In the late 1960s, the National Theater of Japan made a decision to commission new music for gagaku (court music) orchestra and changed the destiny of traditional Japanese arts.

The decision was controversial because contemporary works for this ancient genre, preserved with only slight variations for more than 1,000 years, were considered an affront to the dignity of the tradition. The first work, by Toshiro Mayuzumi, debuted in 1970 and set that tradition on its ear. It proved the first in a long series of carefully conducted experiments involving several distinguished modern composers.

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