3 3 8 D O C U M E N T 3 9 1 I M P R E S S I O N S I N J A P A N the most carefully farmed land with its precise little parcels, but most especially so the little houses standing on it and, finally, the people themselves in their speech, their movements, their dress, including all objects they make use of. I took a par- ticular liking to the Japanese house with its very[21] segmented smooth walls, its many little rooms laid out throughout with soft mats. Each little detail has its own sense and import there. To this come the dainty people with their picturesque smil- ing, bowing, sitting—all[22] things that can only be admired but not imitated.[23] You, oh foreigner, try to do so in vain!—Yet Japan’s dainty dishes are indigestible[24] to you better content yourself with watching.— Compared to our people, the Japanese are cheerful and carefree in their mutual relations,— they live not in the future but in the present. This cheerfulness always expresses itself in refined form, never boisterously. Japanese wit is directly comprehensible to us. They too have much sense for the droll, for humor. I was astonished to note that, regarding these psychologically surely deeply lying things, there is no great differ- ence between the Japanese and the European. The soft-heartedness of the Japanese reveals itself here in that this humor does not assume a sarcastic note. [25] Of greatest interest to me was Japanese music, which had developed partly or entirely independently of ours. Only upon listening to completely strange art does one come closer to the ideal of separating the conventional from the essential con- ditioned by human nature. The differences between Japanese music and ours are indeed fundamental. Whereas in our European music, chords and architectonic structure appear to be universal and indispensable, they are absent in Japanese music. On the other hand, they have in common the same thirteen tonal steps into which the octaves are divided. Japanese music seems to me to be a kind of emotive painting of inconceivably direct impressions. The exact tonal pitch does not even seem to be so absolutely imperative for the artistic effect. It much rather suggests to me a stylized depiction of the passions expressed by the human voice as well as by such natural sounds that conjure up in the human mind emotive impressions such as birdsong and the beating surf of the sea. This impression is amplified by the important role played by the percussive instruments, which have no specific tonal pitch of their own but are particularly suited for rhythmic characterization. The main attraction to me of Japanese music lies in the extremely refined rhythms. I am fully aware of the circumstance that the most intimate subtleties of this kind of music still elude me. Added to the fact that long experience is always presup- posed for distinguishing the purely conventional from a performer’s personal expression, the relation to the spoken and sung word, which plays a considerable role in most Japanese pieces of music, also escapes me. As I see it, a characteristic of the artistic approach of the Japanese soul is the unique appearance of the mild flute, not the much more strident wind instruments made out of metal. Here, too, is [p. 339] [p. 338]
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