Japanese Folk Music - Traditional and Folk Music

Traditional and Folk Music

There are two forms of music recognized to be the oldest forms of traditional Japanese music. They are shōmyō (声明 or 聲明?), or Buddhist chanting, and gagaku (雅楽?) or orchestral court music, both of which date to the Nara and Heian periods. Gagaku is a type of classical music that has been performed at the Imperial court since the Heian period. Kagura-uta (神楽歌), Azuma-asobi(東遊) and Yamato-uta (大和歌) are indigenous repertories. Tōgaku (唐楽) and komagaku originated from the Chinese Tang dynasty via the Korean peninsula. In addition, gagaku is divided into kangen (管弦) (instrumental music) and bugaku (舞楽) (dance accompanied by gagaku).

Originating as early as the 13th century are honkyoku (本曲 "original pieces"). These are single (solo) shakuhachi (尺八) pieces played by mendicant Fuke sect priests of Zen buddhism. These priests, called komusō ("emptiness monk"), played honkyoku for alms and enlightenment. The Fuke sect ceased to exist in the 19th century, but a verbal and written lineage of many honkyoku continues today, though this music is now often practiced in a concert or performance setting. The samurai often listened to and performed in these music activities, in their practices of enriching their lives and understanding.

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