Tuesday, November 4, 2008

God's Music

Gods' Music - The Japanese Folk Theatre of Iwami Kagura

Terence Lancashire

Florian Noetzel

351 pp.

ISBN 3-7959-0890-6

As is obvious by reading this blog, I am a big fan of Iwami Kagura, and there is precious little information about it in English.

However 2 weeks ago I came across this book published in 2006 and had to have it even though it's expensive, like all academic publications.

I devoured the book in one day, and will re-read more slowly several more time for sure.
It is almost like an encyclopedia, with a full list of the dances, words and texts to the songs, as well as musical notation for all the pieces. As reference material this alone is worth the high price of the book.

The book is really outstanding when it comes to history. The Iwami kagura tradition is transmitted orally, so the further one goes back in time the less sure we can be of anything, but as well as thoroughly surveying all the literature on Iwami kagura in the Japanese language, lancashire also applies his own research to other older materials. He looks at all the other kagura tradition in Japan and where they might have come from, as well as setting kagura within other musical and theatrical and religious practises.

For his research he was based in the Masuda City area, and so concerns himself most deeply with kagura as it is practised there, but writes frequently about the other traditions in Iwami, including the area I live in with its' older Omoto Kagura tradition as well as the kagura traditions in neighboring Izumo, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi.

The only minor quibble I have with the book is that the pohtos used don't really do justice to the dance.


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