/gah gah"kooh/, n.
1. the select group of Japanese men who, as both dancers and musicians, perform the bugaku.
2. the style of music played to accompany the bugaku.
[ < Japn < MChin, equiv. to Chin ya elegant + yuè music; cf. BUGAKU]

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Traditional court and religious music of Japan.

It first appeared in Japan as an import from Korea in the 5th century AD and had become established at court by the 8th century. Though little notation from before the 12th century survives, a mostly later body of music continues to be performed at Shintō ceremonies. Gagaku employs transverse flute (ryuteki), double-reed pipe (hichiriki), mouth organ (shō), gong (shōko), drums, and stringed instruments including the biwa (see pipa) and koto. It may accompany dance (bugaku) or be played independently (kangen); it is further classified either as tōgaku, the so-called music of the left (which included Chinese and Indian materials), or as komagaku, the music of the right (including Korean examples). (The terms left and right were derived from the Confucian-based administration system of the capital during the Heian period.)

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▪ East Asian music
(Japanese), Korean  a-ak 

      ancient court music. The name is a Japanese (arts, East Asian) pronunciation of the Chinese characters for elegant music (ya yueh). Such music first appeared in Japan as an import from Korea in the 5th century and had become an established court tradition by the 8th century. The various forms of North Asian, Chinese, Indian, Southeast Asian, and indigenous Japanese music were organized in the 9th century into two major categories: tōgaku, the so-called music of the left, included Chinese and Indian materials; and komagaku, the music of the right, contained the rest. The flute and main drum of the two ensembles differ, and komagaku does not use strings. Purely instrumental performances of gagaku are called kangen (flutes and strings), while dances and their accompaniment are called bugaku. Various forms of Shintō ritual or ancient vocal music also survive.

      The solo music for the instruments of gagaku has been lost, although some notations survive. The mnemonic nature of the notation and the rote methods of teaching the music make it difficult to reconstruct such lost traditions as well as to evaluate the present performance practice of existing ensemble music. Nevertheless, the very continuance of such ancient forms through all the vicissitudes of history gives extremely rare living insights into the probable nature of music and cultural life in East Asia 1,000 years ago. Gagaku and Korean a-ak not only provide information about traditional national musical forms but also are the major sources for clues concerning the music of China's brilliant T'ang dynasty period (618–907).

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Universalium. 2010.

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