There is a lot more to traditional Japanese music than pianos and violins, and Yoko Hiraoka wants to make sure that people know it.
Hiraoka, a master performer of several classic Japanese instruments , plans to dispel any misconceptions with her narrative and musical recital titled “Stories of the Samurai Wars ” at 7:30 tonight in Schwab Auditorium .
Hiraoka will perform three chapters from “Tale of Heike ,” a collection of legends about two rival Japanese clans in the 1100s.
“The entire ‘Tale of Heike’ covers about 50 years, from the rise of the clan to great power in Japan to its total destruction,” Hiraoka said. “I will be performing just three chapters of it.”
The first chapter Hiraoka will perform revolves around the idea that “whatever comes to great power must eventually fall,” she said.
The next chapter is a battle story that follows a young warrior who loses his life at the hands of his rival clan. The final chapter chronicles the final battle between the two rival clans, Hiraoka added.
“From the 15th century through the 18th century, when samurai and warrior culture was prevalent in Japan, these stories served as inspiration,” Hiraoka said. “But when samurai government fell, they became more about entertainment.”
Hiraoka will perform a type of music called Biwa, which consists of a combination of narration and a classical Japanese string instrument. Throughout the performance, Japanese art inspired by the “Tale of Heike” will be displayed on a screen behind her, she said.
Charlotte Eubanks , who will host the event, described Biwa music as sounding like a “deep bass, almost like a really low guitar.”
Eubanks, a comparative literature and Japanese professor, is currently teaching a class about Japanese ideas of war and warriors and thought the timing for this event was appropriate, she said.
Hiraoka will host a lecture in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium at the Palmer Museum of Art , said Dana Carlisle Kletchka , the curator of education for the museum. The lecture is limited to students in Eubank’s class and members of the museum community, which includes museum staff, volunteers and docents, Kletchka said.
Traditional Japanese music can be heard on the radio or on television, but it is rarely performed live, Hiraoka said.
“In Japan, when you say ‘classical music,’ people never think of actual traditional Japanese music,” Hiraoka said. “The general public assumes that classical music means classical European music.”
As a result, classical European music played on pianos and violins is seen as a high art form, while traditional music played with the Biwa and other instruments have become almost obsolete, Hiraoka said.
“Biwa music became more or less obsolete in Japan after World War II ,” Hiraoka said. “It’s a strange phenomenon. When Japan opened up its doors to other countries, the Japanese government started a great westernization movement and discarded anything Japanese.”
Audiences interested in hearing authentic classical Japanese music can experience Hiraoka’s performance tonight for free . Programs with lyrics in both phonetic Japanese and English will be provided, Eubanks said. Seating for the ticketless event will begin at 7 p.m .