|The Music Itself||
The term Gagaku is used by the musicians of the Japanese Imperial Household, to refer to the vast repertoire of compositions and various forms based on the music that was introduced from China and Korea during the 6th and 7th centuries. The ancient native Japanese forms, like the sacred Mi-kagura and the Azuma Asobi and Yamato Mai, are also part of the tradition and responsibility of the imperial court musicians but are considered separate from the main body of the Gagaku repertoire. The music of Gagaku, like the dance, is broadly divided into two major stylistic forms, the music associated with the Right Side and that of the Left Side. The music of the Left is generally known as Togaku, or T'ang music. It is fundamentally considered to be of T'ang origin with whatever Central Asian, South East Asian and Indian elements were already incorporated into the T'ang style and along with many later Japanese compositions composed in that style.
The music of the Right is generally known as Komagaku, taking its name from one of the three ancient states of the present Korea. Although in Heian times in Japan, Komagaku, like Togaku could be performed as chamber music, as a performance for a full ensemble of winds and strings, and also as dance accompaniment, today Komagaku survives only as dance accompaniment. Chamber music performances in various combinations such as they have been described in the Heian period, do not survive either. Today Gagaku is performed in two ways. Togaku can be performed as kangen, concert music for winds, strings and percussion, or as bugaku, or dance music for which the stringed instruments are omitted. Komagaku survives only as bugaku accompaniment.
The music of Gagaku is much slower than most musics heard anywhere, even in Asia. Although the tempo has speeded up considerably in the past 80 years, something noted when listening back to old recordings, nevertheless the impression one has is of a very, very slow and drawn out pace. This music was developed to be heard in the ancient courts of Asia and as such was intended to reflect a sense of elegance, leisure and power. The structure of the music is based on a contrast between long, fixed rhythmic patterns, marked off by the percussion instruments, against the long melodic patterns that start and end in synchrony with the percussion pattern, but particularly in the longer compositions, create interesting contrastive patterns by drifting away from the underlying percussion pattern for varying periods of time. It is difficult us for most of us today to perceive the intricate formal patterns of this music because we are unaccustomed to such long slow patterns in music, but they do reflect something of the grace and elegance of those earlier times.
|The musicians of the Japanese Imperial Household Music Department performing Kangen, music with winds and strings, on the dance stage of the Music Department in the palace.|
Yen-Yueh in T'ang China and in Korea.
Music in Heian times
The Shosoin Imperial Repository.
Dance Robes of the Imperial Palace
Views of the Imperial Palace
The border is a section of the silk robes worn by dancers of the Right Group of the Imperial Palace Music Ensemble.
Last Updated 09.30.05