Japanese Music

Japanese music is primarily a unity of music, words and dance. But it also includes pure instrumental music and has developed the greatest variety of forms in the field of vocal music.

In addition to the European music that dominates today, Japan still has its own musical tradition, which is characterized by monophonic melodies without harmonic accompaniment and a highly differentiated use of microtones, timbres and free rhythms.

First period (up to the end of the 6th century): stone flutes and bronze bells are archaeologically documented. Clay figures from barrows show dancers, zither players and drummers. Written sources from the early 8th century also show bamboo flutes and a large treasure trove of songs. Jew’s harp and epic song of the recent culture of the Ainu are also considered to be witnesses of the oldest period.

Second period (7th – 10th centuries): Together with Buddhism, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Central Asian and others came in several waves. Music to Japan. The 75 preserved instruments in the Shōsōin, the treasure house of the Emperor Shōmu († 756) in Nara, still bear witness to the international musical style of the time in which the Gagaku were developed, which was subordinate to the imperial music office from 701. The gradually unmanageable variety of styles was rearranged into two main directions in the 9th century: the “right music” Komagaku from the old Korean empires and the “left music” Togaku from China and the other Asian countries that had already influenced Chinese music. The Gagaku arrangements of profane vocal music (Saibara-rōei) and ceremonial music of the Shintō cult (Kagura and others) are only partially integrated into this system as further developments of autochthonous traditions.

Third period (11th – 16th centuries): Outside the courtly sphere, other elements of imported music were cultivated under the protection of the monasteries and under the auspices of the sword nobility. The Buddhist chant (Shōmyō) based on the Indian hymn was transformed into new, specifically Japanese hymns (Wasan, Goeika). Obliged to the Buddhist sphere is the non-courtly variant of the Biwa, which contributed to the rise of epic singing technique and thus of the great war histories of this period. As a forerunner of the two southern Japanese forms Satsuma-biwa and Chikusen-biwa, the instrument continues to the present day. The Nō game (Nō). With its two hourglass drums (Ōtsusumi, Kotsusumi), frame drum (Tai-ko) and transverse flute (Nōkan) it reflects the tradition of rural instrumental ensembles, the singing style is Buddhist.

Fourth period (17th to mid-19th century): The mid-16th century by the Ryūkyūinseln introduced three-stringed lute spit shamisen developed into a characteristic of a new, bourgeois musical culture. It led to the emergence of numerous epic and lyrical styles in the singing tradition. The art of recitation (Jōruri) of the narrators of the puppet show only came to perfection in connection with the Shamisen as Gidayūbushi. In addition, the Shamisen contributed to the creation of the famous Kabuki dance songs with their extensive instrumental interludes (Nagauta). The typical shamisen music, fixed arrangements of several short songs (kumiuta), is also used by the new koto music. These are pure instrumental pieces (Danmono or Shirabemono) for Koto alone or songs with instrumental accompaniment (Jiuta) with independent instrumental interludes (Tegoto), mostly in a trio from Koto, Shamisen and a slightly curved longitudinal flute (Shakuhachi) can be played. This koto music is used today by the schools Ikuta, Yamada, Joshisawa and others. groomed. The art of Shakuhachi, once spread by wandering monks of the Fuke School, is handed down by the Kinko and Tozan schools.

Fifth period (from the middle of the 19th century): With the opening of Japan to Western influences, traditional music lost its importance. Today’s remains are of various ages. This fact is v. a. to owe to the Japanese tradition principle, which sets the student exactly on the model of the teacher, with the result that innovations cannot prevail within a tradition, but lead to the establishment of other schools. However, modern Japanese music often falls back on Japanese-Asian forms, which in turn partly influence modern Western music. Efforts by contemporary Japanese composers to combine Western ways of composing with Asian notions of sound can be found in the works of Maki Ishii (* 1936, † 2003) who, inter alia. studied with B. Blacher, as well as with Fujieda Mamoru (* 1955), who completed his training, inter alia. from M. Feldman in the USA, and from Toshio Hosokawa (* 1955), who among others. studied with I. Yun and Klaus Huber in Germany. In addition to the composers already mentioned, experimental music deals with among others. Toshiro Mayuzumi (* 1929, † 1997), Toru Takemitsu (* 1930), Toshi Ichiyanagi (* 1933) and Yūji Takahashi (* 1938). Akira Nishimura (* 1958) orientates herself on the Asian musical culture, who is considered to be a representative of an Asian avant-garde.

Yokohama History

According to a2zgov, after the conclusion of the Treaty of Kanagawa (1854), which forced the opening of Japan, Kanagawa was expanded in 1859 as one of the first new foreign trading centers, merged in 1889 with the neighboring former fishing village of Yokohama and elevated to the status of a city. During the severe earthquake (1023) and at the end of the Second World War, Yokohama suffered severe destruction. With the subsequent reconstruction, the population increased sharply (1950: 951,200, 1970: 2.24 million, 1990: 3.22 million residents).

Japanese Music