Between Gagaku and Visitors at Kofukuji Temple

  • Between Gagaku and Visitors at Kofukuji Temple 00:00

The first time I listened to Gagaku music from the internet, it felt like hearing music from the heavens. The harmonic combination of sho, hichiriki, biwa, ryuteki, gakuso, kakko, gaku-taiko, shoko felt very spiritual and holy. When you listen to the sound of long gagaku music, you’ll feel transcendent. Gagaku is a Japanese royal music that dates back to thousands of years. Historic records show that this music experienced influence from China and Korea in the Tang dynasty. Although I do not understand fully regarding the history of this music, the music of gagaku lingers in my mind since I first listened to it in the past. Before conducting the research, I made a promise to myself that I will spare the time to listen to a live performance of the gagaku music.

In the afternoon of May third 2019, I stumbled to a crowd in front of the Kofukuji Shrine while I was heading to the Todaiji Nara Shrine. These shrines were only a few hundred metres apart. The Kofukuji Shrine was closer to the Nara Station, so the people who were going to visit the Todaiji Shrine usually pass the Kofukuji Temple. I was very happy to see that there was a ceremony being held in front of the Kofokuji Shrine that was accompanied by Gagaku music. All the musicians were playing under a white tent while a priest was on the main stage.

The beautiful music sounded very faint from the distance. The public were not allowed to enter the ceremonial area, and were only able to see from the gates of the Temple.

I wanted this moment to last forever. Even though I was not allowed to go inside, I set up my recording gear outside the Temple near the pavement. Hence the sounds of people passing by were also recorded. The sounds of footsteps were intensified because the road was full of gravel. It sounded like additional percussions to the gagaku music. Conversations were also recorded, such as the one between two old ladies that were talking about the sakura. That afternoon, the gagaku music met a variety of sounds creating an interesting combination, a spiritual combination.

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Sounds: Japan