Toyo ongaku kenkyu : the journal of the Society for the Research of Asiatic Music
Online ISSN : 1884-0272
Print ISSN : 0039-3851
ISSN-L : 0039-3851
Military march by oral tradition
The reception and succession of Western drum method in Yamagunitai since the Meiji Restoration
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2005 Volume 2005 Issue 70 Pages 1-17,L1


Western military music or the drum and fife corps was diffused in every corner of the earth with expansion of colonization in the late 19th century. It was not the art music but the new technology of maintaining the order in an army, especially in drill of an infantry. Since this technology was often mixed with different cultures of music, it assimilated into local community. In Japan, a number of Western-style drum corps with Japanese bamboo flute were founded in the end of Edo period.
In the first part of this paper, I made clear the social context and role of drum and drummer in a platoon Yamaguni-tai which was organized voluntarily to enter into the Boshin Civil War (1868). The leader Itsuki Fujino's daily war report serves to attain this purpose. Because the drum call and march were essential to the stable operation of modern tactics, they must be trained elaboratively during the War under the signal of drummer boy, who was employed from outside. Snare drum made them develop their physical ability as soldiers. Just before the end of the War members of Yamaguni-tai had learned how to play the snare drum or flute in order to participate in a triumphant return from Edo to Kyoto. They handed down two repertories for this parade on the next generation: “Koshinkyoku [March]” and “Reishiki [Ceremony], ” which would have represented the legitimacy of the new Meiji Government backing up the Mikado.
In the second part, I focused on their drumming. Although at the present time Yamaguni-tai dresses in period military costume and blows pentatonic melodies on the bamboo flutes, we can point out some evidences enough to prove that their playing manner have its roots on Western music. In Yamaguni-tai the performance has been memorized by means of the onomatopoeic words and graphic notation for drum. Based on careful observation and analysis of their presentation, it is obvious that these two tools indicated exactly player's bodily movements of both arms rather than the sound itself. This onomatopoeia including “Hororon” (=once five stroke roll) and “En Tei” (=twice flam; “En Tei” is derive from Dutch “een twee”) corresponds to well-known drum exercises for stick control: Drum Rudiments. For that reason we can conclude Yamaguni-tai to be a fine example of acculturation of Western Music in Japan. It should be stressed that they have been able to continue their oral tradition since the Meiji Restoration just because of unawareness of the origin of their own drum method. If we tried to translate their music into Western musical notation which was familiar to us, their physical movements could never survive no longer.

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