Steps to an Ecology of Gagaku
Nature, Place and Sound in Japanese ‘Court Music’
This paper is an attempt to develop a theoretically-concerned basis for what could become an ‘ecology of Japanese court music’. It starts by reviewing recent developments in kindred disciplines such as music studies and ethnomusicology, stressing their tendency to employ an ‘ecological paradigm’, linking music and the environment, without reflecting on what exactly it means to perceive the world. To overcome similar weaknesses, the work of anthropologist Tim Ingold and philosopher Augustin Berque is examined, showing that there is much to gain in widening the field of music research to include more critical reflections on the notion of ‘the environment’. Finally, this paper suggests a few ways in which the theoretical debate could be transported in the realm of Japanese court music and argues that taking these tentative steps may lead to a new path in its exploration, enjoyment and understanding.