Japanese music meditation

Japanese traditional music

The character of Japanese traditional music, originally based on the traditions of Shintoism , was largely shaped by its close connection with Zen Buddhism - the Japanese version of Buddhism (see " Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism ") . Buddhism came to Japan from China in the 6th century in the form of the Chinese Buddhist direction , partially enriched with elements of Taoism . Domesticated in Japan as Zen Buddhism, it soon prevailed over the original domestic Shintoism, which, however, did not displace, but with which it coexisted closely for centuries to this day. Buddhist teachings have become one of the fundamental factors shaping Japanese culture. In addition to music, we can mention austere sand and stoneZen gardens , teahouses and tea ceremonies (which are also religious rituals), calligraphy , short haiku poems .
Note: For our Japanese-style garden, see " Japanese Garden ".

Japanese tea ceremony
Zen Buddhism is the source of a remarkable, specifically Japanese phenomenon - the tea ceremony . Ceremonious own way tea is called anoju ( chanoyu ) - " hot water for tea ." Sad or chado (which means " tea path ") is then the collective name for the whole system of traditional Japanese tea culture. The origins of the tea ceremony go back to the realm of tea, to ancient China. In the 12th century. some Japanese monks, especially the Zen master Eisais, went to China to study Buddhist teachings and brought tea tree seeds to Japan. Tea gardens were initially established, especially at Zen monasteries. In the 15th century. The development of the tea ceremony and its transformation into a specifically Japanese style (in the spirit of wabi ) was significantly due to the prominent tea master Sen no Rikyu.
  This ceremonial drinking of tea, or rather a tea meeting (tea is a means here, not a purpose and a goal) is held in small " tea houses " surrounded by a sober Japanese-style rodi garden , with stepping stones. In front of the tea room is a stylish stone tsukubai well with a bamboo ladle ( hishaku), where incoming tea party participants wash their hands (see " Japanese Garden ") . The entrance to the teahouse is usually lowered and relatively narrow - it is said that this is so that the samurai have to lay down their swords if they want to pass; in any case, the inclination at the entrance is to express respect and humility. Moderately dressed guests without jewelery *) then enter a very simply furnished room with rice mats on the floor, tea tools and a drawing or calligraphy hanging on the wall.
*) In the spirit of the essentially democratic principle, it is not possible to know who is rich or poor; during the tea ceremony, everyone is equal in the spirit of wabi - voluntary and noble simplicity, modesty and sobriety. The house for making and drinking tea is called a timer (tea house), taian (tea hut) or soan (grass shack). The tea room is also called sukija - the hut of "emptiness", where everything is arranged only in a hint, everyone, according to their imagination, completes a certain idea in their interior. A significant place in a traditional Japanese tea room is the so-called tokonoma - a small room or just a niche in the wall, where scrolls with paintings or calligraphy, flowers arranged in the style of ikebana , bonsai and possibly other decorative accessories. The decoration in the tocone is adapted to the time of year and the style of a specific tea meeting.
  The tea ceremony itself excels in simplicity and modesty - in silence, in which a sound of swirling and bubbling water begins to be heard in a kettle over charcoal, which the Japanese compare to the whistling of the wind in pine trees or to the murmur of a waterfall. In the traditional highly stylized tea ceremony, it is customary to use green tea (usually a high-quality Gyokuro variety), ground to a powder, which is whipped with brushes made of chopped bamboo after pouring hot water.
  The philosophical side of the tea ceremony is based on four principles: Wa - harmony, Kei - respect, Sei - purity, Jaku - calmed mind ; Elements of Taoism also leave their mark here. The aesthetic side combines the concept of wabi-sabi (see " Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism").

Styles of traditional Japanese music
As in China and other Eastern countries, in Japan we encounter a remarkable phenomenon: very old and newer musical styles coexist here and are constantly practiced to this day .
Note: This situation is completely different from the development of classical European music, where the new musical style usually very quickly obscured and covered the older style, until it finally replaced it and pushed it into oblivion; it is only in recent decades that with the purposeful efforts of musicologists and early music lovers, they have once again operated older musical styles in " historically informed " interpretation.
  In general, Japanese traditional music has very different harmonic and rhythmic principles than European music, so at first listening it sounds very unusual to us. It is necessary to "listen" to it repeatedly before it starts to address us...
    We will briefly mention some of the most common styles of Japanese traditional music :

A common feature of most pieces of traditional Japanese music is its Zen-Buddhist sobriety , freedom from external effects, economy , concentration - sometimes only in one appropriately colored tone recognized at an opportune moment ( "Buddhahood of a single tone" ) ...
  Now it is very popular in Japan even the European classical music, including ours (Smetana, Dvok, Janek, ...). We have a big debt in this regard: classical Japanese music is practically unknown to us - apart from a narrow circle of serious applicants.

Japanese musical instruments

Shakuhachi -
a symbol of Japanese traditional music of meditation focus has become shakuhachi - a Japanese bamboo flute (length "foot 8 inches" = 54.5 cm) with five tone holes, 4 for the fingers in the front, one for the thumb in the back. Shakuhachi originally not serve as a musical instrument, but as a means of liturgical breathing exercises and meditation breath ( Shui Zen ) monk Fuke sect, called to someone - the monks ' nothingness '. The shakuhachi concert game gradually evolved from the fact that poor monks earned their living by playing shakuhachi.
  There are basically two styles of playing the shakuhachi - the fuk style based on the original style in the spirit of Sujzen (characterized by a characteristic hissing blow at the beginning after the breath - the sound ideal is "the rustle of the wind in a bamboo grove" ) and a more sophisticated kinko style emphasizing the musical side with a thoughtful melody.

  In addition to shakuhachi, other related bamboo flutes are used in Japanese traditional music. The ancestor of the shakuhachi is the Donshon flute . Jininas flutes are usually longer (some types reach a length of up to 90 cm), but a simpler design than shakuhachi. Flutes of type Ni Saku having different lengths, e.g. Ni Saku Yon Sun measured 75 cm, Ni Saku Ha Sun length is 84 cm.

Note: Our ethnomuzikolg and composer Vlastislav Matoušek is an excellent virtuoso on shakuhachi and at the same time a dedicated expert in Japanese music .
- table zither (developed from the Chinese zither Kucheng ) with 13 strings with sliding locusts. The strings resound with the strings strung on the fingers of the right hand, while the left hand compresses the strings - changing the pitch, creating a vibrato and other sound effects (such as "scratching the strings").
Biwa - a Japanese pear-shaped lute with 4 strings, with a vertically curved tuning end (developed from the Chinese lute Pipa ) . The strings resound with a strum.
Shamisen (also called sangen ) - a long-necked strumming lute with 3 strings, resounding with a large pick (the body is sometimes covered with cat skin) . Shamisen is rarely used solo, but often forms a "trio" with flute and kitten. Most often we can hear it as an accompanying instrument to the traditional Kabuki theater.
Sho - oral organ (developed from the Chinese Sheng organ ) .

Some traditional Japanese musical instruments:
Shakuhachi flute table zither Koto
lute Biwa 3-string Shamisen

In Japanese music, especially ritual, percussion instruments are often used , the most important of which are drums, often referred to collectively as Taiko:
Taiko - double-sided drums of various sizes (rather larger dimensions), with cowhide or horse skin membranes, placed on suitable stands. Depending on the size and location, we can mention eg Nagado-daiko , Hira-daiko (it is hung in a stand), Okedo-daiko , Odaiko or Ondeko (the largest drums, they have a diameter of up to 2 meters!).
Note: Drumming on large Japanese drums has recently become very popular among young people not only in Japan. Over the years, dozens of Taiko-style drummers have been formed around the world, especially in the United States. Drumming is sometimes performed in a direct "devilish" rhythm!

Some traditional Japanese percussion instruments:
Nagado-daiko     Hira-daiko        Okedo-daiko           Ondeko           A set of Taiko style drummers
Taiko drums are a common part of Japanese ceremonies
The sound library:

Satsuma - heroic and mysterious stories "Kaidan" from ancient Japan
Sings and plays biwu: Kinshi Tsuruta
Shomyo - liturgical singing of Buddhist monks
1st, 2nd, 3rd
Komuso - monks of nothingness
Meditation with shakuhachi
Bukagu-Ho-e - traditional Japanese music of Buddhist monasteries
Matsuriza - sacred drums Taiko
Starring: ensemble Vadaiko
Kagura - ritual drums Ondeko (up to 2 meters in diameter)
Starring: ensemble Ondekoza
Calligraphy - traditional compositions for shakuhachi
Plays: V.Matoušek
Concerto for 2 flutes of shakuhachi
Cast: ........
Shakuhachi with sounds from nature
Starring: R.Lee
Japanese traditional instrumental & vocal music - shakuhachi, biwa, koto, shamisen
Cast: Keiko Nosaka - koto, Sachiko Miyamoto - koto, Ayako Handa - biwa + singing , Kohachiro Miyata - shakuhachi, Horokazu Sigiura - bells. Dir .: Minoru Miki
Yamato Ito-take - traditional compositions for shakuhachi, koto and shamisen
Starring: Aiko Hasegawa - koto, Kikuto Satoh - shamisen, Richard Stagg - shakuhachi
Zen Spirit -
shakuhachi with sounds from nature Starring: R.Hiebinger - shakuhachi Kabuki - music for traditional Japanese theater Starring: Ensemble Nipponia
Hogaku -
spirited drums of Japanese agricultural and religious rituals
Starring: Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Ensemble, Directed by: Seido Kobayashi
KODO: Ubu - Suna - Japanese Taiko-style drums
Starring Kodo from the Japanese island of Sado.
................ ....
The list of other recordings of Japanese music that I have in the library will be gradually supplemented (data on titles and performers is sometimes difficult to obtain, I apologize for the incompleteness).

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Vojtech Ullmann