Intro to Noh Theater...a taste for my next mini project
- So I got my hands onto an old out of print book. It is one of the first original English books produced on the subject oh Noh. As I read this book I want to compile and share notes and insight into this art. Noh is the worlds oldest still practiced theater.
Ultimately, to understand my next mini project that I want o share with the group one must understand some basics about Noh. My next project is going to be a music / chorus collection taken from period Noh.
"A spectator's Handbook of Noh" - By Mr. & Mrs. Murakami Upton
Dedicated to: Noriyuki Takahashi the authors Noh Teacher
This book was originally printed as a volume set in Japan, and in this text was translated. In short, this book is where we get -most- of our original knowledge about noh from. Note I said most, not all. Some of this info might be contested, however I ponder such given that the modern sources who might contest this material ultimately got their knowledge grandfathered down from this source.
Notes about Noh at a glance:
*Noh is the world's oldest still active dramatic art/theater in the world.
*The 'father' of Noh is Zeami, from the 14th centrury. He wrote an noh actors guide which is still widely available today.
*Noh, unlike many European dramas, is about reenacting literary tales verses real drama.
*In concept Noh performances are to be without morals, judgement, or higher structure beyond the act of conveying beauty that defies words and only can be felt.
*Every noh performance requires actors, a chorus, and musicians. Additionally there are stage attendants.
*Noh stages tend to be minimal if only to better stress the importance of the performers.
*Costumes are generalized and have been for centuries with only variations found in coloring and patterns on fabric.
Some words to know:
*Iitai - chanting style of Noh songs. These are typically performed independently.
*Shiinai - short dance sequences. These are typically performed independently.
*Yugen - the core concept of a noh performance. It is the highest ideal of the aesthetic beauty noh is meant to personify.
*Koken - a stage attendant. These attendants can belong to different groups, and appear on stage to adjust costuming and pick up stage props or cast away clothing.
*Walk Tsure - walk on roles in a performance
*Flu - bamboo flute
*Kotsuzumi - a hand held drum held at the shoulder
*Otsuzumi - a hand held drum held at the hip
*Taiko - a snare drum held horizontally on a low frame below the player
*Tsiikiirimono - are stage props, and are carried off and on the stage by koken.
Actors are divided into the following groups:
*Shite - main actor. Kokata are child actors. Tsure are accompanying actors.
*Waki - the secondary actor
*Kyogen - Fills the roles of servants and lesser persons of importance. Kyogen parts normally wear yellow tabi to signify their role. They will wear an odd white cap with long sashes hanging loosely down on either side of their faces to indicate a feminine role.
Music of Noh:
*There is a chorus for Noh performances.
*Typically there are three to four instruments for a performance.
*Instruments in noh - Flu , Kotsuzumi , Otsuzmi , Taiko
*Taiko is rarely used in Noh.
Classifications of Noh based on theme:
*There are technically 5 groups of performance classification.
*Okina performances are solo acts. Not counted as a part of the 5 classifications.
*1)Waki Noh - auspicious performances for congratulatory occasions, and commonly feature some divine being or person who performs a 'Kciiiii Mai' dance or similar in terms of diginity.
*2)Warrior Piece / Shuramono Asura Noh - Typically a performance featuring the spirit of a famous warrior, a common theme is one from the Genji-Heike Wars. commonly includes the use of swords and spears.
*3)Kazura (wig) - a performance that expresses feminine gracefulness. The tempos are very slow, and movement is 'sublimely restrained', these dances are intended to be yugen personified. The core of most noh performances.
*4)Misc Group - made up of 'Monogurui' (lunitic) or Genzaimono (living person) performances.
*5)Kiri - "ending" noh. Typically features a demon, malicious spirit, or other evil force that will appear and attack a priest or warrior only to be defeated. Normally the demon will enter the stage area while performing a wild dance.
Kinds of Masks & Info about Masks:
*Shite normally wear masks, with very few exceptions.
*Masks are normally 'too small' for the wearer in some roles if only to make the actor seem larger.
*A tsure actor in a female role wearing a female mask. Typically a simple one lacking personality or expression.
*Kokata, Waki, Kyogen do not normally wear masks. A kyogen who is performing in an interlude MIGHT wear a mask, especially if it is a supernatual being.