Kitanodai Gagaku Ensemble


Wednesday, October 16 7:30p.m., Bowker Auditorium
$20, $15; Five College/GCC/STCC Students and Youth 17 & under: $10


The ancient and imperial court music of the gagaku orchestra and dances is the oldest orchestral tradition in the world – a style of music that has remained pure and unchanged over the centuries. Elegant and ethereal the music of gagaku is nearly always experienced in an almost otherworldly way with a unique and poetic sound that washes over you as it reflects the music of the cosmos.

For ticket holders a pre-performance talk will be presented at Anne Prescott, Director, Five College Center for East Asian Studies; Koto player and teacher.




  1. I love taiko drumming and loved Kodo. It’s some of my favorite music. I’m a dancer and my husband is a musician so we are always attending productions. This was painful. I was going to get up and leAve but wanted to give it a chance. I developed a migraine from the music and looked over the distraught faces in the audience who appeared to be having the same experience.
    In the future, I would like to see some music samples of your productions so that I don’t waste my time or money or aggravation. Otherwise I’ll just stick to who I know for certain. I wish I could get my $40 back, time, and what I paid my babysitter. I was do looking forward to this performance and was so so so disappointed.

  2. To someone completely unfamiliar with traditional Japanese music, I thought it was incredible. The carefulness of the dancer’s motions combined with the orchestra’s precise harmonies made for a very enjoyable and enlightening experience.

  3. As this was my first exposure to Kangen (Orchestral Music) and Bugaku Dances, I had no expectations. Overall, it was truly an amazing performance. Amongst the Kangen performances, my favorite was the Keibairaku no kyu which consisted of three sections: Jo, Ha, and Kyu or Beginning, Break, and Rapid respectively. Apparently this piece told the story of Emperor Xuangzong of Tang (712-756), who held a feast on his birthday one hundred decorated horses.

    Of the Bugaku Dances, my favorite was definitely the Seigaiha performance. It was very courtly and apparently, in The Tale of Genji, Genji and Tono-Chujo performed this dance in front of Emperor Suzaku. The costumes were very intricate and had wave designs to represent the blue sea, much like in some of the images presented in class. Now, amongst all the instruments, the taiko (large drum) was probably my favorite. The music itself was very unique because, with a Western trained ear, I was half expecting a bass instrument to hold some sort of count in 2, 3 or 4, but the music did not hold a rhythm like what I’m used to hearing. The sho, the free-reed mouth organ, was a fascinating instrument made of 17 slender bamboo pipes. Its tone was as unique as the instrument itself. This performance was quite a learning experience and it was definitely worth going to.

    ~Anna S.

  4. The performance was spectacular. There was a sense of awe and imagery as the instruments played and as the dancers performed.

  5. The show was spectacular. A very solemn experience, it was clear how dedicated and concentrated the performers were to bringing their art to the rest of us. As someone entirely unfamiliar with Japanese classical music and dance, I found the show to be a very interesting comapred to more commonly known European classical music. The melodies and harmonies of the orchestra often sounded so ethereal having never heard anything like them before. Its accompaniment with the dancers panted a beautiful picture of the stories they intended to convey. The imagery and ambience beautifully captured the feeling of classical Japanese tradition, especially for someone like me who was completely ignorant to it before..

  6. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience another culture through music. The instruments used were very different from what I was used to, and so the sound was very unique. It was amazing how one could watch the dances and hear the music and gain a deep appreciation for the culture in which bugaku and gagaku first originated. It was also very inspiring to watch the performers, because it was clear how dedicated they were to their art; every small movement was calculated and carefully carried out. Everything was precise and obviously practiced diligently. It was one of the most beautiful performances I have ever seen.

  7. The performance was spectacular. There was a sense of awe and imagery as the instruments played and as the dancers performed. The fact that these performances took so long to practice and have been passed down from one generation to another is amazing. The precision and minute details of the performance shows how much the performers revered Gagaku and Bugaku.

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