The Adaptation of Koday's Concept to Requirements

           of Individual National Musical Tradition

By Miyako Furiya

  Three major aspects of Koday's important concept are: to teach musicby singing, that is, using the most beautiful instrument we have; to start musical education from each culture's own musical tradition; and to teach musical reading and writing in general education.

All nations have their own different musical tradition just as they differ inlanguage. Koday's concept is based upon Hungarian musical tradition, so that we must research into the similarities and differences of our own musical traditions vis-a-vis those from Hungary before adapting the latter.

What we refer to by the term `singing' is the most basic and common form of musical expression. But each nation has its own different manners of singing and voice of singing. In Asia, especially, manners of singing are very different from those of Europe. Singing is not an abstract thing. The traditional musical tastes of nations are contained mostly in the manner of singing and the voice of singing. Consequently, when we teach children a little children's song, we must also bear inmind our own singing tradition. If Asian children are taught to listen to and sing in a general European singing voice alone and are then suddenly exposed to their own native singing manners and voice, they may well feel that it is very strange and will be unable to enjoy their own traditional music.

The Japanese have a very rich tradition in manners of singing: for example, in Shohmyo, one kind of religious music, in which Buddhist scriptures are sung, something like a Gregorian chantis very characteristic. The following manners of singing are also good examples: Noh theater, one genre of traditional opera; Gidayuh-bushi, the song of a traditional puppet show accompanied by the biggest Shamisen; Shinnai-bushi, old prostitute's songs in the Edo period, sung by a very high male voice accompanied by two Shamisens, in Naniwa-bushi, old popular music, in which one Shamisen accompanied the narration of a romance; and Folk song. Especially characteristic are the many kinds of melisma which we call Kobushi.

I strongly believe that such musical traditions should provide the starting point for musical education. This idea has world wide acceptance among educationalists, but is not so simple. The concept does not mean just to start from own children's songs or folk song. Music is not only music but it also embodies the history, culture and life of a nation and connotes philosophy. Many kinds of traditional music in the world are still handed down orally, and original traditional ways were developed in which to do so. These ways went beyond teaching the mere mechanics, for they also connoted the philosophy that underlay everything. So Kodly's concept of starting musical education from each culture's musical tradition connotes not only children's songs and folk song but also each culture's own musical philosophy and teaching manner, too, I think.

Regarding musical philosophy and the Japanese teaching manner in olden times, Japanese listened to the sounds of nature as music and not as mere noise. For example, the Shakuhachi, or bamboo flute, imitated the sound which blew through the bamboo grove. If we wish to write down one Shakuhachi sound in staff notation, we write just one note, but it contains many pitches and sounds. This is characteristic of Japanese taste in music. The best Japanese Shakuhachi players aimed to achieve a sound which could succeed in embracing nature, life, emotion and philosophy inone whole.

Japanese have a really good traditional way of teaching traditional instruments, called Shohga. This Shohga is not solmization, although it does have a little similarity. It is sung with melody and Japanese words, the sounds of which imitate the instrument. The Shohga shows the guideline and the nuance of the melody, and its more important purpose is to show the playing manner. So the word imitates the sound of the instrument. It is something like onomatopeia, so that the word and style are different for every instrument. Fig.1 provides examples of Shohga(1).

In old times Japanese teachers taught traditional instruments just by singing Shohga, and never used papers. A pupil had to concentrate deeply while listening. Pupils who wanted to be specialists used to live in the teacher's house and used to do all the housework and help the teacher in everything. Sometimes they were teaching assistants. They were fewin number and specially chosen. They were called Uchideshi. This expression conveys the concept that music is not only music but also a way of life and an expression of the person, too, and if a pupil wanted to learn music from a teacher, he firstly had to learn how to live and what the teacher's musical source was, as well as the reason for the teacher's source. In old times Japanese music was a form of research aiming to find out the truth of living. This may well sound strange to Europeanears, but this is Japanese musical tradition.

Concerning the terms of teaching musical reading and writing in general education, scale and rhythm are the most basic elements in any nation's musical tradition. It is impossible to ignore the differences between national musical traditions, yet it is tempting for Europeans tothink about them just in the European way. They are, however, so different. If we do not think the differences are so important and we ignore them, it means that we deny the idea of starting musical education from our own musical traditions. There are many existing concepts of scales apart from European scales, for example, the other kinds of pentatonic scale, the Arabian 17-tone scale, the Indian idea of Raga, etc. The concept of scale may be very different in each nation. Fig.2 shows the Temperament in Southeast Asia(2). The Thai scale is divided into seven equal tones and is very different from the European one.

 I would like to add another example of how different Asian music can be from European. In Indonesia, there are orchestras called Gamelan, usually consiting of metallic xylophones, gongs, drums and so on. However, there are many kinds of Gamelan in Indonesia, for example Javanese Gamelan and Balinese Gamelan. In Javanese music there are two scales: one is Slendro, that is, pentatonic, and the other is Pelog, that is, seven notes. Each scale has three modes called patet, and each pitch and interval is very different from pitch and interval in European music. Fig.3 shows the Javanese constitution of scales(3). The Balinese think about scales in a totally different way. In Balinese music the scales consist of two kinds of pentatonic scale, known by the same terms as in Javanesemusic, Pelog and Slendoro. They do not have the idea of absolute pitch. For example, in each pentatonic scale the tuning is different for each instrument in each Gamelan instrument set. In the Gamelan set, each instrument actually consists of a pair of instruments. They are played at the same time, by two players, and there is one subtle but major difference: each instrument is tuned differently. The difference is very, very slight, so that each instrument of the pair vibrates slightly differently. This tension is typical of Balinese music. I have referred to just a few examples of Asian scales, but perhaps you can easily understand that solmization of music like that is impossible.

 Now I would like to turn back to Japan. In the Japanese tradition the scales are four kinds of pentatonic scales. Two of them, called the Miyakobushi scale and the Ryukyu scale, have two half-tones, and the others , known as Ritsu and the Minyo scale, do not. Fig.4 shows Japanese traditional scales(4). But, to be exact, they do not follow the same concept as the European scale, being instead a tetrachord. In the tetrachord, the complete fourth is fixed, but the pitch is not exactly the same as European pitch, and middle tones in each nuclear tone are not fixed; they are flexible, and they depend on a player's performing manner. Japanese performers are free to produce these middle tones, a near, not exact tone, a little higher or a little lower, as they please, so, to a European ear accustomed to the more fixed, exact number of vibrations of notes, it may sound as if the performer is out of tune. This, however, is not the case. It is a major characteristic of the Japanese scale. In actual fact, musical artists rather disliked using the same pitches in solo and musical ensemble and good players aimed to play with slightly varied pitches and tempo. This is called Heterophony, and you can hear it in Gagaku, ancient court music. And it also often happens that the middle tone between the two nuclear tones is difficult to distinguish for the major second or the minor third or the middle between them.

 Japanese scales, furthermore, do not have the concept of the octave. The Noh-kan which is played in Noh theater is characteristic of this different concept. And there is no concept of modulation like the European one. For example, the Ritsu and the Miyakobushi tetrachord are often conjoined. Usually in the Miyakobushi scales in the upward motion we can hear "mi fa la ti re mi" and in the downward motion "mi do ti la fa mi". Each tone has an absolutely different function from those in European scales. For example, the nuclear tone is not the tonic, and there is neither Dominant nor Subdominant. More and more studies recently are arguing that the Ritsu scale is the most original for Japanese tradition, followed by the Minyo scale, and the Miyakobushi scale has only about a two-hundred-year history. The lullaby in Fig.5 illustrates this. Originally, this lullaby was sung in the Ritsu scale, but nowadays it is sung in the Miyakobushi scale. But this is not the concept of modulation. We listen to both songs in different scales as the same lullaby. It is not difficult, therefore, to see that solmization is impossible in Japanese traditional music.

 Asian rhythm is also very different from that of Europe. Japanese rhythm is a case in point. We refer to this by the two Japanese terms, Omote-ma and Ura-ma. Literally Omote means‘that which is on one side ’, and Ura means `that which is on the other side'. And Ma means the time and at the same time the pause, too. Measure is treated as something equal. It is, of course, linear, but there is no sense of hierarchy of stress as in European music, and, unlike European tradition, there is neither the concept of measure nor of tempo in Japanese musical tradition.

 I have referred to characteristics of Japanese singing manner and voice, melisma, philosophy, musical aesthetics, scales, rhythm, and pitch, too. As you may gather, it is impossible to write Japanese traditional music in staff notation, or to sing with sol-fa. And if it is written in staff notation ( because it is necessary to write it down for research), nobody who has not already heard it, can imagine or understand the actual figure of music. Staff notation is the most useful symbol in the world for music. We use the staff notation widely, from ethnic music to classical music, but we need to know its limits. When talking of staff notation, we can agree that there are two categories of music: one which is completely written in staff notation (such as classical music), and another which cannot be written in staff notation (such as Japanese traditional music). Such kinds of music are impossible to sing with sol-fa. Solmization was born from European music and it exists for European music

 We in Japan must start our musical education from our own musical tradition. That is Kodtly's concept. But those nations that have a music like ours that can not be written in staff notation must not use the staff notation nor solmization to teach traditional music. In our case, we must incorporate our tradition of Shohga into our teaching.

 Having said that, there is, regrettably, a serious problem in musical education (and wider society) in Japan today. This has been recognised for quite some time. Ordinary people have lost contact with our traditional music, to such an extent that it is incomprehensible, even meaningless to them. The reasons are powerful, and can be attributed to a major development in Japanese history.The Japanese government closed the door to foreigners from 1635 to 1853, and during that time the Japanese were exposed to very little European culture. At the same time during that period, artistically refined Japanese traditional musical arts branched off into so many genres and developed to an especially high digree of delicacy. Kabuki, Bunraku, and many kinds of Shamisen music, the refined artistically developed music of the twons, especially of the merchant classes in towns such as Edo (old Tokyo) or Naniwa (old Osaka), flourished. A second, and more fundamental, category of Japanese music is the folk music of peasants, fishermen and woodcutters, simple, often unaccompanied, yet truly beautiful.

 However, from the opening of the country in 1853, but especially after 1867, the Japanese almost exclusively rejected their traditional music and began to learn almost exclusively European music. Since then,although more than a hundred years have passed, and, although it has still retained a sense of traditional rhythm and scales, the core of Japanese musical education is European. And the case of Japanese musical education has been exclusively European, ordinary people cannot claim tohave a complete grasp of European music. (This lack of understanding is not limited to music, but extends to culture and philosophy as well.) It is true that Japanese taste in music has changed and has become more `European' (`American'), notwithstanding what I have just said about the lack of understanding, but the point is that, nowadays, Japanese traditional music is so strange for the younger generations that it is incomprehensible to them. We have, in effect, lost touch with our own native musical tradition without fully understanding its replacement. Ithink that this is the worst problem in Japanese musical education.

Be that as it may, there are benefits for us all in the field of musical education if we follow Kodly's concept. It can help Japanese people, for example, to more truly understand European music, but a further benefit is that Kodly's concept makes us think deeply and seriously about our own musical tradition. Kody's concept of starting from each tradition includes not only traditional music but also the tradition for teaching one's own music, because the tradition for teaching involves not just teaching manner, but also the same philosophy and the same meaning of the music. If we want to try to adapt Kodly's concept, we must think about our own traditions for teaching, too. The most important thing when adapting is to strictly and minutely investigate the differences of tradition between any two countries, and to establish what similarities, what differences, and also what factors, especially factors concerning philosophy, produce a particular feature.


1 Mayumi Miyazaki: Nihonnno Gakki, Tokyo Shoseki Inc., 1992 Printed in


2 Fumio Koizumi: Minzokuongaku, Hosokyoikusinkokai, 1985 Printed in


3 William P. Malm: Music Cultures of the Pacific, the Near East, and Asia Prentice-Hall Inc., 1967 Printed in U. S. A.

4 Tomiko Kozima: Nihonno Onkai, Ongakunotomosya Inc., 1982 Printed in Japan

IKS Board. Feb.17.2002