*1 Shuteiga – An Autumn Garden
This work was composed by Tōru Takemitsu in 1973 as a contemporary Gagaku work for a 17-member ensemble. It premiered at the National Theatre and was well received. This led to the 1979 composing of the six-movement work Shuteiga Ichigu for 29-member ensemble. In Gagaku, ”Ichigu” means a work consisting of multiple movements and all of the movements together constitute the work. In an interview by the National Theatre, Sukeyasu Shiba commented that Shuteiga Ichigu was composed of elements that were constructed in a way not seen in Gagaku composition and that his encounter with this piece that led to the formation of Reigakusha (the Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble).
*2 Shikibushoku Gakubu (Music Department) of the Imperial Household Agency
This is the institution where the Gagaku tradition is passed on in the Imperial Palace. Shikibu-shoku is the abbreviation of the Shikibushoku Gakubu (Music Department) of the Imperial Household Agency. The Gagakuryo department was established the year 701 CE to be in charge of carrying on the Gagaku tradition. After the Meiji Restoration (1886), it was renamed the Gagakubu department of the Gagakuka division of the Gagakukyoku Bureau. And in 1921 it was renamed again as simply the Gakubu . It is the department in charge of Gagaku performances in ceremonies performed in the Imperial Palac, and in 1955, it was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the Japanese government. To become a Gagakubu musician, gakushi , after graduating from middle school, the candidate must pass a test to enter the music department of the Imperial Household Agency as a gakusei (music student) and study the necessary musical skills and knowledge for seven years to officially be accepted as a Gagakubu musician ( gakushi ). The duty of the gakushi is to carry on the Gagaku tradition, but they also study Western music so they can perform at occasions such as the Emperor’s dinner parties as well as taking part in the preservation of the Gagaku costumes, instruments and masks.
In Gagaku, before the musicians receive an instrument to play, they learn the melodies of pieces by singing them while tapping the rhythm on their knees. The shoga melodies sung are different for each instrument. For example, with the sho, the melody for the piece Etenraku is sung with the sounds boo ooo iiichi otsuuuu , but for the hichiriki flute it is chii raa roo rooru taaaruraa . There are no shoga melodies for the stringed instruments.
This solo work for sho was created by John Cage working in collaboration with Mayumi Miyata in 1991. As a tool for the composition process, Cage used a computer program intended for use in I Ching type divination to employ a chance operation for selecting sounds and to be inserted in time sequences and thus achieve a randomness and element of chance to the product. The work consists of ten short pieces of about 12 or 13 minutes each.
This is the best known work in the Gagaku repertoire. The dance that originally accompanied it is lost and only the music for kangen (the wind and string instruments) remains.
The families that passed on the tradition of Gagaku performance from generation to generation.