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Japan: Koto Music

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News & Reviews

  • Independent (UK): Nonesuch Explorer Series Reissue "Wonderful to Hear Once More"

    The reissue of the groundbreaking Nonesuch Explorer Series titles from Japan is now complete, with the recent addition of two more titles. The Independent exclaims, "It's wonderful that Nonesuch is reissuing the 92-LP Explorer Series, which put ethnomusicology on the map in the Seventies," and says of the recently reissued Koto Classics: "[I]t's wonderful to hear once more koto master Shinichi Yuize in his prime ... and these classic pieces display [the koto's] suggestive power to the full."

  • Scotsman: Return of Explorer Series "Simply Wonderful"

    "Never again will a record company essay what the producers of the Nonesuch Explorers did in 1967, bringing out a series of superb field recordings to make, eventually, a 92-record set," says The Scotsman in its five-star review of the two titles that marked the reissue of a number of Japanese Explorer Series albums on CD this fall: Koto Classics and Geza Music from the Kabuki. "The vinyl LPs ... brought to light a wealth of hitherto hidden traditions," says the review, and their return as remastered CDs "is simply wonderful, because much of this music—four decades on—is now either extinct or grievously debased."

About this Album

This repackaged classic from 1965 focuses on the austere beauty of six traditional pieces, dating from the 17th to 19th centuries, written for the koto—the elegant, zither-like instrument central to Japanese music—and the virtuosity of the players, all 20th-century masters.

Master Shogin Hagiwara, one of the koto performers featured on the album, lost her eyesight when she was six. She entered the Watanabe School, where she studied koto music of the Ikuta-ryu style. Hagiwara was given the degree of koto master and subsequently taught at the Kyoto School for the Blind. The Government later named her Juyo-Mukei-Bunkazai, an important cultural post and one of the great honors for a Japanese artist.

Shakuhachi (bamboo-flute) master Kikusui Kofu accompanies the koto artists heard here. While he specializes in traditional music, he is an important figure in the experimental directions of modern Japanese music, and is a skilled inventor of various wind and string instruments.


Performed by Master Hagiwara, Master Hatta, Master Kitagawa, Master Kikusui, Master Mineuchi, Master Yamaguchi

Originally released in 1965 (H-72005)
Recorded by Katsumasa Takasago
Mastered by Robert C. Ludwig
Production Supervisor: Jac Holzman
Re-mastered by Robert C. Ludwig

Design: Doyle Partners
Cover Photograph: © Werner Bischof / Magnum Photos
Japan, 1951. Courtyard of the Meiji temple in Tokyo

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