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Master of Arts (M.A.)




Ceremonial music in Japan is a type of music used to celebrate special occasions in special places, e.g., to honor the Emperor on his birthday, or for other special celebrations at a shrine.

In Japanese, the character for ceremonial music is written 雅楽 (pronounced Gagaku). The character 雅 (ga) means graceful, noble, or excellent. The character 楽 (gaku) means good or beautiful musical sounds. Appearing together, 雅楽 the two parts of this character mean ceremonial music, which is not performed among ordinary people.

The ceremonial music is used in the Imperial Court and in shrines, although not every shrine is equipped to perform ceremonial music. During the tenth and eleventh centuries it was used also in the homes of the highest class of military leaders.

The basic philosophical implication of ceremonial music in Japan is virtue (morality). In respect to form, content, and thought, the ceremonial music is synthetic in character, which means it is part of a whil in which dance as action is equally as important as the music.