Loading Events
Apr 22 2022

Lore of Gagaku: Textiles and Notation Books


World Music Center Distinguished Scholar Series

Lore of Gagaku: Textiles and Notation Books

Lecture by Robert Garfias
Former Professor at the University of Washington
and the University of California, Irvine;
Past President of the Society for Ethnomusicology (1985-1987)


The music of the Japanese Imperial Court, Gagaku is rich, complex and deserving of analytical exploration. There is much to the lore of Gagaku as well. The sites where the music and dances are performed today include many beautiful and historic temples, shrines, imperial tombs, as well as the Imperial Palace itself.

However, this presentation will focus on two important elements of the Gagaku tradition. The dance robes and the collections of written notation.

The robes used for Bugaku like those used by the Court Musicians themselves, owe their origin to the court robes of the Heian period (794-1185) in Japan, a long period of great peace and flourishing of the arts in Japan. The intensive borrowing of culture from China and Korea of the previous two hundred years was now stopped and no further contact with Mainland Asia occurred. Present day costumes of the court dances seem close or identical to those of Heian.

Although the music of Gagaku was traditionally performed from memory, and played by non-noble professional and hereditary musicians, the court nobles themselves began committed their music to writing, carefully making beautiful copy book as a memory aid, thanks to which some of the oldest examples of Gagaku notation exist today.

Robert Garfias studied at San Francisco State University, then completed his graduate work at UCLA in Ethnomusicology. He went on to teach at and direct the graduate program in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington. Garfias served as Dean at UC Irvine for six years, as well as professor of Anthropology. He was a presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts and a member of the Council of the Smithsonian Institution. In May 2005, in recognition of his life’s work, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan—one of the highest honors bestowed on a non-Japanese citizen.

Register in advance for this event. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event.


This event is FREE! No RSVP required. Early arrival is recommended.


Self-service parking is available at UCLA’s Parking Structure #2 for events in Schoenberg Music Building and the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center. Costs range from $1 for 20 minutes to $20 all day. Learn more about campus parking.


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is eager to provide a variety of accommodations and services for access and communications. If you would like to request accommodations, please do so 10 days in advance of the event by emailing ADA@schoolofmusic.ucla.edu or calling (310) 825-0174.


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music welcomes visitors to take non‐flash, personal‐use photography except where noted. Share your images with us @UCLAalpert / #UCLAalpert on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook


Food and drink may not be carried into the theaters. Thank you!


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.