Thursday, April 12, 2012

Geza Music from the Kabuki

This is another recording from the fantastic Nonesuch Explorer series encompassing music from the kabuki, a popular and earthy form of Japanese theater that brings in drama and music for what were plainly sexual themes in its earliest incarnations, though political pressure led to later changes in thematic content.  These performances, which usually go on for several hours in contrast to shorter Western theatrical offerings, utilize music that is purely instrumental, that which has vocals, miming, dancing and drama with colorful costumes and makeup.   The term geza refers to music performed off-stage in a room that was blocked from view by a black bamboo curtain and which usually consisted of percussion to accompany the performers and provide sound affects, while other musicians playing stringed instruments and flutes were on stage and visible.  The album's selections are from the Kabuki theater, but include some pieces that were adapted from Noh or No, which was a puppet theater favored by the aristocratic classes of Japan.

Geza music is determined by the scene or situation found in the kabuki performance and pieces are identified with street scenes, festivals, spoken narratives, fight scenes, religious shrines and particular sound effects, sujch as falling water, a ghost, the wind and others.  Instruments include the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument similar to a guitar, lute or banjo, the shakuhachi or bamboo flute, percussion instruments like drums, bells, gongs, and cymbals and vocals.  The music can range from soft, pastoral and contemplative to fast, martial and comical.

These 1966 performances are outstanding for variety of instrumentation, composition and their relation to what is acted out on the kabuki stage.  The 2002 CD version features beautifully remastered sound by the famed sound engineer Robert C. Ludwig and the liner notes, written at the time of the recording, are very helpful in understanding the history, structure, and method of kabuki performance.  Someday, perhaps, attendance at a kabuki presentation will add to the experience that can only be hinted at by listening to this extraordinary album.

Geza Music from the Kabuki

1.  Music of Downtown  7:46
2.  Festival Music  6:09
3.  Aikata  7:36
4.  Dance Music  4:23
5.  Sound Effects 3:59
6.  Shrine Music  3:00
7.  Interludes  4:41
8.  Voice  5:54
9.  Aikata 7:40

No comments:

Post a Comment