“The physical impact of taiko music, along with the sheer visual poetry of a choreographed ensemble presenting its music in perfect synchrony, is so powerful and inviting that taiko is beginning to catch on as Japan’s most influential and lasting gift to world music.”
–Gil Asakawa, writer, editor, artist, online content and community-building public speaker
With the summer nearing its end, I’d like to give you one more installment of “traveling music”. On a recent edition of the CBS Sunday Morning show, we watched a very interesting story about Taiko drummers in Japan. I had never heard of them, but when I watched them perform, I was so impressed, I immediately wanted to book a trip to Sado Island where they perform. Their training is intense, making their performances amazing. Watch the video clip and appreciate their talents; notice the flute in their ensemble too! Taiko has a long history: instruments similar to ceramic drums have been found from as far back as about 2500 B.C. in Japan. There are about 5,000 taiko groups in Japan currently, with about 100,000 drummers at least. Traditional taiko is far more popular now than at any time in its history. One of the first uses of taiko was as a battlefield instrument to intimidate and scatter the enemy and to issue commands and coordinate movements. Taiko has also been used in cultural and religious settings, since the taiko drums have long been associated with the gods. The reknowned taiko group, Kodo, travels the world giving performances, as well as on Sado Island, where they have sponsored an international music festival since 1988, “Earth Celebration“, attended by many from around the world. Check out the CDs from your library listed below: they include Japanese melodies and percussion pieces:
Best of Kodo (percussion ensemble); Japanese Album (traditional Japanese melodies including flute, violin, cello and traditional Japanese instruments, with Jean-Pierre Rampal, Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma); Sakura: Japanese Melodies for Flute and Harp (with Jean-Pierre Rampal); Caribbean Steeldrums: 20 Famous Tropical Melodies (featuring steeldrums and percussion); The Perilous Chapel (percussion ensembles with guitar)
Our Did You Know for today is about Bela Bartok (1881-1945), one of the most celebrated early 20th-century composers who collected and extensively studied East European folk music. He incorporated many Hungarian folk songs into his compositions. I’m especially featuring him in this blog post because of his well known composition Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) which follows our theme for today of percussion and drums. Because of his work with folk melodies, Bartok is often considered the founding father of ethnomusicology, or the anthropological study of music. As a native of Hungary, he was a full-time ethnomusicology professor at the Budapest Academy. Apparently Bartok didn’t enjoy teaching, but must have been quite good at it: among his students were several famous pianists, including Georg Solti.
Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and may it be filled with lots of music. Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!
E. Susman, August 19, 2014