What is Shomyo?

Shomyo is a general term for Buddhist vocal music.
There aretwo different ways of chanting sutra. One is simply chanting without a melody. The other is to sing according to a system of musical notation called hakase. The latter method is called shomyo. Shomyo is usually sung at special rituals by Buddhist monks. However, it has recently become popular as a form of performing art, and is recognized as a form of musical expression or grammar by some contemporary music composers not only in Japan but in Western countries as well. Since it is said that shomyo is the original form of Japanese traditional vocal music, it has been studied as one of the most important arts.
Shomyo consists of a group of singular male voices joined in unison. But with the layered vocalization of trained monks and the overtones it creates combined with the living tradition based on a long history and the inherent religiosity of the music, a dense musical environment is formed that is unlike any other form of musical expression. While being impressive musically, shomyo invites us to an unusual place of calm away from the hustle and bustle of daily life in modern society, and forces us to consider the inevitability of life and death.

Originally a religious ceremony, yet also attractive as a musical form, shomyo (Buddhist sutra chanting) gradually stopped being performed. But times change and today a reexamination of religious rites and traditional performing arts has begun. Along with this resurgence of interest, there has also been an increasing number of shomyo performances. However, the present focus is no longer on shomyo as a traditional religious ceremony, but instead on the artistic aspects of the form.
----(all of the articles mentioned above were translated by Christopher Stephens)