Kurokawa Noh

I would like to share some rare amateur videos of Kurokawa Noh I found on YouTube. Click on the video to be redirected on YouTube and find more videos on the performance before-and-after on the uploader’s page.

There is not a lot of literature on the subject in European languages: here are some resources:

– Martzel, Gérard. La fête d’Ogi et le nô de Kurokawa. Paris: Publications Orientalistes de France, 1975.
– Grossman, Eike. ‘Under the burden of Noh: Community life in Kurokawa and ritual Noh performances’ in Noh Theatre Transversal. Stanca Scholz-Cionca and Christopher Balme eds. Munich: Iudicium, 2008.

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Noh Robots: Noh Theatre Neongenesis Evangelion

Of all the shinsaku-noh (modern noh) I have come across this is by far the most bizarre.. an adaptation of the popular anime Neongenesis Evangelion in Noh style by shite Yamai Tsunao (Konparu school). Apparently Yamai-san has a wide range of interests including singing in a rock-band etc.. This is not the first time a manga has been made into Noh: a few years ago Umewaka Rokuro transposed the manga Kurenai Tennyo into a shinsaku Noh. I do not know either mangas and have not seen the plays.. surely these are images that make you think…

Here the link to the original article.

Puns on Noh

I am collecting ways the word Noh has been used to create more or less funny or catchy puns on Noh (usually titles for newspaper articles).

  • ‘Noh Woman Noh Cry’ (reported by Melissa Poll) – this could actually be my current favourite
  • Nō to ieru kyōgen’ (‘The Kyogen that can say Noh’), probably after the essay No to ieru nihon (‘Japan that can say No’) – suggested by Helen Parker.
  • ‘Japanese theatre bulletin: Noh news to report’. Random Tweet
  • ‘Be in the Noh’ workshop at SOAS (Londond, 2001) ran by Matsui Akira (reported by Helen Parker)
  • ‘Noh business and sho business’. Episode in a series of three programmes on Japanese music for BBC Radio 3, The Japanese Ear, in the early 1990s. (reported by Helen Parker)
  • ‘Nohledge of Zeami’s treatises’ (suggested by Matthew W. Shores)
  • ‘Noh news is good news’. (random tweet)
  • ‘Are You in the Nō?’ (Vogue, 1/7/1916) suggested by David Ewick
  • ‘When Noh means yes’ (American Theatre, 7/1/04)
  • ‘Noh business is like Noh business’ (Various articles)
  • ‘To be or Noh to be’ (American Theatre, 11/1/03)
  • ‘Troupe says yes to Noh’ (News Tribune Tacoma, 27/3/07)
  • ‘Noh theatre for you!’ (missing reference)
  • ‘The American Who Couldn’t Say Noh’ (by Charles Danziger)
  • ‘Japanese No-Noh: The Crosstalk of Public Culture in a Rural Festivity’ . an article by Bill Kelly in Public Culture suggested by Prof. Matthew Cohen
  • ‘Japan’s magical landscapes: there’s noh place like it’. (Tom Yarwood, The Guardian 7/10/11)

Do you have more to suggest?

Hi-res Noh

Claire suggested me this promo video by Canon, showing off the amazing capabilities of the 5D Mark II model camera. Interestingly enough, Canon used Noh for the concept of this advertisement. The images are just gorgeous and I love the superimposition of movements and non-Noh music. Philologically, the autumn sequences are a bit out of place as Hagoromo, the play shown, is a Spring play ‘par excellence’. The authors were probably inspired more by the colours of the choken, the dance cloak the shite wears in the second half of the play. Though my impression of the video is very positive, I know other people in the Noh would be annoyed by what is sometimes considered an over-aestheticisation of what should be more austere and less flashy. However, Noh is not in the Taisho era anymore and I wonder to what extent it is possible (and meaningful?) to leave it as it was…

Parents & Children Noh

Any non-Japanese Noh enthusiast has sooner or later faced the bitter truth about the scarce interest of his or her Japanese peers. ‘reminds me of my grandpa’.. ‘it’s stuff only good for ojisan’.. ‘isn’t it called Kabuki?’ are only some of the responses I heard from young Japanese when engaged in a conversation on what I think is the most beautiful thing on the planet. Most of the young generation do not have a clue of what Noh is, and do not bother at all. Its language (performative, poetic, visual) does not speak to the contemporary audience – or, contemporary audience grew too illiterate to be able to understand it. Noh world has lost touch with its audience: it just takes you to go to an average Noh performance to realise the average age is around 60. Shocking, if you are used to go to the Globe.

Among the various attempts at healing this broken bound, and reconnect with the lost audience are workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions, inviting non-habitual Noh theatregoers to give it a try. In summer 2008 I attended a most interesting Parents and Children Noh performance at the National Noh Theatre in Tokyo. The programme featured a funny and engaging introductory speech by a Kyogen actor, followed by the Kyogen Kaminari (‘The God of Thunder’) and the Noh Kokaji (‘The Fox Swordsmith’).

Both plays are very dynamic pieces in the repertoire and in fact resulted in a big success: kids (8 years old on the average) laughed out loud during Kaminari and jumped on their chairs during Kokaji, imitating fights with the magic sword. Children and parents had also the chance to try out instruments and masks in the theatre lobby. Among the cutest features of the day was the printed programme, introducing Noh and its elements in a deformed manga style. I loved this day at the National Noh Theatre as much as the kids did. How long before they lose their interest?

Noh theatre and videogames

The allure of Noh theatre reaches the world of videogames. The new release of the popular Tekken features a stage on a Noh stage – along with an interesting soundtrack with nohkan and ko-tsuzumi. At first I didn’t realise, then I zoomed a little and… check out the soundtrack and the pictures below. I am trying to figure out what play it is – judging from the costume and what look like candles on the headpiece my guess is Kanawa.

The Fisherman’s Daughter

This is a demonstrative clip of Dr. Lee Stother’s The Fisherman’s Daughter, a Noh-inspired film/performance I had the chance to take part in during my first stay in Japan in Spring 2007. As a member of the International Noh Institute (Kongoh School), Lee has studied with Udaka Michishige and Ogamo Rebecca Teele in a number of different occasions, and the study and practice of Noh has greatly influenced her work as playwright/videomaker. Her The Fisherman’s Daughter is beautifully documented in the clip below.

Noh comment

I normally despise English puns on ‘Noh’, usually lame and trite. But after reading the delightful report of a Noh performance I found on a blog by WK Hellestal that I copy below, I couldn’t refrain from doing one myself. I personally sympathise with the spectators who really cannot cope with the Noh dramatic devices, and come up with the most fanciful observations – the variety of reactions that Noh theatre can generate is just amazing.

“Noh.

My first visit to the local Noh theater. I didn’t understand a damn thing, but apparently the performances are done in classical Japanese, so I’m not sure how much the native audience understood either.

Masks were interesting. Costumes were beautiful. Drumming and random shouting were cool. But I need a story, so I made one up in my head as I watched. A brief summary of the first act, as interpreted by me.

Ghost A: I don’t like you.

Ghost B: I don’t like you either.

Ghost A: Can we agree to put aside our differences for the moment, in order to join forces to terrorize these helpless townspeople?

Ghost B: My distaste for you has been ameliorated somewhat by the undeniable allure of your plan.

Mayor: No! Don’t terrorize us! We’re helpless!

Ghost A: Hahahaha! Terrorize!

Mayor: No, seriously. We’re not helpless. I’m a ghostbuster. I studied psychology and parapsychology under Dr. Venkman.

Ghost A: I don’t see no damn proton pack on your back.

Mayor: It’s, uh… being dry-cleaned. It’s due back today, though. Any time now.

Ghost B: Isn’t my fan cool? I have a fan. It’s super cool.

Mayor: Not just your fan, dude. That’s some wild-ass hair you got going on. I mean, I know it’s a wig, but it’s a fucking great wig.

Ghost A: Don’t get too chummy. We’re supposed to be terrorizing him, remember?

Ghost B: You’re not the boss of me.

Ghost A: Am too.

Ghost B: Are not.

Ghost A and B: Argh!

Mayor: My plan of setting the two against each other has succeeded. I’m now going to sit in the corner and remain there for the rest of the performance, moving only to shift my weight when my legs start hurting from this uncomfortably formal kneeling style.

End Act 1

The rest of the story continued in a similar vein. I assume.”

Here the link to the original post.