Gagaku: Concert-Lecture by Tenri University Gagaku Music Society


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These two concert-lectures present an immersive introduction to the courtly music tradition of gagaku by the distinguished Tenri University Gagaku Music Society based in Japan’s Nara prefecture.

Gagaku (lit. ‘elegant music’) is the oldest surviving music in Japan. It evolved into its present form around the 10th century CE as a fusion of musical traditions that had arrived from continental Asia via the Silk Roads and native Japanese music and dances that had been handed down since ancient times. Gagaku has been performed at the Imperial Court ever since and in selected important Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

Through a diverse programme, guests are introduced to different genres of gagaku including kangen instrumental pieces, vocal music and bugaku dance, along with the rich ensemble of instruments that make up the singular and sublime sound of the gagaku orchestra. These include the wind instruments, the reed hichiriki, shō and ryūteki, the string instruments, koto and biwa, and various percussion instruments.  

These performances are part of a season of events held in collaboration with Nara Prefecture allowing Japan House visitors to experience the sacred culture of Japan. They coincide with the British Museum’s display of rare Buddhist and Shinto treasures ‘Nara: sacred images from Early Japan’. 


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