The koto is a unique Japanese musical instrument. It has a history in Japan of over 1200 years and today does much to represent Japan's traditional past. This book examines this fascinating instrument in terms of its physical form, manufacture and instrument types, its performance traditions and social organisations, and its contexts of performance. Each of these aspects is explored in detail, providing ways of understanding the place of this traditional instrument in contemporary Japan. This well illustrated volume is the first in English to examine the koto in such depth. It brings together in one volume a detailed study of this remarkable instrument.
Integral to this study is a look at the social organizations of koto performance, and how they regulate and influence the transmission of the instrument and its music. Emphasis is placed on the internal structures of performing traditions, as well as ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ perspectives that are important in establishing one’s place as a player, Johnson also examines the koto and the significance of its main performance contexts, beginning with the role of the player and of mediated contexts. He demonstrates how different music traditions have used and devised notations systems as an additional means by which traditions identify themselves. Also included in the book is an examination of scales, tunings and music genres, as well as the instrument’s idiomatic language of music ornamention.