On Shigin 詩吟

From a question on the SCA Japanese Facebook page about early Japanese music, someone mentioned poetry being chanted. My answer:

Poetry was originally chanted or sung in an art called Shigin 詩吟. It started out with the Chinese poetry, but spread to Japanese styles like tanka. I don’t know a lot about it, but here is a video with a bit of explanation. If you search for “shigin” on YouTube, there are several modern performances. The practice dates back to before the Asuka period, but I’m not sure how much it changed over time. Certainly something to look into!

Here’s a performance from the 46th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival 2013 @ JCCCNC in San Francisco Japantown on April 13, 2013. There are several other examples on YouTube.

There are examples of Chinese poems with pitch notation from the Heian period. Again, I’m not sure when the practice spread to Japanese-style poetry, and I don’t know how much the practice was refined during the Edo period, and if pre-Edo Shigin was significantly different from what is practiced now. I would certainly be interested in learning more about it.

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