Japan - Gagaku

Gagaku: The Imperial Court Music of Japan
The Kyoto Imperial Court Music Orchestra
Lyrichord 7126


  1. Irite (prelude)
  2. Etenraku (kangen)
  3. Manzairaku (kangen)
  4. Embu (bugaku)
  5. Hassen (bugaku)
  6. Nasori (bugaku)
  7. Goshoraku (kangen)
  8. Karyobin (kangen)

Playing time: 43'

Recording date: unknown; original release date: 1964 (LP)

This music was said to have been brought from China, boosting its antiquity. Recent research into Chinese sources has indeed linked it to T'ang Dynasty orchestral music. The interesting twist, apparently demonstrated to some level of satisfaction, is that the Gagaku musicians have come to slow these pieces down over the centuries and now play the ornaments as the main melody. This may account for the dissonant character of the melodies. In any event, it provides an interesting & distinctive sonority, well worth hearing.

The main type of Gagaku on this record is called kangen, or instrumental concert music. The instruments are the sho (a set of seventeen bamboo pipes in a wind chest), the hichiriki (a short bamboo double reed), the biwa lute, the koto zither, the kakko (a small drum), and the large taiko drum. Of these, the koto, taiko & biwa are found in other styles of Japanese music, including as solo instruments. The wind instruments provide the most characteristic sound of Gagaku, however. The other type of music found here is bugaku, or dance music. It also includes the fue and the shokq (a metal bell).

To purchasing information for this disc.

To Japanese music intro.

T. M. McComb