Refers to a type of traditional Japanese music mainly performed at Imperial court ceremonial occasions. The name is a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters for elegant music (ya yueh). This music was imported from Korea to Japan in the 5th century and it became part of established court tradition by the 8th century. In the 9th century the various forms of North Asian, Chinese, Indian, Southeast Asian, and indigenous Japanese music were organized into two major genres: togaku and komagaku. Togaku, the so-called 'music of the left,' is derived from Chinese and Indian forms while komagaku, the 'music of the right,' contains Southeast Asian and Japanese forms. Performances of gagaku typically include combinations of plucked instruments, wind instruments, drums and a gong. The main drum and flute of the two types differ, and komagaku does not involve stringed instruments. The term kangen refers to purely instrumental performances of gagaku while bugaku ('dance music') refers to the music performed with accompanying ceremonial dance. Some aspects of accompanying Shinto ritual and ancient vocals have remained; most of the solo music for the gagaku instruments has been lost although some notations have survived. Surviving gagaku music provides valuable information about traditional national musical forms. Gagaku closely resembles the secular music of China during the Tang dynasty and thus sheds light on the music of this ancient period.

Quick Facts

Go Historic ID
35112

More Definitions

Refers to a type of traditional Japanese music mainly performed at Imperial court ceremonial occasions. The name is a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters for elegant music (ya yueh). This music was imported from Korea to Japan in the 5th century and it became part of established court tradition by the 8th century. In the 9th century the various forms of North Asian, Chinese, Indian, Southeast Asian, and indigenous Japanese music were organized into two major genres: togaku and komagaku. Togaku, the so-called 'music of the left,' is derived from Chinese and Indian forms while komagaku, the 'music of the right,' contains Southeast Asian and Japanese forms. Performances of gagaku typically include combinations of plucked instruments, wind instruments, drums and a gong. The main drum and flute of the two types differ, and komagaku does not involve stringed instruments. The term kangen refers to purely instrumental performances of gagaku while bugaku ('dance music') refers to the music performed with accompanying ceremonial dance. Some aspects of accompanying Shinto ritual and ancient vocals have remained; most of the solo music for the gagaku instruments has been lost although some notations have survived. Surviving gagaku music provides valuable information about traditional national musical forms. Gagaku closely resembles the secular music of China during the Tang dynasty and thus sheds light on the music of this ancient period.

Page Info

Title
gagaku
Date Published
December 12, 2012
Last Updated
April 22, 2021