Universiteit Leiden

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Andrea Giolai

University lecturer

Dr. A. Giolai
+31 71 527 4732

Andrea Giolai is an assistant professor at the Institute for Area Studies. He teaches and conducts research in sensory anthropology, sound studies and Japanese performing arts.

More information about Andrea Giolai

Fields of interest

  • Research on sound, hearing, sound art
  • Affect, embodiment, the senses in research
  • Acoustic multinaturalism, ecomusicology
  • The reconstruction of musical heritage
  • Japanese performing arts


My research focuses on the anthropology and ethnography of Japan, sound studies, ecomusicology and acoustic multinaturalism. I specialize in the ethnography of contemporary Japan, with a particular focus on the production of sonic heritage, the soundscape of rituals, the study of sound in the environment, and the reconstruction of Japanese music and musical instruments.

My work has focused especially on local traditions of Gagaku, music and dances historically associated to the Japanese court, but also to important cultic centers like temples and shrines around the archipelago. My PhD thesis Decentering Gagaku. Exploring the Multiplicity of Japanese Court Music analyzes how music and dances historically associated to the Japanese court (Gagaku, Bugaku) are practiced today. My work has focused especially on local traditions of music-making, showing how sound, rituals and the environment intertwine in the life of amateur practitioners. Currently, I am revising my dissertation as a monograph based on several years of apprenticeship-based fieldwork in Western Japan.

I am also interested in sound art, sonic materialism, and the phenomenology of sound. I have researched how sound can be used to create atmospheric participation at Japanese religious festivals, and how local Gagaku performances are grounded in an embodied, affective interplay between musical and physical movement.

Current projects explore the connection between the preservation of musical heritage and of natural resources and a multi-sited study of the performance and reconstruction of music and musical instruments from the Asian Silk Roads.

Curriculum Vitae

After an MA in Japanese Studies at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice (2011) and a Conservatory Diploma in modern flute (2009), I obtained a joint PhD in Area Studies at Leiden University and Ca’ Foscari University (2017). I conducted fieldwork and archival research as a special research student at Kyoto University (2013-2014), as a Japan Foundation Dissertation Research Fellow at the Research Institute for Japanese Traditional Music of Kyoto City University of Arts (2015-2016) and as a Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (2017-2019). I joined LIAS in September 2019.

Key Publications

2021 “The Matsuri as Sonic Event” in Fabio Rambelli, Erica Baffelli, and Andrea Castiglioni (eds.) The Bloomsbury Handbook of Japanese Religions, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 217-219.

2020 “Encounters with the Past: Fractals and Atmospheres at Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri”, Journal of Religion in Japan, 9 (1-3), 213-247.

2019 “Sensing the Music: Oral Mnemonics as a ‘Technique of Affective Sensitization’ in Japanese Court Music”, Asian Anthropology, 18 (3), 203-221.


Anthropology of Japan (MA elective)
Performing arts of Japan. Tradition, diversity and authenticity (BA seminar)
Listening and hearing in research (PhD seminar)

University lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Japan

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 1
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 1.02c



No relevant ancillary activities

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