University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Cross-Cultural Communication: World Music


Japanese Music

I Shinto and Buddhist Chant as the Oldest Surviving Traditions

A. Shinto Religion
  1. Early spirit-worshipping religion still observed with austere temple rituals
  2. Chant melodies usually of narrow range in free "recitation" style

II Chinese Buddhism Joins Shintoism as Official Religion. in 6th Century (eventually surpassing it)

A. Buddhist chant (Shomyo) becomes one of the two longest sustaining forms of Japanese classical music (along with Gagaku)
  1. Both shomyo and Gagaku employ the Yo scale
  2. Music for koto and shamisen (developing later) usually use the In scale (or "Miyako- bushi"), also pentatonic but with half-steps between 1st and 2nd and 5th and 6th notes, e.g., D - E-flat - G - A - B-flat (sometimes "auxiliary notes" are used, transforming the 5-note scales into 7-note scales) The "Minyo" scale, sometimes heard in folk songs, is a variant of the Yo scale which resembles the "hard" pentatonic)

B. Buddhist "directives" regarding the proper composing and performing of chant are very specific
  1. Proper chant recitation is to remain within a narrow melodic range and is to be "serious"
  2. Chant must never "luxuriate in wanton melody"-- should avoid large melodic leaps considered "world and passionate"

III Emergence of Gagaku ("Elegant Music")

A. New style flourishes in Japan's most "international" period when music of China, Korea, Manchuria and India could all be heard at the highest courts

B. In 702 AD, official "Bureau of Music" recognizes an official "court music" called Gagaku
  1. New musical style is divided into "Old music" (Kogaku) and "New music" (Shingaku)
  2. Gagaku music further divided into "Music of the Right" and "Music of the Left"

C. Gagaku examples
  1. Ryoo: Music of the Left
  2. Nasori ("Music of the Right"-- Bugaku)

IV Narrative and Theatrical Traditions

A. Heike-biwa (12th-13th centuries)
  1. War narration accompanied by biwa (lute)
  2. Poetry chanted to standard melody patterns with some instrumental interludes

B. Noh Drama
  1. 14th century amalgamation of earlier theatrical traditions, incl. Shinto, Buddhist and folk festivals
  2. Halfway between sacred and secular: restrained, idealized presentations (actors sometimes masked)
  3. Music of Noh plays called Yokyaku

C. Bunkaku (Puppet Theatre)
  1. Emerges with increased urbanization of Edo Period (1615-1868)
  2. Narration with shamisen accompaniment

D. Kabuki Theatre
  1. By 17th century, Noh Drama becomes a "refined" art appealing essentially to aristocrats
  2. Women's dance-oriented Kabuki theatre formed in early 16th cent. as a more "popular" form of entertainment
  3. Kabuki actors are primarily dancers with a repertoire of dramatic gestures, many taken from Noh Drama and Bunraku
  4. Plays have more dramatic action, tend to be faster moving than Noh Drama
  5. Instrumental accompaniment provided by on-stage and off-stage groups

V Rise of Chamber Music (16th-18th centuries)

A. Vertical bamboo flute (Shakuhachi) brought from China as early as mid-13th century

B. Shamisen (3-st. lute/banjo-type inst.)

C. Koto ("so-no-koto") (6 1/2 ft. long zither)

VI Folk Music and Festival Music

A. Feudalism in earlier centuries kept various regions isolated, each with its own cultural and musical traditions

B. General characteristics of folk music
  1. Vocal production: high-pitched, tight-throated and melismatic (often with complex microtonal ornamentation)
  2. Songs/dances not as long or complex as "classical" music counterparts
  3. Dances generally in regular rhythm; songs tend to follow speech rhythm (i.e., uneven phrases and not consistent in rhythm)
  4. Typical instruments: shamisen, flutes and various drums

C. Interest in folk songs has rekindled in urban areas recently
  1. Teaching and sponsorship of folk singing contests and festivals often dominated by regional "guilds"

D. Shinto Festivals (matsuri) associated with community shrines have become major outlet for Matsui-Bayashi groups, even in urban areas such as Tokyo

VII Modern Forms and Western Influences

A. Western influences increase throughout the 20th century

B. Karaoke style becomes major musical phenomenon beginning in the 1970s

C. Other genres of popular song:
  1. Gunka
  2. Folk Song (usually socially-oriented)
  3. New Music
  4. Pops

    D. Since the 1960s, influence of western popular music has been especially strong

    E. Japanese music and World Music

    Last Update 4/14/98

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