Responsable: Martin Nogueira Ramos

École française d'Extrême-Orient
Kitashirakawa bettô-chô 29, Sakyô-ku
606-8276 Kyoto
Tel: +81 75 701 0882
Fax: +81 75 701 0883
〒606-8276 京都市左京区北白川別当町29

Monkey Business

Differing Approaches to the“Reconstruction” of the Bugaku Piece Somakusha
講師: Andrea Giolai


Japanese medieval musical treatises often
provide engaging legends concerning the origins of bugaku suites, the graceful
dances at the core of the repertory of Japanese“elegant music”(gagaku). One of
these “origin stories” concerns a piece called Somakusha: according to Koma no
Chikazane's Kyokunsho (1233), legend had it that Prince Shotoku Taishi was once
playing the fl‑ute while riding on a horse when, suddenly, a mountain god
charmed by the melody appeared before him in the shape of a monkey and
improvised a dance. The monkey-face mask still used by the dancer could thus be
taken as evidence that the bugaku piece is a depiction of this scene. This talk
will focus on several contemporary attempts to reconstruct both the “original”
melody of Somakusha and the very instrument mentioned in Chikazane’s treatise. Drawing on interviews with gagaku performers,
instrument makers and scholars, but also on an analysis of the earliest
notations available, the talk will argue that the reconstructions of Somakusha are creative re-inventions of tradition, and that, to quote Richard Taruskin,
they reveal a great deal about “the presence of the past and the pastness of
the present”. 

Andrea Giolai is JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow
at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) in
Kyoto. In 2017 he received a double PhD degree in Area Studies at Ca'Foscari
University of Venice and Leiden University, where he also taught Introduction
to Japanese Performing Arts. He has carried out research on gagaku at Kyoto
University and at the Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music of Kyoto
City University of Arts. His research interests also include the use of the
body in ethnomusicological research; the “reconstruction” of ancient notations
and instruments used in Japanese “elegant music”; Japanese Buddhist chanting
(shomyo); the shakuhachi fl­ute and its music. Since 2013 he is a member of the
gagaku group Nanto gakuso.

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