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Traditional Songs for Certificates- A Study of their Texts and Implications


Peter Ackermann

Songs known as kumiuta form the core of art music performed on the three-stringed lute shamisen and the thirteen-stringed cithern koto and developed within the strictly organized traditions of Tokugawa period Japan (1603-1867).
Through presentation and discussion of the kumiuta song texts this study wishes to bring to attention the fact that two of the most important types of music in Japan prior to the age of Western influence appear to have been Ways leading at the same time to certificates as well as to a desired emotional state - a state, that differs conspicuously between the world of the shamisen and that of the koto. Moreover, the art of kumiuta us an intricate system of references used to suggest a pattern of movement through several states of emotion before reaching the end of the Way. Kumiuta confront us with the fact that the Japanese personality has been subject to a highly artistic but clear-cut way of «training of the emotions», and that musical art and song text poetry is, if looked at systematically, more than just a haphazard set of topics and pretty images of nature.