Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


School of Music


Music Performance

First Advisor

Scott Herring


Japanese taiko ensemble drumming, known in Japan as kumi-daiko, is an art form that has only taken shape within the past fifty years. This new performance style involving taiko seems, on the surface, to have much in common with traditional Japanese court and theater music, regarded by scholars as the art music of Japan. Using drums that have a long history in Japan, however, does not necessarily make that ensemble part of ancient Japanese tradition. By studying the most famous groups in Japan, such as Kodo, it is easy to discern that kumi-daiko has many different inspirations, but is not in itself ancient. Along with historical references available from previous musicologists and new first-hand information provided by taiko players themselves, I will show that the art of kumi-daiko pays tribute to, but is not a slave to, the traditions of Japan's musical past. Kumi-daiko, along with most traditional Japanese musics, is mainly transmitted through rote training. As a result, one way to gain an understanding of the larger picture of kumi-daiko becoming its own Japanese art form is through the viewing of live performances. Kodo provides excellent performances that showcase the eclectic pieces of tradition and contemporary music that are melded together to form a kumi-daiko work. Through historical research and performance analysis of the most popular and respected Japanese kumi-daiko group, kumi-daiko will be revealed to be Japan's new evolving musical art form.