Etanraku

Introduced by a short tuning prelude in G, the Hyōjō no netori, Etenraku (music of the Divine Heavens) is the most fundamental of ancient sacred classical Gagaku ensemble pieces. Such works were viewed as offerings to the gods. Its title, which refers to the “Music of Heaven” dates back at least to the T’ang Dynasty (618-907) in China. The preceding netori, or tuning, is a short free-rhythm prelude which serves to set the pitch, tone and melody for all the instruments in a Gagaku ensemble. Literally ne (tone) and the verb toru (to catch) reflect the musicians’ introductory catching and holding the voice of their own and others’ instruments, breathing together. By establishing the atmospheric setting for both the players and the audience, it exhibits the mood, or seasonal characteristics of the piece that follows it – in this case the Hyōjō mode for the following Etenraku.