IAML/IASA Annual Conference, Perugia, Monday 2 September 1996, 14:15 - 15:45
IAML. Cataloguing Commission
Michitaka Takeuchi (Kunitachi College of Music, Tokyo).
Documentary sources of Japanese music of the 18th and 19th centuries:
its classification and cataloguing
In Japan, there has been a rich variety of many different genres of
music. On this occasion, I would like to consider source materials to
document music from the 18th and 19th centuries written for the
three-stringed shamisen. Most of this music is either derived from the
Kabuki theater or closely related to other forms that are used on stage.
The first recorded performance of Kabuki was in 1603. The Japanese word
is written today with three characters that mean "song", "dance" and
"acting". As these characters imply, Kabuki is a form of theater in
which acting and dancing have become one, In a day's program of Kabuki,
there was always at least one dance. This dance would be accompanied by
music featuring the shamisen. Two forms of music were used, a lyrical
style called Nagauta, featuring poetic descriptions of the scene, and
several different narrative genres that would tell the story through
dance in scenes called "joruri shosagoto". Originally these styles were
quite distinct, but after the 19th century the boundaries between
lyrical and narrative forms became blurred.
In the city of Edo (the old name for Tokyo), a style called Edo Nagauta
was born in 1727. These pieces were composed of short lyrical sections
strung together. Narrative forms called Joruri for the Kabuki theater
that included storytelling accompanied by the shamisen included
Ichu-bushi. Edo Joruri began with Kato-bushi in 1717. In addition there
was a style developed by the singer Miyakoji Bongo-no-jo who split off
from Ichu-bushi. His singing became immensely popular over many parts of
Japan but was eventually banned by the shogunate. In 1747,
Tokiwazu-bushi was developed by musicians that came from Miyakoji
Bungo-no-jo's tradition. In 1748, further splits created Tomimoto-bushi.
Finally, in 1814, Kiyomoto-bushi was born when a group of musicians
broke away from Tomimoto-bushi. Although Miyakoji-bushi was used in the
Kabuki theaters of Kamigata (the present cities of Kyoto and Osaka), a
narrative form of music called Gidayu-bushi was used in the puppet
drama, now called Bunraku. Many plays from the puppet theater were
adapted for the Kabuki theater and Gidayu-bushi came to be an integral
part of the music of the Kabuki theater as well.
In the Kabuki theater today, pure Kabuki music styles like Nagauta,
Tokiwazu and Kiyomoto are constantly used and are preserved by large
numbers of professional and amateur musicians. Other styles like
Ichu-bushi, Kato-bushi, Tomimoto-bushi and Miyasono-bushi are only used
in Kabuki very infrequently and listened to by small groups of devotees.
We know very little about the working situation of musicians in the Edo
period (1603-1868). But the various posters and programs published for
the Kabuki theater can give us some idea of the situation for the city
of Edo. It seems that in Edo, groups of Nagauta musicians were
contracted to play in a particular theater for several years at a time
while Joruri musicians were contracted for one year at a time. A Kabuki
season began in the eleventh month and ran until the tenth month of the
following year. The first production was the most lavish and was called
the kaomise or "face showing" performance since it was an opportunity to
show off the new company for the year. The names of the musicians that
were already contracted to appear in a theater for the year appeared on a
poster that announced the names of the company for the year. This
poster was called the Kaomise Banzuke. The particular plays performed in
a month were announced in Tsuji Banzuke ("street corner poster"). On
occasion, a special play on a program would have a separate poster of
its own called an Ichimai Banzuke ("one street poster"). Before the
opening day of a particular program, picture books called Ehon Banzuke
appeared which give us an idea of the rough contents of a play and its
story. Of course, there were often changes between the time this banzuke
appeared and opening. The Mon Banzuke ("banzuke with actors' crests")
were published after the opening of the production and give more
accurate idea of the contents of the play.
The actual scripts used on stage were not published, but story books
with pictures called E-Iri Kyogenbon ("playbook with pictures") or E-Iri
Nehon ("source book with pictures") give us an idea of the story of the
But even though the words of the actors were not published, the texts of
the music used on stage were carefully published. Until around 1800, in
addition to the lyrics themselves, alongside them, there were words or
symbols to suggest the music. However, by the 19th century these
booklets came to show only the text of the music. It seems that most of
the texts for Nagauta pieces were written by the same playwright or
playwrights responsible for the rest of the play.
These booklets were printed from wooden blocks. The text would be
written out and pictures drawn by an artist. Then the block would be
carved by another craftsman and then the actual copies printed by yet
another craftsman. When printing from wooden blocks, after about 300 or
500 copies, the print becomes unclear. If there was sufficient demand, a
new printing would be made. If changes had been made in the music,
these changes might be reflected in the new printing.
The pages of these books were made from thin sheets of Japanese rice
paper that were printed on one side and folded in half so that there
would be print on both sides of a page. A booklet with the text of a
Nagauta piece would usually not exceed five or six sheets of paper. A
booklet with the text of a Kabuki Joruri piece would rarely exceed 15
sheets of paper. The patrons of the theater would buy these booklets and
some of them would use the booklets to learn to perform the pieces
themselves, often taking actual music lessons. The demand for popular
pieces was such that they were printed and reprinted many different
times and some pieces have more than ten different books. But
unfortunately, there are no dates on these books. It is only possible to
guess at the date when they were published by looking at such features
as the style of the handwriting, the name of the publisher and the type
of paper. Often there are illustrations of actors and lists of names of
musicians on the cover, but these cannot always be used directly as
indications of the publication date.
The full texts of Gidayu pieces used for puppet plays were different.
They were very long and most of them use nearly 100 sheets of paper.
Rather than being used by lovers of music, these books were mostly read
As you can see, the source materials for researching shamisen music are
very ephemeral and are the popular printing of the time. There is a wide
variety and rich quantity of source materials for the actors and acting
of the Kabuki theater, but there is very little documentation of the
music. With great effort it was possible to collect some source
materials. Today, it is almost impossible to find any more materials.
Over the space of thirty-five years, I have collected around 10,000
items. This collection has been given to the library of the Kunitachi
College of Music. It is being catalogued and already seven volumes of
the catalogue have appeared. Three more volumes are scheduled to be
issued. (I will bring copies of the volumes that have appeared already
so that you will be able to see them).
On the basis of this catalogue, an accurate chronology of shamisen music
will be prepared. Part of this chronology has been completed and is
scheduled to be part of this exhibit.
There are forms of music that were used in 18th century Kabuki that
disappeared entirely while others were absorbed into other genres. The
use of music was different in different geographical regions. Often
music was reused and put together in new forms on stage. In addition,
since source materials are so scarce, it is often extremely difficult to
I hope to give a clearer idea of the different types of source materials
by showing a chart of the different types and to explain it by showing
actual examples of these source materials.
Sources documentaires de la musique japonaise du 18ème et 19ème siècle:
classification et catalogage
La musique pour shamisen à trois cordes est dérivée par le théâtre
Kabuki ou par d'autres formes de spectacle théâtral. Le Théâtre Kabuki
est documenté à partir de 1603, comme spectacle mixte de chant, danse et
action - comme témoignent les trois idéogrammes qui forment son nom.
Dans le Kabuki on avait toujours au moin une danse jouée par le
Au cours des siècles, le Kabuki connut plusieures variantes, à Edo
(l'ancienne Tokyo, ou en 1727 naquit le Edo Nabuki), Kyoto (Ichi-bushi,
après 1700), et dans les autres villes du Japon.
La situation de travail des exécutants est documentée par les programmes
et les affiches de la saison des théâtres, qui durait du onzième mois
au dixième de l'année suivante; les contrats étaient normalement de une
ou plusièures saisons.
Il n'y avait pas de livrets complets des textes, mais plutôt des livres
illustrés qui résumaient la partie récitée et reportaient le texte
complet de la seule partie chantée, avec - jusq'environ à 1800 - des
mots ou des signes qui rappelaient la partie musicale. Les livrets
étaient publiés sur papier japonais en xylographie de 300 à 500
éxemplaires; si la demande était supérieure, on préparait une autre
édition, qui pouvait accueiller les éventuelles variantes du spectacle.
Malgré la quantité de sources sur le théâtre, il y a très peu de
documentation sur la musique. Les environ 10,000 documents que j'au
récueilli au cours de trente-cinq ans ont été donnés à la bibliothèque
du Kunitachi College of Music et sont maintenant en train d'ètre
catalogués, produisant des volumes et une complète chronologie de la
musique pour shamisen.