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Japan Part I

Brian's World Music Class

Sarah Strothers

on 30 March 2016

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Transcript of Japan Part I

The Music of Japan
Part I:
Religion, and
Traditional Music

128 Million People
The Cultures and Islands of Japan
Four main Islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku
An archipelago of 6,852 islands
Japanese word for Japan is Nihon: “the suns origin” or “land of the rising sun”
Land resources limited, must use the land efficiently.
Religions: Buddhism (Zen), Shinto, Confucianism
Homogeneous but much cultural diversity between islands.
"Indigenous" religion of Japan
Its a government institution - developed to promote Japanese nationalism
Based on: nature worship, fertility deities (agriculture), divination beliefs, and shamanism
"The Way of the Kami"
Religions of Japan: Shinto 神道
Music and Shintoism
Music: Mostly vocal – kotodama sinkô, “faith in the spirit in words”
Ritual prayer: Chanting in a solemn tone, accompanied by idiophones and aerophones
Gagaku: the imperial court music of Japan.
Translation: Elegant, correct, or refined music
Traditional Japanese court music
Introduced to Japan in 6th century
Performed at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples as part of religious ceremonies
Also used as processional music
There is a sense of time but not in the Western sense
Important to the development of Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraku theater genres
Zen derived from the Chinese word Ch’an
Zen means "meditation"
Achieve a state of enlightenment
Ultimate goal not reincarnation
Meditation and self discipline
An image of Buddha is formed in nature-trees, plants, stones-and the voice of Buddha is heard in the wind
Simple daily activities are considered a part of training and must be done with self control and modesty
Zen 禅 Buddhism
Adds melodic patterns to the chanted words, i.e., the sacred Buddhist text
Mainly for ceremonies and each chant/hymn has a ritual function
Two types: Vocalizing (singing) and reciting (chanting)
Also uses idiophones to accompany some recitation and vocalization
Shomyo 声明: Buddhist Vocal Music
Komusô 虚無僧
Honkyoku: original pieces for the shakuhachi, performed only on that instrument
Musical meditation
Suizen 吹: “Blowing meditation”
Komusô monks of the Fuke Sect
Honkyoku and shakuhachi
Komuso Monks
“Priests of nothingness”
Pilgrimages to temples, wandering the country side, playing the shakuhachi, and begged for alms
Reason why many of the meditations are inspired by nature/landscape/temples
Some of these monks were spies: ex-samurai in disguise
Refers to units of measurement.
Shaku – A foot
Hachi – 8
Shakuhachi = 1.8 meters (the standard size)
Vertical, end-blown, bamboo flute with 5 finger holes: 4 front and 1 back.
Has a notched embouchure called the utagachi. Usually made from bull/cow horn.
Has the ability to produce all 12 notes
Slightly covering the finger holes
Lowering the head – meri, lowers the pitch
Raising the head – kari , raises the pitch
Plays a variety of timbres
Imitating nature
Imitating the sutra (chant)
Imitating water
From soft to ethereal to rough and violent.
Shakuhachi: Historical Context
Brought over from China from the Tang Dynasty or Japan’s Nara Period, 7th century
Use in early gagaku ensemble as well as other theatrical genres
Silk Road
Originally had six holes
Gagaku shakuhachi no longer exists
Once fell out of use in gagaku, adopted by Zen Buddhist and wondering mendicant monks
Honkyoku: Original Pieces for Shakuhachi
Honkyoku: Original pieces for shakuhachi
Specifically for meditation
Composed with free rhythm and no time signature to indicated tempo
Concept of "ma": Silence in the music/in between phrases
Consists of a series of phrases where each phrase is meant to be played in one breath
No dynamic markings, key signatures, or any indication of how each phrase should be played.
Based on oral tradition
You need a sensei!
Soo Kyorei
Case Study: Micheal "Chikuzen" Gould
Enter the Shakuhachi in A-murika
Lived in Japan from 1980-1997
Was a postal worker
Became interested in shakuhachi
Now plays shakuhachi professionally
Brought the tradition to the U.S.
Has a his own "dojo" / studio
Has shakuhachi camps every six months to a year
Tsuri no Sugamori
The Nesting of the Cranes
There is an "app" for that. . .
Just for .99 cents, you too can become a Zen Buddhist meditational master
Simply blow on your phone and be "Enlightened"
California is only just a little bit bigger
Japan During the Feudal Era
Feudalism: the political, military, and social system in the "Middle Ages," based on the holding relations between lord and vessel. 12-19th centuries
Daimyo: Literally means big name. A regional Feudal lord who has military power
Shogun: literally means military commander, a hereditary commander-in-chief in feudal Japan. Had control of all military power
Shogunate Periods
Kamakura shogunate
Taira and Minamoto family
Ashikaga shogunate
Ashikaga Takuji
Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Most "popular" period depicted in anime and movies
Japan's Creation Story...
The story of Izanagi and Izanami
Some Famous Kami (or Gods/Goddesses)
Goddess of the Sun
"Great spirit who shines in the heavens"
Considered by some the "primary" God of Shinto
God of war
Protector of all people
Also agricultural God for harvest
Main deity of the Minamota shogunate
Also known as Kami-no-kaze
Japanese god of the Wind
He is often depicted as an oni (demon)with a bag slung over his back.
Best known in the Western world as the Laughing Buddha,
Hotei is likely the most popular of the gods.
His image graces many temples, restaurants, and amulets.
Originally based on a Chinese Chan monk, Hotei has become a deity of contentment and abundance.
My Neighbor Totoro
Spirited Away
Princess Mononoke
Shinto in Popular Culture
How to Pray in a Shinto Shrine
Misogi: Japanese Purification Ritual
At Tokyo's Kanda Myojin Shrine, Shinto Ritual Participants Cleanse Themselves With Freezing Cold Water in early January.
Shinto Wedding with Gagaku
Instruments in Gagaku
A transverse bamboo flute with seven finger holes
Plays melody
A tiny oboe like instrument
Made of bamboo, having nine finger holes, seven on the front and two on the back.
A thick double reed is inserted into the top of the pipe.
By controlling the reed the notes can be raised or lowered by a half tone or less.
A mouth organ consisting of a wooden reservoir which is covered with a plate of water buffalo horn.
Seventeen thin bamboo pipes are inserted through this cover.
Uses a tiny double reed
The instrument is played by blowing through the mouthpiece fixed to the reservoir.
Since the instrument produces a harmony of five or six notes, the performer has to sound the correct pipes. Close to the cover, each pipe has a tiny finger hole. When the finger hole is open resonance does not occur, but when closed there is resonance and the pipe sounds.
After it fell out of use in gagaku....
gagaku shakuhachi
No picture available
Hitoyogiri Shakuhachi
Fuke Shakuhachi
Popularized by the
Popularized by the
of the Rinzai Sect of Zen Buddhism
(We use this one)
Played the hitoyogiri
Possibly tempuku
Literally means "straw mat monk"
Typically blind

"priests of nothingness"
Masterless samurai "ronin"
Part of the Rinzai Sect: Fuke-shu
Used thicker bamboo
Had rare priveleges
Some were actual monks, some were spies...

Shakuhachi: Physical Characteristics
Shakuhachi and
A-murikan Roots
So much evidence of shakuhachi subculture in the U.S. and abroad
Additionally, shakuhachi and Japanese music has an overall influence on Jazz
But why A-murikan?
Shakuhachi in the Movies:
The Good, Bad, and the Ugly
The Last Samurai
Memoirs of a Geisha
Jurassic Park
Even more evidence...
Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer"
Rush's "Tai Shan"
Incubus "Aqueous Transmission"
Lincoln Park "Nobody's Listening"
Is Shakuhachi Really A Zen Instrument?
Relinquish desire yet have compassion?
Meditating vs. Practicing?
If you have desire to play shakuhachi then is it counter intuitive according to Zen principles?
A Weapon of Mass compassion
Japanese Music/Aesthetic Philosophy
"maximum effect through minimum means"
Kyorei - A Famous Zen Temple in Japan
Honkyoku: The Traditions of Komuso Monks
Commonly referred to as "Zen" music, but in the past, was considered a religious tradition
Shakuhachi was seen as a religious tool (shugyo)
Meditating, called suizen
This idea of solo performance was not intended for the public, not in the context that it is played today
Meditational aspect: Breathing patterns of the player are a very important structural important
"Honshirabe" literally means "basic melody". The technical and mental approaches to this piece represent the basic building blocks of shakuhachi honkyoku. It is said that some monks played this song their entire lives as part of a Buddhist training aimed at squeezing everything possible out of it and themselves. Of course, this does not mean that they were continually playing, but, more significantly, that they were "living" shakuhachi as a spiritual discipline

I ("E")
The Abolishment of the Fuke Sect
1868, Tokugawa government disassembled the Komuso monks, shakuhachi as a Zen instrument was not allowed
Couldn't keep tabs on all the ronin
Possible theory on how the Yakuza developed as a "gang" lifestyle
In order to somehow maintain the tradition, shakuhachi was adopted into Japanese classical music tradition
Literally means "three types of instruments" in Japanese
Often referred to as Japanese chamber music or Japanese ensemble music
Post Meiji Restoration - so ensemble uses Western scale's with Japanese style embelishments
Prior to 1868....Before the Abolishment of the Zen Shakuhachi
A typical sankyoku ensemble consisted of:
National Living Treasure: Yamaguchi, Goro
Sokaku Reibo
"Sokaku Reibo" describes the life of the cranes, from their birth and the time of their being raised by their parents to the flight of the young from the nest and the eventual death of the parent cranes.

Koto is a13 string chordophone
Strings traditionally made of silk but now nylon
Performer wears plectrums on the thumb, index, and middle fingers (like a banjo player)
Strings are tuned and the pitch can be adjusted by moving the bridge
Shamisen, three string plucked chordophone
Very similar to banjo, less strings, no frets
Performer plucks the strings with a plectrum called a bati
In sanykyoku, the koto and shamisen usually do not play notes at the same time, they play interlocking parts--think of these two instruments as having a conversation together
Bowed lute, chordophone, similar construction to shamisen but smaller
Used to sustain tones that shamisen cannot
Typically three strings, but you may see four as well
Was the preferred instrument until the rise of the popular shakuhachi (as apposed to Zen Shakuhachi)
Shamisen, voice, and kyoku
Popular chamber piece, literally means "Jet Black Hair"
It is the pillow
We shared that night,
When I let down
My jet-black hair.
That is the cause of my lament
When I sleep alone
With my single robe
To cover me.
'You are mine,' he said,

Not knowing the heart
Of a simple girl.
The voice of a temple bell,
Sounds into the quiet night.

Awakening from an empty dream
In the morning,
How lovely, sweet,
And helpless is my longing.
Before I know it
The silver snow has piled up
Sankyoku Today
A combination of the following and does not necessarily have to include all three components
Voice, shamisen, koto, shakuhachi
Kyoku is more rare for some reason because it is more popular as a solo instrument
Shakuhachi in Japanese Theatre
Many sankyoku pieces were used as dance entertainment for geisha's
Example: Nihon Buyo: Japanese Classical Dancing
Depending on the status of the client, it is highly possibly that a full sankyoku ensemble will be present; however sometimes, there will be only one instrument and a voice
"Maximum effect through minimum means"
Nihon Buyo and Noh Theatre
Noh theatre developed in 14th century
Focused on storytelling through music
Strictly for the Elite
Geisha would often perform dances and pieces from Noh theatre to entertain their clients
Similarly, sankyoku would take melodies from Noh theatre
Documents state that gagakuensembles with the addition of extra taiko would be used for Noh dramas
Noh Theatre Entertwine w/Zen
Art form developed by Motokiyo Zeami and his playwright father Kan'ami
They were both members of a traveling troupe of performers that were part of a Buddhist temple in Nara
Although of a low class, they were well respected performers because of how they fused together music and tenants of Zen Buddhism
Highly disciplined, slow, and refined movements
Incorporated shinto gods into their stories
Music as well as the stage reflected the idea of "maximum effect through minimum means"
A very powerful shogun fell in love with the troupe because of how the Zeami and his fathers troupe fused dance, mask, costume, language, and Zen into a theatrical performance
Why NO Shakuhachi in NOH Theatre?
Possibly due to the significant Zen influence of Noh Theatre, shakuhachi in theatrical genres fell out of use
Remember, shakuhachi as a zen instrument was not allowed
- It became a ceremonial drama performed on auspicious occasions by professional actors for the warrior class—as, in a sense,
a prayer for peace
, and
the prosperity of the social elite.
- Outside the noble houses, however, there were performances that popular audiences could attend.
- The collapse of the feudal order with the Meiji Restoration threatened the existence of Noh, though a few notable actors maintained its traditions. After World War II the interest of a larger audience led to a revival of the form.
During Shogunate Periods
Noh Theatre Characteristics
Uses masks for the main character and other important roles
Music is used for the story telling
The chorus of musicians are extremely important to the overall aesthetic
Again, no sense of "time" in the music
No females, no scenery
Common to Kyogen
Were parody and satire
no subject was exempt from being treated comically
Feudal Lord, monk, friar could be the main figure
Also a drunken or stupid servant, a braggart, a shrew or a gallant.
From Noh to Kabuki
Although there were Noh plays occasionally performed for commoners, Kabuki was more associated with entertainment for the peasant class
See page 114
Kabuki came after Noh, unlike Noh, kabuki stresses storytelling though acting, posing, and dance. Music in this sense was an accompaniment
Where Noh theatre was associated with the Elite, Kabuki theatre was popular among "higher" status merchants and samurai
Today's idea of classical music vs. hip-hop
Similarly, Kabuki was Feudal Era Japan's Popular culture
Characteristics of Kabuki Theatre
Kabuki plays are about historical events and moral conflict in relationships of the heart.
The actors speak in a monotone voice and are accompanied by traditional Japanese instruments.
Unlike Noh, the Kabuki stage is equipped with several gadgets, such as revolving stages and trapdoors through which the actors can appear and disappear. Another specialty of the Kabuki stage is a footbridge (hanamichi) that leads through into the audience.
Kabuki, like Peking Opera, utilizes face painting to denote the different roles, this is called Kesho
A popular attribute is the mie, in which the actor holds a picturesque pose to establish his character
Women used to perform on Kabuki stage, but because of their association with prostitution, men took over female roles

Kabuki and Shakuhachi
During the fuedal era, it was somewhat common to find shakuhachi used in Kabuki either as a prop or an accompaniment
A few kabuki plays required shakuhachi in the ensemble
However, because the abolishment of shakuhachi as a zen instrument, there was no one to teach the instrument or carry on the tradition
Shakuhachi is very hard to play....and make...because of this, shakuhachi in kabuki fell out of use due to its level of difficulty and the restrictions the government placed on it.

"...Izanagi and Izanami to make and solidify the land of Japan, and they gave the young pair a jeweled spear. Standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, they dipped it in the ocean brine and stirred. They pulled out the spear, and the brine that dripped of it formed an island to which they descended. On this island they built a palace for their wedding and a great column to the heavens" -- Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things)
More Shakuhachi in Popular Culture
Lady Gaga...
Taylor Swift
Meditational aspect: Breathing patterns of the player are a very important structural important
Full transcript