Gagaku was the music performed for the nobility and upper class at Court. It's divided into three categories: original foreign music, pure Japanese music, and combinations of the two. The foreign music of Gagaku is further divided into To-gaku and Komogaku--music of Chinese origin and Korean origin, respectively. This music is purely instrumental. The pure Japanese musc, Kokofu kabu, is vocal with instrumental accompaniment. The third category includes Saibara, from folksongs, and Roei, from chanted Chinese poetry.
The To-gaku percussion instruments are the kakko, the shoko, and the taiko. The kakko has braced sides and skin faces on the top and bottom. It is struck with unpadded sticks and is tuned by loosening or tightening the skin. There are three very different methods of keeping rhythm: roll with both hands, single, sharply accented strokes, and then left hand rhythm accented by a right hand stroke.
The shoko is a gong made of bronze hung by silk and is struck by two padded sticks in three different patterns: a left-right double stroke, a right hand stroke, and a left hand stroke.
The taiko is a giant hanging drum also struck by two leather padded sticks. The soft left handed stroke is regarded as female, and the harsher right hand stroke is considered male.
Koma-gaku percussion instruments consist of the same shoko and taiko as above, and the san-no-tsuzumi. This one is bell shaped side drum; it is struck on one side only.
The mouth organ, or Japanese sho, consist of seventeen bamboo pipes arranged in a circle which project into an airchamber. The lower end of the pipes holds a vibrating metal tongue. Sound is produced by covering the holes located right above air chamber and inhaling and exhaling. The length of the pipes appears to be merely aesthetic (Harich-Schneider 124-125).
Prominent wind instruments include the shakuhachi and the hichiriki. The shakuhachi was most likely a staple in orchestral court music. The hichiriki is a bamboo double-reed (Harich-Schneider 130).
The koto is a part of a family of zithers with moveable frets. There are four types: gakuso, tsukuso, zokuso, and shinso. It is long, 180-190 cm., thin, and has a rectangular wooden body with 13 strings of equal length. Bamboo, bone, or ivory picks are used to pluck the strings.
Below is a set of traditional Japanese music instruments:
Tags: Music Culture