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derived art of the bunraku chanters.
Storytelling as performed by itinerant chanters, who were often Buddhist priests, had been popular throughout the medieval age. Among the
important literary sources from which the chanters drew their material
were the great war chronicles, including The Tale of the Heike and Taiheiki. For accompaniment, the chanters generally used a lute-like fourstringed instrument called the biwa. But by the late sixteenth century,
another instrument, the three-stringed samisen, which had its origins in
China and was introduced to Japan via the Ryukyu Islands, was coming
into vogue among chanters. Roughly akin to the banjo, the samisen gives
off a rather brittle, twanging sound (in contrast to the languid tone of
the biwa) and is particularly well suited for the accompaniment of the
vocal techniques of chanters. During the Tokugawa period, the samisen
became the principal musical instrument in both the kabuki and bunraku
It was thus the adaptation of the samisen to the ancient art of chanting
and the employment of puppets to depict the narrative action declaimed
by chanters that gave rise to bunraku. The two men most responsible for
effecting the final evolution of bunraku to a serious dramatic form in Genroku times were the chanter Takemoto Gidayû (1651–1714) and the
playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653–1724). In 1684 Gidayû,
whose distinctive chanting style became the most widely admired of its
day, opened a puppet theatre called the Takemoto-za in Osaka and engaged the services of Chikamatsu, a writer of samurai origins from Kyoto
who had already achieved some note as the author of plays for the
renowned kabuki actor Sakata Tòjûrò.
Although Chikamatsu wrote for both the kabuki and bunraku theatres,
his work for the latter won for him the great stature he enjoys in the history of Japanese literature. His bunraku plays are of two general types,
historical plays ( jidaimono) and domestic or contemporary plays (sewamono). The historical plays are derived from the same kinds of narrative
materials that Japanese chanters had used for cent...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13