Lesson 1: East and Southeast Asia–Genres of Music

In some classical East and Southeast Asian music, specifically in Gagaku court music and ancient folk genres from Japan, rhythms are often sparse and seem to flow freely. This gives the music a kind of “timelessness” and a freedom of space rarely found in musics’ from the West.

Japanese folk musicians place particular emphasis on the space between the beats–a concept known as “ma.” Japanese classical and folk songs use the increase of rhythm as a way to build theatrical tension, starting slowly, solidifying into a solid rhythm and eventually racing to a rapid climax.

While Chinese folk songs may offer free-flowing introductions, most ultimately proceed in 2/4 or 4/4 time which, according to TeacherVision.com’s introduction to Chinese music, “can be attributed to the belief in the principle of natural duality (such as the female-male or yin-yang relationship).”

Check out some BIG East Asian drumming:

Kodo plays Japanese taiko

— Chinese thunder drums: “Jigu! Thunder Drums of China” | opening the Beijing Olympics.

— Two styles of Korean pungmul: The festival “farmer dance” | Samul nori on a concert stage.

Check out some more mellow yet equally fascinating Southeast Asian classical music, including gongs, drums and other kinds of percussion:

Japanese gagaku

Thai piphat

Kulintang from the Philippines

Balinese gamelan and Javanese gamelan, (do you know the difference?)

Want a challenge? Play the notes between the notes.

Explore these genres of music from East and Southeast Asia:
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