Profound Sounds of the Biwa:
The Aesthetics of Narrative
The biwa entered Japan approximately 1300 years ago as part of the Japanese importation of mainland culture. Despite its association with court and "Chinese" culture, it nonetheless soon came to be associated with indigenous narrative practice or katari. In this practice, the reciting or chanting story-teller accompanies himself to the accompaniment of the biwa. The instrument is used to illustrate various aspects - appearance, personality, emotional states, and more - of the characters populating these tales.
This website provides both a historical introduction to the biwa, and in-depth discussions of a selection of pieces from the chikuzen biwa repertoire accompanied by the author's performances.
This website is designed for music lovers and scholars who may be aware of the biwa but have no concrete knowledge of its history, repertoire, and performance. The author and his collaborating team hope that this will provide a basic understanding of one Japanese narrative art and its repertoire, and promote an interest in this art.
Silvain Kyokusai GUIGNARD
About the project
Promotion of the Biwa and its Art
My primary aim in creating this website is to share my fascination with chikuzen biwa with the world. Even in Japan, chikuzen biwa is not a well-known performance art.
I truly hope that this project will promote a wider understanding and appreciation for this remarkable art form.
I have spent twenty years with this project, and it is only through the help, cooperation, and patience of three noted researchers that this website came to fruition.
The website begins with an historical introduction to the biwa and is followed by an in-depth discussion of the musical characteristics of the chikuzen biwa, its performance techniques, the instrumental and vocal notation system,
and more. The final section discusses the present state of this art in Japan.
All of the twenty-two pieces in this Library of biwa Ballads are accompanied by a historical introduction, a synopsis, a musical commentary, modern Japanese renditions, and translations in German and English. The author hopes this will assist in the dissemination of knowledge and appreciation of this art to those outside Japan.
A man-devouring demon disguised as an old woman
WATANABE Tsuna as he cuts off the hand of the demon, Ibaraki
The demon Ibaraki retrieving its severed hand
The ghostly Earth Spider attacks Lord Yorimitsu
A mother searching for her abducted son
都落ち miyako ochi
A warrior longing for poetry
熊谷と敦盛 kumagai to atsumori
A senseless killing on the battlefield
Tsuginobu is dying for his lord
那須与市 nasu no yoichi
The felicitous shot of a young archer
The decisive last battle between the GENJI and the HEIKE
壇の浦 悲曲 dannoura hikyoku
The drowning of the child-emperor Antoku
舟弁慶 funa benkei
A fight with the specters of fallen warriors
The warrior monk Benkei at the barrier gate
The Last Hours of the hero Yoshitsune
Lord KUSUNOKI, a beacon of loyalty
The rebellion against Lord Nobunaga
湖水渡 kosui watari
The famous crossing of Lake Biwa on horseback
A treasonous act of great consequence
伽羅の兜 kyara no kabuto
The perfumed helmet
曲垣平九郎 magaki heikuro
A glorious equestrian feat
平野国臣 hirano kuniomi
A righteous man languishing in prison
西郷隆盛 saigo takamori
The Last Samurai