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recent thoughts, ideas, commentaries, observations, imaginations, learnings, insights….(in no particular order)

on Kabuki:  from way up high, at the furthest point in the theater, the most striking aspects of the performance were not what you could see or hear…of course the costumes were breathtaking, the actors’ voices unforgettable, the commentaries from the audience peppered the action with great emotion, and the music was gorgeous… but the most compelling part was the moment in the play when the brother told his sister that her husband was dead.


She tried to utter words.

Nothing came out.

She tried to express something, some feeling…


Just the effort in trying to speak and the fullness of that pain…that emptiness.  Just…


I noticed the commentaries of social status (“I am just from a poor family so I am never going to deserve the bushels of food you receive”) and the general underlying thread of the human condition as the general concept throughout the play.  Again, art expressing life through the music, action, textures on stage help us get through our realizations of our human condition more elegantly than if we had no art, story, music, dance to experience.

In the solo Shamisen concert I attended in Nagoya on the 28th at the Tokugawa Art Museum, by Miyake Ichuu, I heard finally what I had read about in books:  The slide or shadow of the notes and timbres in-between the melodic contours. This draws the listener IN to the music, to the tone; into one note and the life of that one note.

It reflected my day in the park: the way the wind rolled over the pond, causing shifts in the color and texture of the water, through moving ripples. Patches of the pond generating fleeting patterns, transforming light on the surface, allowing you to see into the waters, at times, only noticing the surface water itself… then the texture disappears, rolling away, and the pond is once again still.

Or when the wind shakes the tree, a rippling effect causing the branches to dance, the light to flicker, only momentarily.

The body of the Shamisen player was completely still, back straight, legs tucked under, gazing intently on nothing in front of him.  The mouth clear, rounded and allowing for perfect projection of the multi-timbraled voice.  His vocal range was extreme, but he rarely “showed off” the range.  It was merely there, those super high notes, or extreme low ones, for just the right moment of expression.

So wasn’t necessarily the attack of the note, or its release, but that space, in between that caught my attention.  His breathing was practically undetectable: a smooth in and out, no break, no pause, no difference between the in or out breath.  Just a smoothness in the transition between the in and exhale.

And again, the “beat”, which is a relative term. Perhaps, I should let go of that term and my “western” way of thinking (I’m beginning to really hate that word “Western” too, after all, why is it that this is “East” and the US is “West”? from what vantage point are we looking at the world again?).  But if I were to use the word “beat” to describe a rhythmic continuity then I need to define what “beat” means, because there is no consistent rhythmic continuity, it’s flexible, and sways, like the tree when it quivers from the wind.  Like the tea at the bottom of the tea-cup (see blog from a few weeks back!)…

Lastly, there is the audience connection.  Artists here (so far from what I’ve experienced) enjoy speaking to their audience, opening the space in the room, allowing for informality.  Artists explain the history, the instruments and stories; techniques of how to sing, the vocal nuances, or the inner workings of their instruments; composers explain their processes as well. Presentations are so informal that humor is embedded in the telling, and it seems to me that the audience can breath a sigh of relief that in this moment, just for a moment, everything is light and casual.

ahhh… the lightness… once again….

and then the concert begins, and the formality arises.

and then the concert is over, and the formality strictly carries forth into daily life and meetings…

The pre-concert/post-concert or intermediary “presentations” are actually a way to dispel the daily formalities and allow the performer(s) to connect on a human level to the audience.

I hope to learn more about a topic Miyake Ichuu mentioned: the inherent beauty of things…


One Comment

  1. nice post. thanks.

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