Prosimetrum in Japan? a crosscultural perspective

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Japanese performed narrative genres like kōshiki shōmyō 講式声明 (a Buddhist liturgy), the musical narratives of heike 平家, jōruri 浄瑠璃 and naniwa-bushi 浪花節, and also modern biwa 琵琶 forms are all continuous narratives in sung delivery into which spoken sections may be interpolated. Furthermore, they have all developed a modus operandi of several melody types or musical substyles. They are structured into discrete sections, like paragraphs, each of which features a specific musical substyle. This chapter considers to what extent they are prosimetric, if defined as the alternation of sections of singing and speech. It tracks the balance of prose and verse, and of spoken versus musical delivery in each genre. By examining more closely the nature of the sung musical parts, it attempts to place structural and performance features of these genres in a global context. It concludes that the key difference between Chinese prosimetric narratives and Japanese genres is that in Japan the alternation of prose and poetry cannot be seen as the basic form. Whereas the metric parts in Chinese narratives are lyrical song while the prose parts are spoken delivery, in the Japanese musical narratives the expository narrative sections are in musical delivery, not spoken.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-181
Number of pages13
JournalCHIME Journal
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

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