Gagaku is one of the traditional forms of music in Japan, China, the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam.
The Japanese Gagaku (an important intangible cultural heritage) passed down in the Gakubu Section, Shikibu-shoku Department, of the Imperial Household Agency, is mainly described here as follows:
The original meaning of Gagaku is 'Gasei-no-Gakubu,' and its antonym is 'Zokugaku (worldly music).'
The Gakubu Section, Shikibu-shoku Department of the Imperial Household Agency, defines it as the numbers played by the Gakubu Section, Shikibu-shoku Department of the Imperial Household Agency (except for Western music). Most consist of instrumental music that has been inherited as court music. It is the world's oldest extant style of traditional music played in a large-scale ensemble. However, the original ensemble form of Gagaku was discontinued for more than 100 years until the Tokugawa shogunate gathered the descendants of the musicians (Raku families) and rebuilt it after the turmoil of the Onin War, and it is doubtful how faithfully the style from the Heian period has been inherited.
The features of pronunciation of the Japanese language before the sixteenth century are passed on without change: the line of Ha is pronounced as fa, fi, fu, fe, fo, when singing the musical score of the Hichiriki instrument written in katakana as Shoga, for example by chanting the letters of the musical note to recite the melody, which implies that the whole style can be quite faithfully recreated.
The musical score written in Chinese characters, such as that of the Gakubiwa instrument, has many similarities to a biwa musical score discovered in Dun Huang, China, and several older forms introduced from the Asian continent have been inherited.
As the most important historical data, "Taigen-sho," written by TOYOHARA no Muneaki (1450-1512), which expresses concern about the dissipation of the records of Gagaku and others due to the turmoil of the Onin War, can be cited. This is a valuable record of Gagaku in the old days, in which Muneaki from a Raku family of Sho flute compiled the records of Gagaku, mainly about the Sho flute and Bugaku (gagaku piece with dance). It is one of the three largest Gakusho (records on Gagaku and Bugaku) books. It consists of 13 volumes in 22 books. It was completed in 1512.
It is based on the ceremonial music introduced from China, the Korean Peninsula and South Asia prior to the tenth century. In China, Gagaku (ya-y?e) meant the music played in ceremonies. Togaku music, however, which is said to have been introduced from China and is presently played as Japanese Gagaku, is believed to be based on the music played in the Tang period at a party called the Engaku. Its relationship to the Vietnamese Gagaku (nhã nhạc), which assimilated Chinese traditional music as Japan did, as well as the national traditional music in South Korea, is equivalent to a brotherly relationship. As for the categories of numbers, international names including Togaku, Komagaku and Rinyugaku (music of Champa) have been brought over, and the elements of Japanese ancient music before the introduction of the music from the continent were included.
Before the modern age, the Tennoji gakuso Theater in Shitenno-ji Temple (Osaka City) with the oldest style, the Ouchi gakuso Theater in the Imperial Court (Kyoto) and the Nanto gakuso Theater in Kasugataisha Shrine (Nara City) were called Sanpo gakuso theaters. These gakuso theater companies were called to Tokyo during the modern age and became the basis for the current Gakubu section of the Imperial Household Agency, but the tradition of each gakuso theater company has continued in each place.
Moreover, it has mutually affected Minyo and Shomyo, and the Japanese original style has been created. Presently, about 100 numbers are inherited in the Gakubu section, Shikibu-shoku Department, of the Imperial Household Agency.
Classifications and Numbers of Gagaku
Japanese traditional numbers (Kuniburi-no-utamai Dance)
Yamatouta song (Waka)
Yamatomai dace (Wabu)
Yuki and Suki
For the lyrics, see the section on Kuniburi-no-utamai dance.
Introduced numbers from abroad (there is an opinion that they should be taken only as Gagaku)
Sahomai dance and Togaku music, from China, Tenjiku (India), Rinyu (South Vietnam)
Uhomai dance and Komagaku music from Korea and Bokkai (northeastern region of China)
These include the numbers created in Japan (Japanese music) imitating the above tunes.
Songs made during the Heian period (Utaimono)
See the section on Utaimono for the lyrics.
*Kuniburi-no-utamai dance and Utaimono may be generically called ancient songs.
Performance exclusively with instruments is called Kangen music, which is mainly performed indoors, and performance with dance is called Bugaku, which is mainly performed outdoors.
Style of Music
A piece of music has Jo, Ha and Kyu, and respectively they are equivalent to the first, second and third movements in Western music.
Jo has the slowest rhythm, and its melody is played with a free pace.
Ha has a slow rhythm, but the tempo is fixed and there are eight beats to a bar.
Kyu has a faster rhythm, and its tempo is based on four beats to a bar.
However, some numbers don't necessarily have a fast tempo in Kyu, so this means it is the third tempo of a piece of music.
In most cases, only Ha or Kyu is played.
Playing Jo, Ha and Kyu all the way through is called 'Ichigu.'
Tone of Music
Although there used to be several kinds as tones of music, today there remain six kinds in Togaku music and three kinds in Komagaku music.
G Ryosen Sojo tone (Spring)
D Ryosen Ichikotsucho tone
Am Rissen Oshikicho tone (Summer) and Koma-sojo tone
E Ryosen Taishikicho tone
Em Rissen Hyojo tone (Fall) and Koma-ichikotsucho tone
Bm Rissen Banshikicho tone (Winter)
Fm Rissen Koma-hyojo tone
(The note of the Ti in Sojo, Ichikotsucho and Taishikicho tone is a semi-tone lower than the equivalent major scale of the Western system (being equivalent to the Mixolydian mode)).
(The note of La in the Oshikicho, Hyojo and Banshikicho tone is half a tone higher than the equivalent natural-minor scale of the Western musical scale (equivalent to the Dorian mode); the note of the Koma-hyojo tone is the same as the Western musical scale.)
It is also possible to play Gagaku with another tone that differs from the familiar repertoire (being called 'Watashimono'). In this case, being different from the transposition of Western music, the melody line varies slightly because it is played along with the musical scale that constitutes the tune.
For example, when comparing "Etenraku" in the Hyojo tone and Banshikicho tone, the Hyojo tone has 'D-EEBBABEEEDE,' which would become 'G-AAEEDEAAAGA' after transposing a perfect fifth below, based on the principle of Western music. Whereas, the Banshikicho tone has 'G-AAFFEFBBBAB,' which shows its transposition of a perfect fourth below, from the middle. This is partly because the instruments used today have Hyojo tone; particularly, the Hichiriki instrument playing the main theme has a narrow range, which has no choice but to play by changing partly when playing in another tone. In such a part, the melody close to the original sound is played collaterally on the Ryuteki flute, and playing the part with the gap (called heterophony) creates a unique flavor.
It is in fact more complicated, and if one compares "Etenraku" of the Oshikicho tone or of the Banshikicho tone with that of the familiar Hyojo tone, it has a totally different atmosphere and no one could think it was the same number. The musical score is created separately, and Shoga is also changed. In "Karyobin," the name of the number is changed to "Tori" in Watashimono.
In fact, the rhythm may be also changed in Watashimono. Some numbers played with the Tada-byoshi beat (sextuple measure) in Kangen music are changed to the Yatara-byoshi beat (quintuple measure) in Bugaku music. Changing the tone row or the rhythm used in a number is a feature in common with Ragamalika (playing with changing ragas) and Talamalika (playing with changing rhythm) in Indian ancient music; particularly, the concept of Haku beat in Gagaku is close to that of the Tala in India, as noted by Fumio KOIZUMI.
Kinds of Bugaku
Kuniburi-no-utamai Dance is included in a broad sense. The classification below has exceptions, but there are also different opinions.
Saho and Uho
The Bugaku introduced via Tang is called Sahomai dance (Samai dance), and its accompanying music is called Togaku music.
The Bugaku introduced via the Korean Peninsula (Goryeo) is called Uhomai dance (Umai dance), and its accompanying music is called Komagaku music.
Hiramai dance is also called Bunnomai dance, which is a gentle dance that doesn't incorporate the arms.
It is danced with Tsune-Shozoku costume (Kasane-shozoku costume, Bane-shozoku costume) and no mask, and most often it is performed by four dancers.
As exceptions, "Enbu" is performed by one dancer with a pike, "Seigaiha," "Karyobin" and "Kocho" are danced with Betsu-shozoku costume, and "Ama" and "Ninomai" are danced while wearing a mask and having Shaku and Bachi beaters.
Hashirimai dance is a heroic dance with a valiant mask, Bachi beater and pike, and it has active movement compared to Hiramai dance.
It is danced in the Betsu-shozoku costume by one dancer (either two dancers or one for "Nasori").
Bumai (Bunomai) Dance
Bumai (Bunomai) Dance is a valiant dance performed with a sword or a pike.
It is the word opposed to 'Bunnomai Dance.'
It's performed by either two or four dancers.
Dobu (Warawamai) Dance
Dobu (Warawamai) Dance is Bugaku performed by a boy who has not yet come of age. Since the modern age it has in many cases been performed by a girl or an adult woman. The Dobu dance has value as a rarity, particularly in the Kanto region, due to its costume, mask and makeup.
"Karyobin" and "Kocho" are only for Dobu dance, and in addition many numbers, including "Ranryo-o (Gagaku)" and "Nasori" have the Dobu dance version. Principally, dancers wear heavy white makeup but no masks, insteading having a natural face or light makeup.
The Onnamai dance is Bugaku performed by a woman of marriageable age. Although this was interrupted at the end of the Heian period and existed only in documents, some groups brought it back in the 1970s.
"Ryukaen" was originally only for Onnamai dance and had only Kangen music for years. Besides this, some numbers including "Torika" and "Gojoraku" had the Onnamai dance version. Principally, dancers wear heavy white makeup but no masks, insteading having a natural face or light makeup.
* shows Rinyu hachigaku and its Tsugaimai dance.
Togaku Music (Saho)
*The boldface shows Bugaku music.
Sojo tone: Shundeiraku, Ryukaen (recently restored female Bugaku)
Oshikicho tone: Kishunraku, Torika, Oguraku, Kanjoraku, Seioraku, Kanampu
Taishikicho tone: Bato* (having dance both in Saho and Uho), Sanju, Taiheiraku (Chokoshi, Bushoraku, Gakkaen), Keibaraku, Kao-on, Dakyuraku, Genjoraku (both in Saho and Uho), Soninsandai, Rinkokotatsu, Chogeishi
Hyojo tone: Manzairaku, Sandaien, Katoraku, Kanshu (Gagaku), Gojoraku, Etenraku, Yojo, Keitoku (Gagaku), Oshokun (Gagaku), Rokunshi, Koroji, Ojo, Yahanraku, Funan (Gagaku), Shunyoryu, Sofuren (Gagaku) (Soburen), Bairo* (Togaku music with dance in Uho)
Banshikicho tone: Soko (Gagaku), Manjuraku*, Shufuraku, Rindai, Seigaiha, Saisoro, Kenkikotatsu, Somakusha, Hakuchu, Senshuraku (Gagaku), Chikuringaku
Komagaku music (Uho)
*All the numbers are Bugaku music.
Koma-ichikotsucho tone: Shintoriso, Shinsotoku, Taisotoku, Nasori*, Kocho*, Choboraku, Engiraku, Soriko*, Ayakiri, Shinmaka, Shikite, Onnintei, Kitoku, Komaboko, Hassen (Gagaku), Ninnaraku, Kotokuraku, Hannari, Shinsoriko
Koma-hyojo tone: Ringa
Empu (Shingakuranjo (Togaku music) and Komaranjo (Komagaku music) are played simultaneously with dancers both in Saho and Uho), Ikko, Ikkyoku
List of Tsugaimai Dance
After the Heian period, a Togaku music number and a Komagaku music number were in many cases played in a set as a Tsugaimai dance. The list is shown below.
Instruments Played in Gagaku
The major instruments of Kangen music played in concert generally consisted of eight kinds, including three winds, three drums and two strings.
Gakubiwa instrument, Gakuso koto or Wagon koto
These instruments are very expensive, but there are less expensive ones (made of plastic) available for practice.
Besides these, other instruments such as the Shaku byoshi drum may be used.
Because a Sho flute would be out of tune if the reed were to build up condensation, it is always warmed up between performances. Therefore, even in the summer a brazier or an electric heater is placed beside it. A Hichiriki instrument is put into green tea so that the reed gets soft.
About Three Winds
Three Winds are described as follows:
Sho flute to express 'the light thrown from the sky.'
Ryuteki flute to express 'a dragon running around freely between the sky and the earth.'
Hichiriki instrument to express 'people's voices echoing on the earth.'
These three wind instruments are collectively called the 'Three Winds.'
As for the major roles when playing in concert, a Hichiriki instrument takes charge of the main melody. A Hichiriki instrument is an instrument with unstable musical intervals. Differences can be made to a major second with the same finger positions by tightening ones lips. A player starts to play as if searching from just below the original musical interval, which creates a unique atmosphere.
The use of this feature facilitates a decorative style of play, such as the tremolo called 'Enbai.'
A Ryuteki flute enriches the melody by covering the sound a Hichiriki instrument isn't capable of producing.
A Sho flute has the role of spicing up the tune with its uniquely divine sound, and it has the role of showing the timing of breathing or deciding the tempo for the players of the Hichiriki instrument and Ryuteki flute. A Sho flute is an instrument used to create harmony, which is unusual for Japanese music. Basically, it is composed of six sounds (using the left thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger and the right thumb and index finger), which is complicated by the mixture of the fourth and fifth intervals used in Western music since the twentieth century, but it sounds clear as opposed to consonant or dissonant because the musical tuning is not equal temperament. The harmony of Claude DEBUSSY is said to have been influenced by the Sho flute.
About Three Drums
The 'Three Drums' refers to the Kakko drum (or Santsuzumi drum), Shoko drum and Wadaiko drum; the player of the Kakko drum takes a role equivalent to a conductor in Western music, deciding the overall tempo.
The Instruments to Be Used
Kangen music (Kangen Bugaku)
Togaku music (Saho)
Komagaku music (Uho)
Urayasu-no-mai Dance (Reference)
Costume, Mask and Makeup
Although the official costume of a player is principally Ikan (costume worn by court nobles and officers when they are on duty at the Imperial Palace) or Kariginu (informal clothes worn by court nobles and officers), shrines and temples, as well as private tradition groups mostly use Hitatare (a kind of traditional Japanese clothes), in keeping with the Gakubu section assigned to Hitatare after the Meiji period. As for Hitatare, a beautiful fabric called Miruiro is used, which changes its colors when seen from different angles. On informal occasions, relatively reasonable Byakue and Sashiko (equivalent to the ordinary clothes of a Shinto priest) are used, but in rare cases unified Yukata (Japanese summer kimono, following Zokugaku's run-through in Yukata) are used in the summer. When not unifying the costumes, a clerical robe may be used for priesthood, and a woman's Shinto priest costume, mediumistic costume or general kimono may be used for a woman. Generally, makeup is not applied (women may have light makeup, but no lipstick in the case of the Three Winds), but heavy makeup may be applied in the event there will be dancing or certain festivities.
The costumes of dancers are mostly white for Kuniburi-no-utamai and Utaimono, red for Togaku music, and green, brown and brownish-yellow for Komagaku music. Respectively, there are costumes only for a certain number (Betsu-shozoku costumes) and those commonly used for more than one number (Tsune-shozoku costumes, etc.).
Specified masks may be worn, depending on the numbers. In the case of numbers without masks, or numbers with masks assigned and played by a woman, or a boy or girl, they may be performed with a natural, unmasked face or with makeup (the same stage makeup as for Kabuki Buyo dance, depending on the group).
In fact, these official costumes and masks (especially Betsu-shozoku costumes, and costumes for Dobu Dance above all) are very expensive, so the shrines, temples and groups that can afford to buy them are limited to large temples and shrines, or to groups that are financially prosperous. Additionally, most costumes except for those of Dobu dance are made for adult men or women: they are heavy, the eyesight is limited when wearing a mask, the difficulty level in choreography such as handling the long part of the costume (hem, ancient skirt, etc.) is high; however, the traditional groups in East Japan have mostly adult members and cannot afford, so the development of children's participation is not active enough; even when developing them, it is limited to Kangen music or "Urayasu-no-mai Dance" for which reasonable costumes can be used in an informal style, and in most cases Bugaku is not performed or is limited to adults. Therefore, the Dobu dance has value as a rarity, particularly in the Kanto region.
Reigaku (Gagaku, which was once eliminated but has been restored in recent years)
Currently, as one of the projects of the National Theater, there are attempts to restore the instruments and numbers that had been eliminated.
Generically, this is called 'Reigaku' or 'Engaku.'
Reigakusha, of which Sukeyasu SHIBA is the musical director, has performance activities.
In the Meiji period, Kugo instruments and Gogenbiwa instruments were also restored, with reference to the remaining pieces kept in Shosoin. Although they were sophisticated as craftworks thanks to the techniques of lacquer craftworks and mother-of-pearl works successively handed down from the Edo period, the tension of the strings cannot withstand performance, and the restoration of instruments for performance was done after the Showa period.
Derivation of Gagaku in the Modern Age
Gagaku instruments are used in the music of religious rites and festivities.
Sennen-no-hibiki' mixed with Buddhism Shomyo after restoring the ancient instruments of Shinnyo-en
Kibigaku,' born in Okayama Prefecture (Kurozumikyo sect and Konkokyo sect), with the elements of Gagaku, and Nogaku and Zokugaku mixed
Chuseigaku' as festivity music of Konkokyo sect created by Otondo OHARA, master of the music section of the Konkokyo sect
The National Theater requests new works from domestic and foreign composers of the day for the organization of Gagaku, and performs them. Private sectors other than the National Theater make similar efforts. Particularly, 'Shuteiga-ichigu' (1973-1979), by Toru TAKEMITSU, is frequently played due to its excellent interpretation, and this is an essential number for modern Gagaku.
In the field of pops, Hideki TOGI, a Hichiriki player, plays arranged and original popular music using the Hichiriki sound and frequently comes out in the media; he has renewed the image of Gagaku and introduced it to the public.
Other than TOGI, there is also a performance group that uses Gagaku instruments and an art group that creates modern Gagaku music with a focus on the analysis and study of music theory, etc.
See further details in the "Modern Gagaku" section.
Expressions Related to Gagaku
This is equivalent to melisma in Western music. It is a kind of portamento that gradually moves to a closer interval. From the state of changing the intervals slowly and carefully, it is used to mean a state of doing things with checking the degree of completion.
Yatara, Yataramettara and Metta
It is written as 矢鱈 in Chinese characters today, which is a phonetic equivalent Soseki NATSUME made, but this originally indicates a beat of Gagaku. It is an irregular meter connecting the rhythmic cells of binary and triple measures. Accordingly, it indicates an exaggerated gesture or state that is out of rhythm and therefore insane. Tara is derived from Tala (rhythm) of Sanskrit.
It stems from the final rehearsal with percussion, after the practice of wind instruments.
It stems from not using the sound of 'Ya' and 'Bo' out of the 17 tubes of a Sho flute.
Samaninaru/Samainaru (looking good)
By extension of proficiency of the Samai dance
By extension of the Umai dance
Ninomai' is a Tsugaimai dance performed together with 'Ama,'; exceptionally, both of them belong to Saho but only for costumes, while Uho costumes are used in Ninomai. The situation is, after Ama is performed well, Ninomai dancers try to imitate the performance, but they cannot perform well and make funny movements. Accordingly, it indicates failure after imitating somebody else's success. It is principally incorrect to mean repeating somebody else's mistake.
It was also read as 'Ryoritsu' in old times. Ryo and Ritsu are large classifications of musical tones in Gagaku (See "Tone of Music" as described above), Roretsu means the tone of music in a broad sense. The expression 'Roretsu-ga-mawaranai' has been used when trying to perform a number made for Ryosenpo with Rissenpo; the tone becomes strange and the notes become off-key (accordingly, when words cannot be continuously pronounced well in the context of a speech or a chant).
Ninoku-wo-tsugenai (to be dumbstruck）
It stems from the difficulty of singing when moving from the first phrase to the second in Roei, when suddenly the notes become high.
Opportunities to Appreciate Gagaku
Gagaku performed at shrines or other places and allowing recording or shooting. * has the Dobu dance (with a boy or girl in heavy makeup).
The Tohoku Region
Early May: An Evening of Gagaku - Gunma Prefecture Gokoku-jinja Shrine (Takasaki City)
Early October: Fall Concert of Gagaku - Nukisaki-jinja Shrine (Tomioka City)
Mid-November: Bugaku Festival - Kasamainari-jinja Shrine (Kasama City) *
Early July: An Evening of Gagaku - Omiya Hachimangu (Suginami Ward)
The Koshinetsu Region
The Tokai Region
April 16: Toshogu Festival - Nagoya Toshogu (Naka Ward, Nagoya City)
April 29: Spring Kagura Festival - Ise Jingu (Ise City) *
May 1: Bugaku Shinji Ritual - Atsuta Jingu (Atsuta Ward, Nagoya City) *
The Hokuriku Region
July 7: Water Festival - Kibune-jinja Shrine (Sakyo ward, Kyoto City) *
September 15, before dawn : Iwashimizu Festival - Iwashimizu Hachimangu (Yawata City) *
Other areas in the Kinki Region
April 22: Shoryoe - Shitenno-ji Temple (Tennoji Ward, Osaka City) *
May 5: Children's Day Bugaku Concert - Kasugataisha Shrine (Nara City) *
May, Kaminou Day: Unoha Shinji Ritual Bugaku Dedication - Sumiyoshitaisha Shrine (Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka City) *
June 10: Rokokusai Festival - Omijingu (Otsu City)
Harvest moon: Full Moon Festival - Sumiyoshitaisha Shrine (Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka City)
Late September: An Evening of Gagaku - Ikuta-jinja Shrine (Chuo Ward, Kobe City)
November 3: Culture Day Bugaku Concert - Kasugataisha Shrine (Nara City) *
The Chugoku Region