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The Noh Theater and its Gestures Guerino Mazzola U & ETH Zürich Internet Institute for Music Science.

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Presentation on theme: "The Noh Theater and its Gestures Guerino Mazzola U & ETH Zürich Internet Institute for Music Science."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Noh Theater and its Gestures Guerino Mazzola U & ETH Zürich Internet Institute for Music Science

2 Kunio Komparu The Noh TheaterPrinciples and Perspectives Weatherhill/Tankosha, Tokyo & New York

3 Muromachi period Muromachi period Nohgaku = Noh + Kyogen = accomplished entertainmentNohgaku = Noh + Kyogen = accomplished entertainment Vocal music = utaiVocal music = utai Instrumental music = hayashi (1 flute + 3 drums)Instrumental music = hayashi (1 flute + 3 drums) Acting technique = kata (dance poses + action)Acting technique = kata (dance poses + action) Dance elements = mai (dance + utai + hayashi)Dance elements = mai (dance + utai + hayashi) Fine arts, crafts = masks, robes, instrumentsFine arts, crafts = masks, robes, instruments Architecture = Noh stageArchitecture = Noh stage Time = mode of productionTime = mode of production Space = unified space (= stage + public)Space = unified space (= stage + public)

4 Art of time-space continuum, perfection > stylization/formalizationArt of time-space continuum, perfection > stylization/formalization Comparable to avant-garde music including improvisation and chanceComparable to avant-garde music including improvisation and chance Utai-bon (= chant book) contains script, score, rules for performance => conductor superfluousUtai-bon (= chant book) contains script, score, rules for performance => conductor superfluous Architectural space concept is - modular - universal/multi-purposeArchitectural space concept is - modular - universal/multi-purpose Negative space = ma = stillness/emptyness before and after performanceNegative space = ma = stillness/emptyness before and after performance Positive space = stage properties and dramatic activitiesPositive space = stage properties and dramatic activities These spaces are connected by time, no curtain!These spaces are connected by time, no curtain!

5 Types of time and space: Condensed timeCondensed time Slippage of timeSlippage of time Vanishing timeVanishing time Reversed timeReversed time Split timeSplit time Shift of spaceShift of space Oscillating spaceOscillating space Floating spaceFloating space Expanding and contracting spaceExpanding and contracting space Space that brings the audience onstageSpace that brings the audience onstage

6 Noh = experience, responsibility, not appreciation! Like tea ceremony, unique in lifetime, not reproducible! There are no Noh stars... Never forget the beginners mind! A Noh program lasts whole day 5 Noh plays + Kyogen are performed

7 There are five Noh principles: 1.Sancticity & magic 2.Stages of beauty 3.Actor and audience 4.Aesthetic of discord 5.Five element theory

8 1. Sancticity & magic Sancticity of space: Space of sacred dialog with the gods Magic in technique (from mimes): Acrobatics, mystical forces will power, autosuggestion: Merging self and other mask + mirror...the minds eye is opened and the soul grasped; the true Noh, hithertoo invisible, comes alive...

9 2. Three stages of beauty Hana = appearant beauty: blossom/flowerHana = appearant beauty: blossom/flower Yugen = invisible beauty: performed sublimityYugen = invisible beauty: performed sublimity Rojaku(old quiet) = quiet beautyRojaku(old quiet) = quiet beauty

10 3. Actor and audience Self and other, active fusionSelf and other, active fusion

11 1.Curtain 2.Third Pine 3.Bridge 4.Second Pine 5.First Pine 6.Shite pillar 7.Eye-fixing pillar 8.Flute pillar 9.Waki pillar 10.Cut-through door 11.Back panel 12.Main Stage 13.Moat Steps 14.Pebble Moat 15.Side Stage 16.Rear Stage 17.Mirror Room

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13 4. Aesthetic of discord Odd number important in Japan; against symmetryOdd number important in Japan; against symmetry Center of shape center of space:Center of shape center of space: Dynamic balance Jo-Ha-Kyu = most important aesthetic principle: Jo = beginning position = spatial element Ha = break/ruin = destruction, disorder Kyu = rapid speed, time element Production principle for Noh program: Everything is dominated by Jo-Ha-Kyu.

14 5. Five element theory (odd number!) Elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water ~ 5 breaths, 5 tones, 5 organs, etc. Five Noh play categories: god, warrior, woman, madness, demon Have two time categories: present time dream time => 10 categories in plays: two time categories x five play categories

15 Masks:woman demon mad godwarrior Clothes & Craft:

16 warrior goddemonwoman

17 Every Noh play is one cross section of the life of one person, the shite. The shite has an appearance (demon, etc.) and subject = one of the five elements The waki is a kind of co-sub- ject and mirror person to the shite.

18 Instruments of hayashi

19 Utais fushi units

20 kata: movement patterns

21 Why are gestures dominant in Noh? Have three languages of human expression: VocalVocal FacialFacial GesturalGestural Facial is impossible because of masksFacial is impossible because of masks Vocal is ambiguous in Japanese, bad for expression of will, reserved to lyrical evocationVocal is ambiguous in Japanese, bad for expression of will, reserved to lyrical evocation Noh is dance drama, no opera or ballet All characters are choreographed All movements consist of units of movement = kata (patterns) chant unit = phrase (12-syllabe line) music unit = melodic + rhythmic units space unit = za (hierarchy of places!) Everything is modular!

22 Noh gestures are reduced to unit patterns (kata) and made symbolic. This enables much richer communication to audience than by eveyday gestures. Very important for us: Shite waves a web of fantasy in curves.Shite waves a web of fantasy in curves. Waki draws reality in straight lines.Waki draws reality in straight lines.

23 Classification of katas Three types: Realistic, e.g., hold a book in your hand, jump into bellRealistic, e.g., hold a book in your hand, jump into bell Symbolic, e.g., weep = hand to face and backSymbolic, e.g., weep = hand to face and back Abstract, e.g., zig-zag = beginning of end of many dances, or extended fanAbstract, e.g., zig-zag = beginning of end of many dances, or extended fan Three categories: Pure dancePure dance DescriptiveDescriptive DramaticDramatic

24 Have the gliding walk, transports characters horizontally through space > white socks! One could understand Noh by observing feet! Interesting performance only in upper half of body!

25 katachi = more than kata: chi = deity, i.e., katachi = form/shape = exterior form of kata + characteristic usage (mask, clothes, character) Dance = text built from kata-units by enchaînment plus syntactical rules mai = performed kata text plus music Classification of mai according to elements (music, dance etc.) Noh = enchaînment of 100 types of shodan segments basically 4 types: spoken/chant/instrumental/silence


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