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"The Tale of the Heike Lecture / Recital"

Thursday, October 20, 2011
4:00 AM
Helmut Stern Auditorium, University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 South State Street, Ann Arbor

Yoko Hiraoka performs four of the classic biwa compositions connected to "The Tale of the Heike."

The Tale of the Heike is the epic narrative of the civil wars (1180-85) that brought Japan under the rule of the samurai class until the 19th c., displacing the Heian court aristocracy portrayed in the brilliant Tale of Genji. Popularized in the medieval and early modern times by blind monks reciting episodes to the accompaniment of the biwa (lute), the stirring scenes glory or defeat in the battlefield, the pathos of death and fall from glory, and a deep Buddhist piety are brought back to life in Yoko Hiraoka’s performance of four episodes from the traditional Heike biwa repertory. This multimedia musical and academic event is illustrated with projected images of painting scrolls depicting scenes from The Tale of the Heike. A rigorously trained artist, Yoko Hiraoka performs the episodes as they have been transmitted for centuries, in the powerful historic style of recitation bringing to the fore the materiality of the human voice, and in the inexpressively moving biwa accompaniment. Ms. Hiraoka’s depth of knowledge of the Heike comes into play as she explains how tensions arose between the Heike and Minamoto warrior clans, how noble courtiers lived and loved, and how upon retelling over many years, the stories developed into a unified work of history and literature through the hands of a multitude of different authors.