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Japanese Traditional Music: Koto - Shamisen

WA 2012CD WA 2012CD

...Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai 1941. The World Arbiter label presents 1941 recordings of the Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai -- masters of the koto and shamisen, heard with excerpts from theater and songs performed by many artists born in the Meiji period. They represent the earliest examples of ancient classical traditions. In the late 1930s, Japanese musicologists and experts completed years of work on a project to record their country's musical cultures, starting with ritualized shamanic traditions of the palace's gagaku, Buddhist chant, Noh theater, blind lute (biwa) players chanting medieval epics, a body of koto music, shamisens of kabuki dances, folk songs of workers, artisans, farmers, and children's songs. Five volumes, each with 12 78 rpm discs, comprised the leading performers of the time, many born into a Japan that newly opened to the West in 1868, taught by masters of an earlier isolated Japan. These recordings were meant to be given only to educational institutions and not sold. Right before starting their distribution, war broke out in 1941. Beate Sirota Gordon, age 22, accompanied the U.S. Army to Japan in 1946. She had grown up in Tokyo with her parents, Russian pianists whose pupils included Yoko Ono and her father. Beate secretly wrote a pioneering section on women's rights in Japan's post-war Constitution. During her mission, Donald Ritchie, a noted film historian, discovered a set of these recordings and gave them to her. Gordon presented them to Arbiter in the late 1990s. Aside from her copy, only one other complete set is known to have survived the war in Japan, as they were possibly destroyed in a warehouse bombing. The people of post-war Japan and the rest of the world now have the chance to hear these lost recordings of Japan's broad cultural legacy. On these recordings, one is struck by a sense of eternity belonging to a culture living in a mind-set of immortality and permanence, an ease buoying virtuosity and intricate musical forms, revealing a gripping authenticity that later performers hint at. This third of five discs contains significant examples of the koto and shamisen literature, dances from Kabuki and puppet theater traditions, many originating in the 1700s. Full descriptions are included in a lengthy booklet, while complete translations are on Arbiter's web site. Arbiter loves Japan and its arts, and is honored to revive lost master performers.