fertility rate, which affects the number of students in academia in general, and aggravates the problem of an oversupply of teachers) and limited prospects offered by the private sector (i.e., promotion, pay increases) also deem musicianship a “non-masculine” profession. Men can therefore be encouraged by their parents or schoolteachers to take up an instrument as long as they do not consider it a real vocational option for the future.

15Contrary to this, families raise no objections against their daughter enga­ging in formal music education, estimating that music literacy, above all, will strengthen their position on the marital market, but also that musical competences can provide a future mother and wife with potential occupationnal activity (frequently piano teaching, which explains the popularity of the instrument in Japan) during free time following her primary duties. In other words, female musicians in Japan are supposed to carry out musicianship as a part-time activity, which matches social expectations towards wo­men, whose first responsibilities in a traditional family are reproduction and care giving.

16We will now examine the plight of the professional musician in Japan.

17The data collected in this study lead to the conclusion that Japanese society’s recognition of musical literacy as a symbol of social status represents an imitation of conventions rooted in European social orders, rather than in Japanese social practices, and that classical musicians are not included in its hierarchy of prestigious professions. Note that such prestige is measured by the high income and elevated social position of the individual, which in patriarchal Japanese society are both reserved for men. Underinvestment in the Japanese music market (Taniguchi, 2000) and the scarcity of stable academic or orchestra positions render this market vulnerable to precarious working conditions.

  • 2 ______________________________ There were approximately 5-11 orchestras in Tokyo in 1982, depending (...)

18The music sector in Japan is dominated by freelance jobs such as e.g., private teaching, entertainment gigs such as playing in hotel lobbies and in restaurants in the evening, and performing at weddings or during cruises. According to research data, performers accept these jobs purely for financial reasons, while simultaneously being aware of the deterioration in skills that such jobs may entail. Music university graduates in Japan have slimmer chances in the competitive pursuit of positions (1) in orchestras2 and (2) tenured teaching in a high school/conservatoire, with the latter considered to be even more stable and profitable (Taniguchi, 2000 :17). Since orchestra and academic teaching are considered the most relatively steady social posts that musicians can occupy in Japan, they are chiefly reserved for men.

19Aside from this, there exists a specific niche created out of the combination of a shortage of demand (positions) and oversupply of formally trained musicians in Japan. Namely, this is the market of privately held recitals, as described by respondents, where musicians engage their own money to perform music. These musicians face the problem of reconciling their hopes regarding the core activities of their chosen profession (playing an instrument), with harsh a reality (having to pay for concerts, instead of being paid for them). To play a concert, some musicians must handle all the “dirty work” (Hughes, 1962) that is usually allocated to agency staff, as one female musician described it :

Hardly anybody can afford to pay for an event that costs one million yen. So let’s say there are three pianists who will share the financial burden. They have to pay for the renting fee, posters, the studio where they practice as well as the agent, who organizes the concert and also any accompanying musicians, who come from abroad : the plane tic­ket, hotel, trains and all the rest. And you have to sell tickets to your friends and neighbors. If the concert sells well, the musician may get back part of the money invested. But this is rarely the case. Another thing is the quality of such concerts. Since renting a studio for practicing is very expensive in Japan, they are usually able to make just one run. Surely this is insufficient, so during the concert, accompanying musicians adjust to the pianist most of the time. Frequently, these concerts are artistically poor. The musicians simply do not have enough time to work on the program together (Woman, piano, forties, Japan – formerly Poland).

20The above-depicted aspects of the Japanese music milieu fuel male and female migration in a different way. Whereas female musicians seek liberation from an oppressive “gender order” (Ehara, 2001) which leaves hardly any space for their professional aspirations, male musicians head for Europe in the belief that musicianship there is associated with social prestige and that they will be able to find a reputable post (soloist position). Their life stories demonstrate that these expectations can be satisfied only to a limited degree, and that this is conditioned by the type of career these musicians manage to establish, as well as by the country of immigration, and their gender – male and female musicians experienced the second stage of their professional career in different ways, mostly due to family life.

B. Locked into a career trajectory

  • 3 ______________________________ Note that both career paths are structurally constrained, yet these (...)

21In the second phase of their career, musicians realize that further significant career movements become a goal hard to achieve for a combination of reasons, including nationality, institutions3 (Allmendinger/Hackman/Lehman, 1996), age, and musical specialization. Notwithstanding this combination of impediments, musicians who are unable to move their career or family life back to Japan, tend to “cool out” (Goffman, 1952) and adapt to the circumstances of the receiving country, where they develop a life mode that both provides grounds for rationalizations to continue their musicianship and substitutes for aspirations (status) that cannot be fully satisfied abroad. The main differences in the career process stem from the type of career pursued, but they are also divided along gender lines : (1) male musicians continue musicianship by combining the prestige of an orchestra position alongside activities outside this work which compensate for its unsatisfactory status (defined by low job discretion, routine, transparency of the orchestra member playing in unison) ; (2) female musicians find fulfillment in both the professional and private spheres of their life by assuming the life stability of a mother, who is then socially permitted to take up a regular work activity. Women’s acceptance of their professional situation is forged always in relation to their presupposed role and status in their home country.

22What both male and female musicians have in common, however, is the fact that each category has achieved a certain life trajectory, the abandonment of which would generate costs higher than maintaining it. In other words, these musicians are locked into a career trajectory conditioned in a number of ways (by nationality, gender, age, civil status, Japanese social practices and institutions in the sphere of music and family life, country of immigration), although each of them distinguishes itself from the other with its own peculiarities. I shall first elaborate on elements that constitute both of the two identified trajectory patterns, and then examine some extreme cases of musicians who eventually drifted away from music.

1. Male musicians – redefining professional status after hours

23Male musicians aim more often than women at a prestigious status (i.e., soloist posts or a solo stand in the orchestra) and career advancement. Yet, Asian socio-cultural origins act as a source of stereotypes, typecasting Japanese instrumentalists as technically skilled performers, whose playing, however, can reveal their insufficient musicality, undermining their endeavors to compete for reputable positions. Ethnicity thus decides about the Japanese music capabilities, as demonstrated by the passage below :

If French and Asians perform the same piece, the later has to be twice or three times as good as the former to get any recognition. That is my impression. The French are simply given preference. I find nothing strange about it. It has nothing to do with nationalism or anything (Man, violin, forties, France).

24Having realized that their position on the local music market is far from privileged, irrespective of their competences which are frequently confir­med with certificates from top music academies (i.e., CNSMDP, FCUM), some male musicians may try their chances in Japan. Unfortunately, their experiences teach them that integration into the Japanese music market after having spent years abroad is not easy, especially if they seek professional advancement. A failure to make desirable occupational changes is a crucial reason for continuing their careers abroad, as illustrated by the evidence below :

At one point, I was really exhausted, and thought that I’d rather go back to Japan than stay here, but it didn’t go well, and here I am, like I was back then. Well, a post vacated in a Japanese orchestra and I tried out for the audition, but I failed. For one moment, I really wanted to quit the place where I am now. At that time, I just got tired. I felt that it wasn’t interesting anymore. When you’ve been doing it (playing) for dozens of years, it just happens one day. Over the twenty years that passed, I’ve experienced many different situations. Let’s take compositions, for instance, the ensemble usually plays 3 or 4 pieces every week. There are good classic artworks, and then there is the contemporary music, which is so chaotic that you can’t make head or tail of it, but you have to play it. It makes me tired and bored sometimes. Of course, I play the best way I can, but I’m unable to feel any pleasure playing the music. Here I belong to tutti, but in Japan I passed the audition for the top position. What went wrong ? I presume, it was my inability to keep eye contact and effective communication with the other top musician. In Japan, it is very important to be careful while working with others, and I just didn’t know that, because when I play I’m kind of concentrated on what I’m doing at a specific moment. I intended to become a top player in a Japanese orchestra and then develop my solo career (Man, cello, sixties, France).

25At the same time, musicians dissatisfied with their professional status develop an alternative professional life, where they can follow their aesthe­tic plans and preferences (i.e., present their skills on stage performing solo a repertoire they personally selected) that provide a status that better mat­ches their aspirations. A trombonist explained his decision to launch a subsequent artistic enterprise in the following way :

We established the quartet because we wanted to create music independently and autonomously, because when you play in the orchestra you have to play the way the conductor tells you to and you have no choice (Man, trombone, fifties, Poland).

26Therefore, on the one hand, on orchestra position does not seem to be a dream job for male instrumentalists, who aim at soloist careers due to the numerous limitations an orchestra imposes on its members. Such aspects include (1) monotony (repetitiveness of tasks) and routine (short performing time, unison sound in the tutti section) ; (2) lack of impact on the performance content – low job discretion (Allmendinger/Hackman/Lehman, 1996 :194) – in that both the selection and interpretation of the repertoire (the object of the work) lie in hands of the artistic management of the institution or the conductor ; and (3) few artistic/technical challenges, all of which affect professional satisfaction among symphony musicians (West­by, 1960). On the other hand, the stable income and easy resolution of residence and work permit issues that an orchestral position guarantees, leaves a space for the creation of a proxy position, which substitutes for the desired social status. In such instances, male musicians ground their professional identification (Becker/Strauss, 1956) more on the activity carried out outsi­de their workplace. This strategy helps them to rationalize and accept their “modest” career in the orchestra.

2. Female musicians – limited living stability instead of occupational ambitions

27The majority of female musicians believe that by establishing themselves in Europe they managed to leave behind a complex “glass ceiling” (Morrison/White/Velsor, 1987 ; Buscatto/Marry, 2009) combining the mechanisms of rigidly defined gender roles and class affiliation that pushes wo­men out of the productive sphere, and would have undermined their professional ambitions had they stayed in Japan. An examination of their situation reveals a different kind of intersectional trap they fall into in Europe, one which is their ethnicity (nationality) and socio-cultural origins, as well as their age, marital status and gender. Therefore, paradoxically, in seeking to bypass the limitations of the music milieu in their home country, these wo­men find themselves facing a disparate set of obstacles which frames their professional path in a no less restricting manner in Europe than it would in Japan. In continuing their career in Europe, these Japanese female musicians sustain their belief in the success of the emancipation (from a patriarchal gender order) project that has brought them all the way from Japan to Europe.

28Based on the type of work activity, marital status and country of residen­ce, the career trajectories of female musicians split further into three patterns : (1) full-time working mothers ; (2) freelancing mothers focused on family life ; and (3) freelance single female musicians determined to stay in Europe, working to prolong their visas and support themselves.

a. Social emancipation of full-time working mothers

  • 4 ______________________________ In this respect, Japanese women resemble Irish women, who migrated t (...)

29These women attach high importance to the possibility of turning their musical technique into an occupation, forging a career4 in Europe, and hen­ce obtaining relative financial stability through their job (regardless of their civil status). The interaction of several categorizing elements combine to construct the social position of an individual ; these include age, education, class and ethnic origins, as well as the instrument played. These narrow these women’s employment chances, as illustrated by the following quote :

You have to expect that around 30-40 candidates will apply for one post (one of the violinists said that today there are approximately 80 candidates for one violin post). In the case of oboe, there are only a few positions, so you are really lucky when a position becomes vacant. (...) The idea to give up the instrument altogether has never even cros­sed my mind. (…) I’d passed some twenty auditions in different European countries (Germany, Switzerland, Finland and of course, France), but I wasn’t accepted anywhere. (…) I just didn’t want to stay in Europe just to ‘be in Europe’, I wanted to be able to work here. (...) I really practiced a lot, honestly. So much, that even I myself was convinced that I was really doing my best. I was so determined to get a job. And there were hard moments. In Germany, for instance, in the last stage of the audition they asked me if I had a valid visa and when I said “no” someone from the selection committee responded that they were looking for a really passionate musician and not for a person who was most probably seeking a job to get a visa. Still I didn’t want to give up. (…) I blew the instrument for so many hours, driven by the thought that what I wanted most was to get into an orchestra. (…) I passed more than twenty auditions to get here, where I work now. This was the twenty-fifth, can you imagine ? (Woman, forties, oboe, France).

30In the given circumstances these women find professional satisfaction in having landed any stable position in an orchestra or in academia. Once they have a family, Japanese women “cool out” (Goffman, 1952) and learn to

redirect their concerns away from the place of work toward other sce­nes in their social life, (…) turn(ing) down those experiences that they can actively shape for themselves, toward those places where they can be somebody special, and where they can retreat from the occupational career struggle as well as some of the duller and even degrading moments of music making in the symphony (p.347).

31Work attains a different meaning for female-married musicians in the se­cond stage of their professional life. It furnishes them with life stability in terms of their legal (visa, work permit) status ; socio-economic independence from their husband and conjugal contract ; social benefits ; regular working hours, which leave time for family life ; paid leave and maternity leave ; health and social insurance ; and a pension. Thus the work-life balance achieved creates alternative grounds on which these women redefine their social role, fitting it into the working mother pattern. Faulkner (1973) described this type of additional gratification located in private life (i.e., time spent with children, family, partner, hobbies) as

incidental ‘side benefits’ (that) are realized in the private sphere (Berger/Kellner, 1964), (and which) have a profound effect on dampening motivations to move onward and upward (p.346).

32The female musicians from the studied group who were full-time orchestra members (in Europe) were entitled to maternity leave, and thus did not experience institutional pressures to quit their job due to care-giving duties.

33Lastly, there were significant differences between the Polish and French institutional infrastructures designed to support working mothers. In Poland, structural insufficiencies in the caregiving sector force mothers who plan to recapture their professional activity to rely on care provided by the family, a support mechanism on which the Japanese women living in Poland cannot always count. In France, the structural organization of the public support offered to families, i.e., relatively easy access to public child care and so-called aides au logement (AL), that is, housing benefits intended for households that purchase or rent an apartment and which are granted under certain conditions, renders the working environment there far more mother-friendly. In this sense, motherhood gave the Japanese women resi­ding in France the right to profit from social support that partly compensa­ted for the ethnic inequalities they experienced when competing for positions on the music market. No such mechanisms that could alleviate the impact of the social categories that affect one’s power position (i.e., gender, ethnicity/nationality, music specialty, class, age) exist in Poland, where married Japanese women rarely have the opportunity to emancipate themselves from the patriarchal family scheme, and remain dependent on their spouses not only economically, but also legally (due to visa-related issues).

b. Freelancing mothers in France and Poland

34The occupational situation of freelancing musician mothers in France, who tend to be in relationships with professional musicians, differs from that in Poland due to the former group’s access to better work opportunities through their spouses, which allows female instrumentalists in France to lead a more active occupational life of a musician (having jobs almost every day) than their compatriots in Poland (occasionally participating in music events). What they share are life priorities centered on childrearing and family life.

  • 5 ______________________________ Aside from permanent positions, orchestras offer also temporary cont (...)

35In France musicians of specializations other than the piano (winds, strings) usually support themselves by working as orchestra substitutes or giving private music lessons5. In addition, music schools contract some pianists, where they mainly accompany music students, yet are rarely asked to independently lead a music class. What distinguishes these women and brings them closer to female musicians from the first category is that they too have managed to build a working environment that produces a “stability illusion”. Firstly, conjugal relations solve work and residence permit issues, while their partners’ profession – most of them are married to musicians – facilitates their access to the music market. Their daily work agenda is filled with duties (they carry out remunerated part-time jobs almost every day, at least three-four times a week) but they are to some extent free to choose projects that suit them (because their spouse contributes to the household budget). Here again, the French welfare system, contrary to that in Poland, lends a helping hand to working mothers.

36In comparison, respondents based in Poland – mostly pianists – set their careers in motion around Chopin’s music, which they perform occasionally (approximately ten times a year at most) as soloists or with small ensembles (three to four people) during festivals, as well as at other music events. Additionally, they offer private music lessons at home and are also engaged in part-time jobs unrelated to music (e.g., translation, interpreting piano lessons for Japanese students during master classes held at FCUM twice a year, working a tourist guides or writing about Europe in the context of classical music for the Japanese media). Since these paid musical events happen rather sporadically (several times a week), it is difficult to speak about deve­loped work activity, especially if we juxtapose this with freelancing in Fran­ce. This situation shall be ascribed to structural conditions within the music market in Poland, which offers less work opportunities to classical musicians. Yet no less important is the fact that the Japanese in Poland have established families with professionals from sectors other than music (media, marketing, accounting, consulting). These men scarcely encourage their wives to continue their musicianship, nor can they meditate adequate working opportunities ; however, they do not prevent their partners-musicians from playing. Women confess that they can count on their husband’s support (i.e., aid in childcare) whenever they want to participate in a music project. In this sense, a Western family model, where both partners engage in professional activity, is also operative here, allowing these women the opportunity to remain musically active and take up work while running a house. However, after having a child, Japanese women in Poland suspend their playing altogether, believing they can suspend their vocational life until after they return from childcare leave, and continue to favor their motherly and housewife duties. The interview material documented the hardships of such efforts to return, and elicited reflections on how they identified with their profession, as documented by the excerpt below :

I spent really long years at home raising children, and so I had plenty of time to think about ‘who we call a pianist’. Is a pianist only a person appearing on glittering stages, in the media, the press, a person who wins competitions ? Is this the real pianist ? And I started thinking that this is only one way. My way is to do what only I can do, at a certain time and place, where people need me, or want to listen to my performances. That is how in the past ten years I have come to be able to get back to work step-by-step. I haven’t been recognized with the title of music competition awardee, but I played in more familiar places, clo­ser to where I live, in small Cultural Centers. There is nothing to be ashamed of when performing in a village hall. When you limit the definition of a pianist solely to those who are great stars, then you have to ask yourself a question : are they still having a splendid career ten or twenty years after they had won the competition ? I have managed to overcome social opinions, common sense and imagination and my own complexes, and this way it seems to me that I have found a place where I can be a pianist (Woman, piano, fifties, Poland).

37The group of women just depicted persist in their modest career in the second phase, weaving it out of sporadic music events, providing that they cast anew their professional identification as a musician and accept their occupational trajectory running a different track than the soloist’s model as one possible path among many.

c. Single freelancing Japanese women – working for a visa

  • 6 ______________________________ There is little legal room for freelancing musicians in Poland. Afte (...)
  • 7 ______________________________ This solution is not unique to France, but is partly implemented in (...)

38Both French and Polish migration law constrains the scope of artistic freelancing for foreigners residing in these countries6. Since 2014 Polish law does not provide any legal opportunity for freelancing artists to engage in their vocation, which means that this category of people will completely vanish from the legal sphere. Contrary to this, the French legal system had provided a space for foreigners and their creative activity, admitting that these people can contribute to the development of French culture. Furthermore, France has a long tradition of supporting freelancing artists, and the intermittent du spectacle7 system, which constitutes a living mode for many French artists, including legally residing foreign artists, provides but one piece of evidence of this fact.

39Notwithstanding the above, the study’s data demonstrates that in either country, Japanese artists, preoccupied with fulfilling eligibility criteria, ha­ve little time left to make a contribution, because they are frequently enga­ged in activities that do not even match their interests, yet in their opinion might have administrative value (allow them to extend their work and residence permit). In such circumstances, musicians find themselves trapped in a precarious situation (i.e., non-stable jobs, changing legal regulations and music market conditions), which consequently forces them to accept any job they are offered.

  • 8 ______________________________ Khodyakov D. (2007) analyzes relationships in the Orpheus orchestra, (...)

40The research material indicates three interrelated elements that generate uncertainty on the level of artistic action : (1) the quality of networks (that may “defrost”) (Wagner, 2015) ; (2) the act of cooperation itself, which involves other people, is based on mutual trust (Faulkner/Anderson, 1987 ; Menger, 2010) and requires conformity as well as cooperation with the inner group (Becker, 2008), and the “trust-control relationship”8 (Khodyakov, 2007) ; (3) the work contract, characterized by a short duration (i.e., one concert, series of recording, two-month teaching) and usually its one-off form (non-renewable), very often with no or limited social or health security, and where remuneration conditions are determined vaguely.

41Some research points out that freelancing provides musician with freedom of choice in that they can select between projects that are compatible with their needs and that satisfy their esthetic sensibilities (Lehmann, 2002 ; Ravet/Coulangeon, 2003). However, data from the interviews shows that musicians frequently accept whatever they are offered because they never know what evidence will be sufficiently convincing for the immigration officer to prolong their residence permit. In other words, since migration law is modified quite frequently, musicians organize their activity strategically, diversifying their occupational activity to increase their chances in the “visa game” as one pianist describes it :

The Compétences et talents card is granted to artists who do a great deal of things even if they do not have fixed employment. I have a fixed job, yet at the same time, I have students in individual lessons, and I play concerts and record CDs. I’m trying to diversify my activities, you never know when and how the law will change (Woman, piano, thirties, France).

42The interviewed musicians confessed that they try to make their timetables and themselves as flexible as possible, ready to accept any offers (for a concert, festival, recordings) that might arise (“if you refuse, they might not call you again”). They practice mastering a repertoire and broadening it in order to be able to respond to varied market needs (Faulkner/Anderson, 1987) and thus pay the rent or renew their visas. If the cooperation terminates, the musician might lose right to reside and work in the country.

43Becker and Strauss (1956) argued that a

‘fine artist’ may be committed to artistic ideals but seize upon whatever jobs are at hand to help him toward creative goals. When he takes a job in order to live, he thereby risks committing himself to an alternative occupational career ; and artists and writers do, indeed, get weaned away from the exercise of their art in just this way (p.260).

44Freelancers more often take up commercial projects whose performance is not as technically demanding as the playing of classical pieces of music, and hence their skills are exposed to “deskilling” (Kofman, 2012, 2016). Progressive deskilling is risky since insufficient technique may one day exclude them from the market.

45Regardless of their precarious working situation and ambiguous professional identification, freelancing musicians do not give up on their musicianship. They make an effort to carry on with their careers, less for financial reasons (to contribute to the family budget, or to earn pocket money) than for the need to stay professionally active, even to a limited extent, and out of a fear of losing their music skills, the acquirement of which required at great expense in terms of time, money and personal commitment (discipline of practicing regularly). In light of this, the question then arises : why do some musicians eventually give up their musicianship ?

C. Swerving careers

46A professional change for a musician is never an easy decision, as the cost of entering the profession is extremely high, as Sorignet (2004) evidenced in his study about retiring modern dancers. For the musician, it means that she has invested in vain a great amount of time and effort expended in mastering the instrument, and long hours of training at the expen­se of acquiring other skills (in science, for example). She must look for an alternative vocational route.

47The research data shows us that musicians do resign in the second phase of their careers. This is not an abrupt cutoff, but rather a slow process, at the end of which they do maintain some music-related activity. The group studied contains two examples of professional conversion, but only one of them is relevant for the analysis presented in this paper. The first one occurred right after graduation from music studies, when the instrumentalist failed to find any occupation linked to music skills possessed. This example suggests that full withdrawal happens very rarely when a person is unable to find any music-related job or when entering musicianship was never the person’s individual decision, but rather the fulfillment of parental dreams.

48The person, who progressively diversified her career, previously worked in academia and for an orchestra, occasionally giving recitals (a few times a year). Having reached a certain age (her thirties), she realized that further upward career mobility would be virtually impossible, so she started developing non-music related activities. We need to remember that age is a crucial element in a musician’s career. This thirty-year-old pianist was aware of the slim chances she had to experience a turning point in their career. As in the case of the athletes examined by Adlers (1985), musicians’ social status evolves from belief to disbelief, as they compare themselves to other virtuosos, verifying their chances in the labor market, in the context of their age, networks and skills. A process of “pragmatic detachment” (Adler/Adler, 1985) from the goal of becoming a professional musician unfolds similarly to the one experienced by athletes, who learn that their chances of becoming a professional sportsman are incredibly slim, even more difficult than graduating from university. Musicians seem to realize that they cannot wait endlessly for their “chance”, doing other things and trying to maintain their skills at a high level.

49In the case of the above-mentioned woman, her career-related self-consciousness was accompanied by her plans in private life, namely her wish to have a baby. A stable, contracted position was supposed to provide her with the privileges of full-time employment, such as social and health insu­rance, a pension, paid sick and maternity leave, which she would benefit from as a mother. This case demonstrates an “occupational role progression” trajectory (Goffman, 1959). After a person has reached certain age, if her career has not developed beyond a certain threshold, she gradually shifts to different career path and prepares to enter a different stage of life (childrearing). As Becker and Strauss (1956) contended

(w)hen careers are in danger of being brought to an abrupt end – as with airplane pilots – then, before retirement, other kinds of careers may be prepared for or entered. This precaution is very necessary. When generalized mobility is an aim, specific routes may be chosen for convenience sake (p. 260).

50In the case of the mother-musician, it is plausible that an alternative career path was etched in her life-plan, which included enlarging her family sometime in the future.

IV. Conclusion

51Japanese female and male musicians who settle in Europe propelled by the dream of socio-professional emancipation from the constraints imposed in Japan, persist in careers which do not match these expectations in hardly any aspect. Previous studies of modest careers in the art world have spotlighted numerous aspects that characterize these professional artistic trajectories, focusing in particular on the scarcity of stable positions and related-job insecurity as well as their precariousness (Coulangeon, 2004), which force artists (including musicians) to engage in multiple art-related activities (Bureau/Perrenoud/Shapiro, 2009) and, in consequence, lead a “double life” (Lahire, 2006). Scholars have also frequently brought to the fore age (Westby, 1960 ; Wagner, 2015) and gender as (Ravet/Coulangeon, 2003 ; Ravet, 2007) as two traits that lay the grounds for discriminatory practices still institutionally sanctioned, especially in the conservative world of classical music. Extant research has explained a subjective devotion to artistic creation that overcomes the above-depicted professional hardships through a “passion” for art (and music), usually coupled with an artistic “vocation” (Moulin, 1983 ; Lehmann, 2002 ; Heinich, 2005 ; Buscatto, 2007).

52An intersectional analysis of the occupational paths in Europe of Japane­se musicians provides us with a more complex view, and hence a more multidimensional understanding, of modest artistic (international) careers since it embraces all the above-mentioned elements (i.e., the specificity of the music labor market characterized by job insecurity, precariousness ; gender and age) and additionally combines them with ethnicity and (related) migration status, and local migration law alongside the social and cultural capital that musicians acquire during their stay abroad. The latter set of career features remains significant in particular for artists who are non-EU citizens seeking to establish themselves in Europe, in that these features frame and fuel modest careers in their second stage.

53A passion for music tied with gender roles as defined in Japanese society have triggered “emancipation projects” that navigated Japanese musicians to Europe. If they continue their European careers, which are generally far from the ideal model of a career in music, it is because 1) they have already achieved some “limited occupational activity” as migrants, 2) withdrawing from this path would put at stake this stability and require them to admit an emancipatory failure, or 3) those who have established households (in particular female musicians) cannot easily transplant their non-Japanese families to Japan. In this sense, their modest careers at the second stage reveal a compromise between what is desired (a passion for music and aesthetic satisfaction), what is professionally achievable (in France and Poland) for both male and female Japanese migrant artists, and what is expected upon an eventual return to Japan.

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Annexe

Structured Summary

Presentation : Previous studies of modest careers in the art world have spotlighted numerous aspects that characterize these professional artistic trajectories, focusing in particular on the scarcity of stable positions and related-job insecurity as well as their precariousness (Coulangeon, 2004), which force artists (including musicians) to engage in multiple art-related activities (Bureau/Perrenoud/Shapiro, 2009) and, in consequence, lead a “double life” (Lahire, 2006). Scholars have also frequently brought to the fore age (Westby, 1960 ; Wagner, 2015) and gender as (Ravet/Coulangeon, 2003 ; Ravet, 2007) as two traits that lay the grounds for discriminatory practices still institutionally sanctionned, especially in the conservative world of classical music. Extant research has explained a subjective devotion to artistic creation that overcomes the above-depicted professional hardships through a “passion” for art (and music), usually coupled with an artistic “vocation” (Moulin, 1983 ; Lehmann, 2002 ; Heinich, 2005 ; Buscatto, 2007). The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how male and female Japanese musicians inhabit a disparate socio-cultural context – both in France and Poland – as they continue their music career into its second phase, adapting to a failure to translate their music skills into a soloist career, which is considered the model path in the social world of classical music (Westby, 1960 ; Faulkner, 1973 ; Wagner, 2015).

Method : The demonstration developed in this article is based on material retrieved with the use of three kinds of qualitative tools : semi-structured in-depth interviews, irregular observation, and both quantitative and qualitative analysis of extant data : statistics from websites and archives (private and institutional). The main evidence for tracing the experience of the first stage of musicians’ careers from a retrospective standpoint comes from qualitative, semi-structured individual interviews conducted with Japanese musicians in their mother tongue. 50 semi-structured interviews were carried out with male and female Japanese classical musicians of various specializations in their mother ton­gue. These individuals were recruited for the study on condition of having experience with being educated and leading a professional and private life in Europe (i.e., 25 interviewees were based in France and 25 in Poland). The vast majority of respondents consisted of professionally active, long-term sojourners age 30-45, most of whom were female pianists, especially in the Polish group. In addition to that I also examined 45 careers of Japanese musicians as presented in music competition catalogues, in the press in the form of interviews or articles, and on websites. To verify my findings, I discussed the material with 20 professionals, whom I call “experts” from the music milieu (i.e., music professors, sound directors, orchestra musicians, etc.), who had previously cooperated with Japanese musicians.

Theory : This analysis foregrounds ethnicity (nationality), socio-cultural origins, and socially contextualized gender as the most significant elements in the second stage of the career-making process. It focuses on the endeavors of both male and female musicians to remain in the profession, in the face of a number of interrelated sources of inequality (i.e., socio-cultural origins, ethnicity, gender and class) (Winker/Degele, 2011) that have a structuring impact on their professional and life decisions. This analysis foregrounds ethnicity (nationality), socio-cultural origins, and socially contextualized gender as the most significant elements in the second stage of the career-making process. In other words, this article takes an intersectional stance (Crenshaw, 1995) to examine the process of performing a “modest” career in music for male and female Japanese migrant artists as a process of “working out a compromise” between what is desired (a passion for music and aesthetic satisfaction), what is professionally achievable (in France and Poland), and what is expected upon an eventual return to Japan.

Results : The article shows that a passion for music tied with gender roles as defined in Japanese society have triggered “emancipation projects” that navigated Japanese musicians to Europe. If they continue their European careers, which are generally far from the ideal model of a career in music, it is because 1) they have already achieved some “limited occupational activity” as migrants, 2) withdrawing from this path would put at stake this stability and re-quire them to admit an emancipatory failure, or 3) those who have established households (in particular female musicians) cannot easily transplant their non-Japanese families to Japan. In this sense, their modest careers at the second stage reveal a compromise between what is desired (a passion for music and aesthetic satisfaction), what is professionally achievable (in France and Poland) for both male and female Japanese migrant artists, and what is expected upon an eventual return to Japan.

Discussion : This article contributes to sociological studies of creative careers. The framework developed in this article shall help examine and understand various conditions that shape professional musicianship and at the same time affect the im-/possibility of remaining in the profession in the second stage. The application of an intersectional approach to the occupational paths of transnational musicians provides us with a more multidimensional understanding of modest artistic (international) careers, since it embraces such elements as ex. the specificity of the music labor market characterized by job insecurity, precariousness ; gender and age and additionally combines them with ethnicity and (related) migration status, and local migration law alongside the social and cultural capital that musicians acquire during their stay abroad.

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Notes

1 ______________________________ It is interesting to note here the proliferation of knowledge about the benefits of early engagement in music education, which seems to be broader in Japan than in European countries, where it remains frequently reserved for families with musical socio-professional origins.

2 ______________________________ There were approximately 5-11 orchestras in Tokyo in 1982, depending on the source of data (Watanabe M., 1982, p.715). In March 2016 the Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras (established in 1990 and recognized as a corporate juridical person by the Japanese Ministry of Culture and Science, Monbukagakusho) associated 34 professional orchestras in Japan, http://www.orchestra.or.jp/about/federation/, accessed 2 April 2017.

3 ______________________________ Note that both career paths are structurally constrained, yet these constraints interrelate differently with nationality. Posts in academia in France and Poland belong to the public sector, which prevents an influx of foreigners by having raised institutional obstacles (i.e., a specific career path in the course of which a person attains subsequent grades and diplomas). Furthermore, top positions (the first instrument in the section) are scarce, and become vacant only when the former top musician retires due to age constraints, or for personal reasons. Orchestras may favor musicians with the same nationality, but these are informal impediments (e.g. informal favoring local candidates over foreigners driven by the policies of orchestra unions). It is then it this sense that the world of orchestra seems to be much more inclusive when it comes to foreigners in comparison to academia.

4 ______________________________ In this respect, Japanese women resemble Irish women, who migrated to UK or United States, seeking social emancipation (Stalker P., 1994), as well as Italian women, who were leaving the country propel­led by similar reasons (Kofman E., 2012).

5 ______________________________ Aside from permanent positions, orchestras offer also temporary contracts, when the performed repertoire requires larger ensembles. For example Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 engages 44 violinists.

6 ______________________________ There is little legal room for freelancing musicians in Poland. After the law changed in 2014, freelancers apply for the stay permit as “Other”, having to justify their reasons for staying in Poland (for example participation in a volunteer program), and to prove a regular monthly income that covers living costs equal to the amount that entitles a person to social security benefits, which was calculated to be 674PLN, approximately 160 EUR for a single person household, http://www.wsoic.lublin.uw.gov.pl/pl/content/z-dniem-1-maja-2014-r-wchodzi-w-zycie-nowa-ustawa-o-cudzoziemcach-z-dnia-12-grudnia-2013-r, accessed 8 February 2016. The lawmaker France offers more possibilities for freelancing artists. One of them is Carte compétences et talents (Skills and talent card), which since 2006 has been intended for artists, who plan to carry out a remunerated or non-remunerated activity for a maximum of four years. An obstacle in the application process for the mentioned card, may constitute an annual gross income, which the lawmakers specified as being equal to, or higher than 53,289.60 EUR, https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F16922, accessed 10 March 2017.

7 ______________________________ This solution is not unique to France, but is partly implemented in Luxemburg (http://www.guichet.public.lu/citoyens/fr/loisirs-benevolat/culture-tourisme/statut-artiste/intermittent- spectacle/index.html, accessed 19 July 2017) and Belgium (http://smartbe.be/fr/sinformer/chomage/comment-evolue-mon-allocation-de-chomage-dans-le-temps-2/exception-pour-artiste-et-technicien-du-secteur-artistique-la-protection-de-lintermittence/, accessed 19 July 2017). Cfr, e.g., Menger P-M., 1998, 2010 ; Coulangeon Ph., 2004 ; Buscatto M., 2007.

8 ______________________________ Khodyakov D. (2007) analyzes relationships in the Orpheus orchestra, the world’s largest contemporary conductorless orchestra.

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Référence papier

Beata M. Kowalczyk, « Professional Aspirations in Exile »Recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques, 50-2 | 2019, 101-122.

Référence électronique

Beata M. Kowalczyk, « Professional Aspirations in Exile »Recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques [En ligne], 50-2 | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2019, consulté le 07 août 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/rsa/3494; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/rsa.3494

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Auteur

Beata M. Kowalczyk

Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland.

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