Music of Imperial Japan

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12654

Generations and sects have fought over what they believe is good and bad music. Some would say certain genres aren't real music. Step outside your cultural box and discover Gagaku music from Japan!


Musical Arts, World

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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We keep ancient works of art in museums. We preserve ancient buildings and try to rebuild them.

  • What can be done to protect music, dance, and other traditions of the past?

12-string sanjo gayageum

Here’s a depressing thought: as you read this, languages are going extinct — languages that no one has ever had the chance to record or write down for posterity.

Many products of human culture, physical and non-physical, have been lost to time. It is easier to preserve physical things, like great buildings, sculptures, pottery, and paintings, than to preserve non-physical things, like dances and songs.

Happily, there are people whose life work is to preserve non-physical cultural heritage before it is lost.

Learn more as you read What Is Intangible Cultural Heritage?. As you do, write down the information and ideas that answer the following questions.

  • What does intangible cultural heritage include?
  • How is this kind of heritage generally learned?
  • How can intangible cultural heritage be safeguarded?

After collecting your information and ideas, reflect on the following questions and record your thoughts in a journal entry.

  • Why are various kinds of cultural heritage under threat?
  • What value is there in documenting or preserving such traditions?
  • What are some examples of intangible cultural heritage in your family or community?

One of the reasons to preserve the musical and other traditions of the past is that they very often challenge our most basic assumptions and ideas about “the way things should be.”

In the Got It? section, explore one special tradition that will test your understanding of music: Japanese imperial music.

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