Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments
(Revised Edition)
William P. Malm

When William Malm published his wide-ranging study of traditional Japanese music in 1959, it was the first time in the twentieth century that such a work had been brought out in a Western language.

Malm's book has still not been replaced as the single most interesting and authoritative text on the subject. But until now it was never revised or updated, nor were its illustrations ever changed. With the present publication, however, an extensively improved edition that includes a CD of sample music has been made available.

Professor Malm's aim has always been to attract the layman reader as well as the musicologist, which has given this book its strength and durability. The writing is clear, lively, and informed, the scope of his study being broadened by frequent comparisons with other traditions, East and West. Accompanying it all is a generous number of drawings and photographs of the players and their various instruments.

The book opens with a brisk and eloquent history of Japan's musical life, then moves on to its religious music, Shinto, Buddhist, and Christian; its court music; the music of the noh drama; and the music of specific instruments: biwa, shakuhachi, koto, and shamisen. After examining the components of kabuki music, it closes with a chapter on folk music, popular musical arts, and the music of other ethnic groups in Japan. For the more technically inclined, there is a detailed appendix on notation systems. Lastly, to put all this in a practical context, a CD is provided, giving nineteen examples of these different genres.

Whether your interest is in a particular form of Japanese music--the marvelous sonority of the bamboo flute, the sharp but wistful sound of the shamisen--or just in music in general, Malm's book will more than satisfy your curiosity.

Hardcover: 336 pages, 152 x 226 mm B/W photos, glossary, index, CD 72 minutes.
Publisher: Kodansha International BK-8


Prologue: Omatsuri

I. The Present and Past of Japanese Music
1. Japan's Musical Life (1957)
2. Music and Japanese History

II. Religious Music
1. Shinto Music
·Kagura in the Palace
·Shinto Instruments and Tone Systems
·Kagura in Large Shrines
·Local Kagura and Festival Music
·A Snow Festival in Nagano
·Modern Shinto
2. Buddhist Music
·Theory and Practice
·A Buddhist Ceremony and Its Musical Instruments
·Buddhist Folk Music and Festivals
3. Christian Music
4. Summary

III. Gagaku, the Court Music of Japan
1. The History of Court Music
2. The Instruments
3. Theory and Practice
·Tone Systems
·Rhythm 115
·The Jo-Ha-Kyu Concept

IV. Nogaku, the Music of Noh Drama
1. Introduction
2. The History of Noh Drama
3. The Structure of a Noh Play
4. Musical Conventions of a Noh Play
5. Aesthetics
6. Vocal Music
·Singing Styles
·Tone Systems
7. Instruments of the Hayashi
·The Nokan
·The Kotsuzumi
·The Otsuzumi
·The Taiko
8. Drum Music
9. Performance Practices
10. Summary 146

V. Biwa Music
1. Introduction
2. The History of Biwa Music
3. The Instrument and Its Music

VI. The Shakuhachi
1. The History of the Shakuhachi
2. The Instrument and Its Music

VII. Koto Music
1. Introduction
2. The History of the Koto
3. Music Lessons
4. Instruments of the Koto Ensemble
5. Koto Music

VIII. The Shamisen and Its Music
1. The Instrument and Its Background
2. The History and Form of Shamisen Music
·Katarimono--Narrative Shamisen Music
·Gidayubushi--The Music of Bunraku
·Utamono--Lyrical Shamisen Music
·Nagauta--The Heart of Kabuki Music
·Twentieth-Century Shamisen Genres

IX. Kabuki Music
1. The Components of Kabuki Music
2. The Music of One Kabuki Scene

X. Folk and Popular Musical Arts
1. Introduction
2. Folk Songs
3. Characteristics and Performance Practices
·Tone System
·Performance Practices
4. Other Ethnic Groups in Japan
5. Folk Theatricals
6. Urban Music
7. Summary

Appendix I: Japanese Music Notation Systems
Appendix II: CD Contents and Text Translations
Appendix III: Audio-Visual Materials
A Selective Annotated Bibliography


"... the new, revised and updated edition of the book that has become the standard text on traditional Japanese music and musical instruments since it was first published in 1959. Its width and grasp have never been superseded."--Donald Richie, The Japan Times

"Malm's achievement is spectacular... The Western reader is offered a great wealth of information, both general and specific."--New York Times Book Review

"The first well-balanced general introduction to Japanese music."--Japan Quarterly

"This book is as intelligent as it is beautiful... both informative and entertaining."--Mainichi Daily News

"A splendid and epoch-making book."--Notes

"Malm's scholarship is impeccable... Of equal importance is the fact that he is an excellent performing musician who has studied extensively in Japan."--Choice

About The Author

William P. Malm, born in Illinois in 1928, received his BM (1949) and MM (1950) in composition from Northwestern University and his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of California at Los Angeles (1959). He developed an ethnomusicology program at the University of Michigan (1960-94) which included an ensemble of nagauta and edobayashi. As director of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments (1980-94) he expanded its use in education and research.

Among his publications are Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music (1963); Music Cultures of the Pacific, the Near East, and Asia (1966); Six Hidden Views of Japanese Music (1986); and--a joint effort--Theater as Music (1990), in which one act of a bunraku puppet play is examined.

As a teacher at Michigan he received the Henry Russel, Alumni Merit, and Legislature awards, and in 1993 he was given the Koizumi Fumio Prize in Ethnomusicology.

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