Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music

Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music

Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music

Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music

Excerpt

The Kabuki theatre has long been admired for the artistry of its plays, the skill of its actors, and the brilliance of its decor. Its musical qualities, however, have generally been ignored. Writers on kabuki recognize the fact that the spectacular dramaturgical elements of kabuki float on a variegated but, for the Westerner, generally undifferentiated sea of music. Nevertheless, because of space or specialization, they have been unable to complete their discussions with actual musical analyses. This book is an attempt to fill in this gap by presenting an introductory study of one of its major musical elements, nagauta. In addition, it is hoped that a better understanding of this single form, as it is used both in and out of the theatre, will be a step toward a fuller appreciation of Japanese music in general. At present Japanese music tends to be viewed as a series of exotic pleasantries. With the gradual appearance of detailed studies in specific musics it may be possible to change such a picture to one of a group of historically connected art forms. As in Western music, each of these genres must obey certain general laws of musical logic. At the same time, each displays special solutions to its specific artistic problems. The discovery of how a particular music operates within such general and specific rules is one of the goals of music research. It has been a strong motivation for this work.

In a world as varied as that of Japanese music one could begin to study anywhere with intellectual and musical profit. I have chosen to begin with nagauta because it is a living tradition which grew out of the most recent flourishing period of Japanese music history, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Perhaps more important than this is the fact that I like nagauta. I think it is beautiful, and beauty should be shared with others.

This book of necessity must be addressed to many different audiences; the musician, the Orientalist, the theatre devotee . . .

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