Understanding of Asian Folk Music
Multicultural Music Education for Future Citizens of the Earth
With Workshop

Dr. FURIYA Miyako
Prof. Teikyo Heisei University, Japan

  Firstly I would like to show the piece November steps a little while composed by Tohru Takemitsu who was born from 1935 to 1996. He is one of the best composers in Japan. This year is his 80 years anniversary.

Photo 1: Takemitsu

  Leonard Bernstein asked Takemitsu to compose for the New-York Philharmonic Orchestra 125 year anniversary using Japanese traditional instruments and orchestra. November steps was composed in European style; the double concerto for two Japanese instruments Syakuhachi( a kind of bamboo flute) and Biwa ( a kind of lute). New York Philharmonic Orchestra gave the first performance in 1996 conducted by Seiji Ozawa who was the principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera now. This video clip is not the first performance.

Video 1: November steps

  Iwonder how about your impressions are. I will return back to this piece later. Now I would like to shortly tell you Japanese music education. Japan began to modernize from 1898 year , Meiji Era after about 300 years’ national isolation, The governors of the Meiji Era built up Japanese public education system learning the educational systems of the Western countries. Since then Western music has been taught in Japanese general education more than hundred years. Even Japanese music tradition is very much different from Western music, for example the scales are five notes scales, the feeling of the time signature is completely different, and there is no harmony.

Slide 1: Japanese five-tone scales

  One of the most important musicians in Japanese traditional music modernization was Michio Miyagi born from 1894 to 1956 who was the Soh ( generally called Koto, so that I will say Koto) player and composer. Miyagi also improved Koto. Normally Koto has thirteen strings. Miyagi improved 17 Gen ( This a kind of Koto has seventeen strings, and nowadays this instrument is often played) and even eighty gen( This kind of Koto has eighty strings). He was blind. He eagerly learned and adopted Western music. The most famous composition Haru no Umi ;The sea in spring was composed for Koto and Syakuhachi which you have heard in November steps. He played with Syakuhachi but at the same time he actively played with Western musician, for example Yehudi Menuhin.

Photo 2: Michio Miyagi and Audio 1: The sea in spring

  Back to the November steps, two Japanese Biwa and Syakuhachi players played with Japanese somehow Buddhism philosophy. One is Ichionjohbutsu In Japanese. It means Just One sound to bring to Buddha. In Buddhism people practice asceticism the whole life to be Buddha. You will feel this philosophy listening their performance. The second is that one sound implies the whole universe. They truly tried to be the Buddha by only one sound and the one tone implies the whole universe. John Cage was deeply impressed Zen one of the Japanese Buddhism branch. November steps was conspicuous the difference of the characteristic between Japanese’s and Western music.
The two things are very important in Japanese traditional music and especially in instruments. The silence is more important than a sound. The one sound is always swaying the pitch and sound collar. These two are the characteristic in Japanese music. You will listen these two things with following video clip of Syauhachi.

Video 2: November steps

  Teachers used to teach Shoga in Japanese traditional music. Shoga is completely different from Western staff notation. Shoga is like a song. It imitates the instruments sound, melody and rhythm and at the same time playing technique. The following video clips are Shoga for the Noh Theater and the Koto. Before watch the video, let’s try a little of them.

Workshop 1: Shoga for the Noh Theater and the Koto

  Nowadays the importance of the multicultural music education is recognizes more and more. Because the purpose of the Multicultural Music Education is to promote understanding and living together with different nations on the earth. I feel that the world has become worth and worth, e.g. Environmental destruction, War and terrorism, expansion of gulf between haves and have-nots, economic failure in countries and so on. I think the goal of the music education is to be understood people’s lives and the way of thinking, and the other aspects lying behind the all genres of music, from Classical music to folklore through all diverse musical performing experiences. And the experience of the music is the key aspect to open the unfamiliar culture. My proposal for studying different culture is:

1) to learn by Using Traditional Concepts and Teaching System

2) to learn from Performers of Traditional Music

3) To learn Using Original Instrument and Original Vocal Technique

4) to Undertake Fieldwork to Understand the Lives and Ways of Thinking of those Performers

5) to learn not only Music but also Other Aspects of Culture, Nature, History, and Life

  Today I would like to add that it is not easy and very much difficult to understand other cultures as you sow the November steps. Some culture is similar but the others are seemed to impossible to understand of their difference. I would like to say we should know that it is very much difficult to understand another culture and the most important thing and the purpose of the Multicultural Music Education is not to understand the other culture but to know and to understand the difference of the culture very carefully. The most important thing is to admit and to allow the differences. Already I explained the philosophy of Japanese traditional music and you listened the November steps’ video clips, so that you will agree with me. This is my conclusion.

  Now let’s try two Asian music selections, some of Japanese children’s songs and Bali Kecak a little while. The reason that I selected is Japanese and Balinese are rice producing peoples and rice is our staple food. But the philosophy and music is very much different. We have some similarities’ and differences which are good examples. Let’s see the similarities with photos.

Photo 3 : Balinese and Japanese rice fields called Tanada

  Nowadays Japanese rice production uses many farm machineries. This photo is old style Japanese rice field.

Photo 4 : Balinese and Japanese traditional dances

  The Bali dance and Japanese dance are played at the position of a low waist. One of the reasons is that it is demanded from the rice production to keep the position of a low waist. Balinese also have the Shoga as a musical teaching system like Japanese. This Shoga is for Kendang, a kind of drum. Balinese music consists in dualism. Here is Shoga and drum playing in dualism. Let’s try, please follow with me.
Workshop 2: Shoga for Balinese drum Kendang.

  Now I would like to tell you about Japan. In Japanese cultural philosophy, our life styles were very simple like the Haiku poem style. Haiku consists of just 3 words’ poem, just 17 sounds, five, seven and five as you know. Here is an example.

Japanese : Furuikeya Kawazutobikomu Mizunooto.

Translation: The ancient pond A frog jumps in, The sound of water

  This is called Furoshiki, just a sheet of cloths, which has various sizes . When we do not use it, it is folded and it becomes very small. It has very many uses, e.g. like a bag, we make many styles with Furoshiki, like a table cloth and scarf and so on. This is a Kamifuhsen, a Japanese paper balloon, we have various sizes and when we do not use it, it is folded and it becomes very small. When we play with the paper balloon, we blow and put some air in it, like this. In Japanese we have various words for counting. For example, in older time we called one, two three for hi, fu, mi, yoh and now we use 1, 2, 3. 4.

Workshop 3:. Kamifusen Hitome, futame, miyakoshi, yomego. The first syllable of teach word is hi, fu, mi,
and so on. The first syllable of counting word is 1,2,3..

  Now Let’s try Balinese music Kecak just a little. Kecak define one kind of Opera with a chorus of seven and more males. Balinese call it just cak. Let’s try a little. The rhythm consist one couple of rhythm which reflects the Balinese dualism. It is called Kotekan-interlocking.

Workshop 4: Kecak

  The Kecak is offered to the Bali Hindu god. When the Terrorism attack occurred in Bali Island in Oct. 2002, the damage was so big and 7000 men performed , which was offered to the God 2006.
Video 3: Bali 7000 people Kecak after the terrorism 2002.

  The narration was Japanese, so that I will translate into English. Kecak of 7000 men performed at the Pura Luhur Tanah Lot in September 2006. It mourned for the dead in the terrorism of Bali in October 2002, and a revival was prayed for, and it was dedicated to the god of Hindu.

  You will feel that even the same Asian rice-producing people, Japanese and Balinese have similarities and at the same time , we have much different from each other. We should know it is very difficult to understand the differences of the other cultures with their backgrounds. I should like to add once more, the purpose of the Multicultural Music Education is not just to understand the other culture but also to know and to understand the differences of the other culture very carefully. The most important thing is to accept and to allow their differences.

  Now I would like to introduce my work, I have organized a big concert for this August. The concert is titled Meeting of the Western and Asian music and invites one of the greatest musicians from Hungary and Bali Island and we will play with them. You will see the poster. The concert consist of two parts, one is a Hungarian A cappella chorus and the other is Balinese two types of Gamelan with dance, Gender Wayang and Gamelan Gong Kebyar.We are trying to understand and to know the differences. We have studied their music for a long time with them, but the great trial is that we have not only studied with them but also we play and create music with them on the stage, that our minds, Hungarian. Balinese and Japanese will be able to approach more. I think this kind of exchange of our musical culture is very much needed now to understand each other.

  Mrs. Sadako Ogata who was a Former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that Even if cultures, religions and beliefs are different, what's important is saving the lives of people who are suffering. Peace that exists solely in your country is no peace, because every nation's fate is bound up in that of others. I agree with her, and our music educator also should better to contribute for this purpose.

  Thank you very much for your cooperation.