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Japan: Traditional Vocal & Instrumental Pieces

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

Essentially a soundtrack to the tranquil beauty of ancient Japan, the tracks here are performed by the Ensemble Nipponia and were recorded live during the group’s 1976 tour of North America. The different genres of traditional Japanese music are represented here, including folk, religious, dramatic, lullaby and even narrative chanting—all showing a great diversity in instruments and their uses, as well as vocal techniques, formal construction and rhythmic patterns.

Historically, the almost total absence of a written tradition in many genres has resulted in the loss of much music composed before the 17th century, a process that was accelerated by the widespread disregard for traditional music in the early years of Japan’s selfimposed Westernization. Since the end of WW II the government and concerned musicians have made concerted efforts to preserve and revive traditional music. Four of the most important of Japan’s traditional instruments are represented here, including the koto (a large zither, almost 6 feet in length), the shamisen (a three-stringed instrument close to a banjo), the shakuhachi (a bamboo flute), and the biwa (a Japanese lute).


Soloists of the Ensemble Nipponia:
Minoru Miki, director
Keiko Nosaka, Sachiko Miyamoto, koto
Ayako Handa, biwa, voice
Kohachiro Miyata, shakuhachi
Hirokazu Sugiura, shamisen
Minoru Miki, bells

Originally released in 1976 (H-72072)
Produced & engineered by David Lewiston
Mastered by Robert C. Ludwig (Masterdisk Corp.)
Coordinator: Teresa Sterne
Re-mastered by Robert C. Ludwig

Design: Doyle Partners

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