Relationship of Music and Culture Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3188 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music


Author Asai notes, "The taiko is a cylindrical drum with two drumheads. Each drumhead has a wide rim with up to twelve holes, through which ropes (himo) are strung. D? is the term for the drum body and wa or mimi refers to the rim" (Asai, 1999, p. 120). The drums are played with drumsticks called bachi, which are often the same basic size as the circumference of the drum. The players maintain the drums, and many of them are extremely hold. To play, they tighten the drumheads, and loosen them when they are done playing. The drums are traditionally played with the drummer on his knees, and the drummers often learn the n-mai as part of their training (Asai, 1999, p. 121).

Tebiragane -- These are cymbals used throughout the dance. Author Asai notes, "Played in pairs, these knobbed cymbals, formally known as tebiragane, are generally called kane. Iron was the original material used to make these instruments until steel became more widely available" (Asai, 1999, p. 122). The musician holds one cymbal in each hand to play, the three sets of varying size cymbals are used in the dance. Like the drums, the cymbals have a specific job in the music of the play. They are intended to keep the tempo steady, increase excitement during fast sequences, and create a type of "call-and-response" with the other two instruments during certain points in the dance (Asai, 1999, p. 122). It is interesting to note that all the members of the dance troupe learn to play the cymbals, and they alternate who plays them, since it is quite tiring to play them throughout an entire performance.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Relationship of Music and Culture Assignment

Fue -- The fue may be the most essential instrument in these dances because it is played from behind the curtain on the stage, and it is the only instrument to carry the melody in the dance. It is a transverse flute made from one piece of bamboo without joints. Author Asai notes, "It is a type of Japanese flute with seven finger holes formally referred to as shinobue. The flute gives voice to the gongen, and it is played from behind the stage curtain in the backstage area that symbolically serves as the abode of this deity during performances" (Asai, 1999, p. 123). For this reason, the flute is sacred to the Japanese people, another symbol of its importance in the performance. The flute is the most difficult of these instruments to play, and so, flute players train longer than other musicians. Like the other instruments, it comes in a variety of sizes (lengths), as well. Playing the flute is often passed down through families, but today, there are fewer people willing to learn, and it is often taught to anyone who shows an interest in playing the instrument (Asai, 1999, p. 124).

Japanese Music and Culture

Clearly, Japanese music has grown up around a growing Japanese culture, and it represents many changes in that culture. In effect, each different shift in culture produced a shift in music and performance, as well. For example, as court culture and court music waned, Buddhist and Shinto music grew in popularity, and then, as the Shogun culture caught on, ballads of epic battles and strength grew in popularity. During the Kamakura era, rural comic dances called dengaku (rice-field entertainment) were popular with the common people, while music performances grew more dramatic and vocal, as well (Asai, 1999, p. 5). This all reflects what was happening in the country, and how values were changing, and that continued through just about every period in Japanese history.

During the medieval period from the 1300s through the mid-1500s, the style changed again, and this represents how there began to be a wide gap in the status of the Japanese people. The culture was essentially being split in two. Author Asai continues, "Artists of both high and low status catered to two different audiences: the aristocracy and the upper echelons of the warrior classes and the masses, including the peasantry, merchants, and low-ranking samurai" (Asai, 1999, p. 5). This is when the noo type of dancing grew in popularity, the dance form that combined Shinto and Buddhist influences and predated the n-mai dance form. The culture was becoming more sophisticated in many areas, and people wanted more expressive ways to use their music, drama, and art in new ways. Music appealed to the common people, too, this is a time when the kouta, which were short ballads with no particular form gained in popularity in rural areas (Asai, 1999, p. 8).

In later times, the culture became a bigger blend of the cultural classes, because more rural people were gaining educations, and provincial warriors were becoming much more influential in the culture. This is when the n-mai dance form really began to blossom and flourish. Author Asai continues, "The medieval period experienced, for the first time in Japanese history, a certain social and cultural egalitarianism as lower class artists reached greater refinement in their art and upper-class audiences developed a taste for popular entertainment" (Asai, 1999, p. 9). The n-mai represents this blend and developing taste, and that may be one reason it has lasted in Japanese culture to the present day.

Beginning in the Edo period (1600 or so, until the mid-nineteenth century, another new music form grew in importance in Japan, and that was the Japanese form of chamber music. One of the most interesting groups of performers were the sokyoku-jiuta musicians, who played an important role in developing the music of this period. While there is little written about them, it is known they were blind musicians, and they belonged to an organization called the Todo. Two authors continue, "Over the centuries, they produced an immense body of works varying radically in style and form, from serious, large-scale works of chamber music to popular pieces from the licensed quarters with openly erotic texts" (Tokita & Hughes, 2008, p. 169). They also combined music from other traditions, adding to the depth and importance of their work. While little is known about the musicians themselves, much of their body of work remains, and it is still studied and enjoyed throughout Japan.

Of course, the dance theater is not the only type of historical music in Japan. In the eighteenth century, a more interesting form of entertainment grew in Japan, and as with other forms of entertainment, music was at the core of the puppet theater. Today it is known as bunraku, and it is made up of drama, music, and a performance by puppets. Traditionally, the story is accompanied by the shamisen, a stringed instrument that appeared in Japan in the sixteenth century. This may be one of the most traditional Japanese instruments for westerners; it is the three-stringed, lute-like instrument with the extremely long next that is often illustrated in Japanese musical drawing and etchings. As with many other Japanese entertainment, the scripts and dialogue are never written down, but passed from teacher to pupil orally, so no two performances are ever exactly alike (Tokita & Hughes, 2008, p. 197). This represents the flexibility of Japanese culture, and while they do honor tradition and their varied history, they appreciate flexibility and change, as well. As with many other traditional Japanese entertainment, bunraku is still performed today, during specific seasons in the country, and it is still quite popular.

In the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, kabuki theater was the most popular entertainment in Japan, and the music that accompanied it was extremely important, as well. Two other Japanese music experts note, "The dramatic core of kabuki is supported musically by the offstage orchestra, which provides background music and sound effects" (Tokita & Hughes, 2008, p. 230). Kabuki may be one of the most familiar forms of Japanese entertainment in the West, and it was adapted for the stage from the Japanese puppet theater, and from the early noo forms of dance theater, as well. All of these different types of historic Japanese music indicate that Japan had a flourishing culture during its long history, and that culture helped shape the music, and the music helped shape the culture, as well.

Modern Japanese Music

Modern Japanese music may be a misnomer, because there is so much historic music still enjoyed and performed throughout the country. However, Japan has a quite successful pop and rock music industry, and they have embraced many items of popular western music, from marching bands to classical music and beyond. It is important to note that the tonalities and scales of western music are not the same as Japanese music, and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many Japanese resented the intrusion of westernized music (Tokita & Hughes, 2008, p. 347-348). As the twentieth century progressed, Japan embraced more modern western music, from jazz and even boogie-woogie after the American occupation at the end of World War II (Tokita & Hughes, 2009, p. 351). To many modern people's chagrin, karaoke may be one… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Relationship of Music and Culture.  (2009, June 2).  Retrieved September 18, 2021, from

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"Relationship of Music and Culture."  2 June 2009.  Web.  18 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Relationship of Music and Culture."  June 2, 2009.  Accessed September 18, 2021.