Musical Traditions of East Asia

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Music

Module overview

Musical Traditions of East Asia provides a overview of selected musical genres and styles of East Asia. The stronger emphasis on musicological approaches implies that this course will cater primarily for music students. There will be a strong practical element to the course with the emphasis on listening and, where possible, actively participating in workshops and performance. The course is designed to pair with the other half unit course being introduced: Pop and Politics in East Asia, which caters for non-music specialists.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the major instruments and musical genres of China, Japan and Korea, and their key musical characteristics (mode, rhythm, structure, timbre, aesthetics, etc.) They should be aware of the various types of notation and understand their relationship to performance, and they should be able to place genres in their performance contexts. They should be aware of approaches to the analysis of East Asian genres, and be able to identify and comment on genres and instruments from audio recordings.


Two hours Lecture

Scope and syllabus

Outline of lectures:
  • Introduction and overview
  • Korea: nongak/p’ungmul and SamulNori
  • Korea: vocal music: minyo, p’ansori, kagok/sijo
  • Korea: court, ritual and religious music
  • China: instrumental ensembles: ritual contexts
  • China: opera and narrative song
  • China: elite solo traditions, qin and pipa
  • Japan: exclusive traditions: shakuhachi and biwa
  • Japan: theatre musics: noh, kabuki and bunraku
  • Japan: Gagaku, Buddhist and Shinto music

Method of assessment

One 2 500 words essay (40%)
One 3 000 words essay (60%)

Suggested reading

S.Sadie et al., eds (2001) New Grove dictionary of music and musicians, 2nd ed. (Available also on-line via SOAS Library from SOAS computers.) - Individual country entries are crucial.
R. Provine et al., eds (2002) Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 7: East Asia.
Helen Myers, ed, 1993, Ethnomusicology: Historical and Regional Studies. The New Grove Handbooks in Music. Entries on China, Japan, and Korea.


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