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He completed a course in theoretical physics from Tokyo University (1907), specializing in acoustics and simultaneously studied Western music at the Tokyo Academy of Music. He rejoined the Tokyo University for a refresher course in literature (1907) and made a special study of acoustic psychology.
He was learning the principles of musicology from a French missionary when he began his studies in 1920, researching the musical traditions of the Imperial House of Japan. In April 1921, he visited Korea and single-handedly rescued the dying music tradition of the Joseon court.
He took film and audio recordings, and published a widely circulated report extolling Korea's court music and comparing it to Japanese court practice. Later in 1921, he invented a new type of kokyū for playing high notes. The Tanabe Hisao Prize was named in his honor.
(translated by Shigeyoshi Sakabe)1937