Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Uzawa Noh Troupe in Wollongong

It was a great pleasure to be able to represent Anaphoria Island during this groups three-day presence in Wollongong sponsored by its sister city Kawasaki. Ms Hisa Uzawa heads the troupe, maybe the most highly respected female Noh artist today. She is, I believe, the second female to have made this end road into one of the most exclusively male professions. For this visit, three other females joined her, including her daughter, Hikaru Uzawa, a very accomplished actor herself. The other two actors performed the role of the chorus. I was struck how the chorus commanded that role equal and quite fitting to any that I had heard. The musicians were male, and a very tight group that acted as one but there did not seem to be any real separation of energy between any of the sexes.
The evening performance of “Hagoromo” was to a sold out audience at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. This was only the second time in my life I have seen Noh Theater live and while I have many recordings, I walked away with some new understandings. One was deeper how the drama builds in a way unlike western theater. Besides the restraint of it all, any increase in musical thickness and/or stage gesture, is seldom static for much longer than needed. It struck me with the similarity it has with various shamanistic practices of circulating around some point without going at it head on or it so not for long. . It is quite remarkable about how some small detail will be removed and only then do we realize how much of a ‘pillar’ it might have been acting as. Or in an opposite case, the lowest drum, the Taiko did not enter until the it seemed the halfway point and the when it does come in, it is hidden and done lightly and immediately covered but the two others drums who stood in force. Maybe others did not notice it, but it was still very dramatic and one could immediately feel how change became immanently implied. The complexity of the music is achieved by simple means, almost like chameleon adapting to the shifting energy at hand. Nothing is repeated very much or does not appear in the same way.
I had had a conversation with the Hip drummer about the use of the vocal sounds they intone before they strike. I had understood this as being the sound of a spiritual energy descending to our material world with the actual strike being the arrival. He stated that Noh represents reality and does so by using unrealistic means. Already in the previous days I had occupied myself with the relevance of ‘camouflage’ to music. As an aside it was a word that had been imposing itself upon me for some reason I could not explain. Here it seems to be one of the higher incorporations one could have of this idea.
I still remember my other live Noh encounter that included Maki Ishii’s piece for a single masked Noh actor who had to change expression in response to two recordings on separate speakers of a person laughing and crying but alternating in volume. It showed the power and capability of an actor to use the same mask yet change the expression. The day time performance of Lady Aoi, has a demon, and miraculously Ms Hisa Uzawa manage to invoke much beyond the initial horror, to where one could see how the demon was eating itself up and became almost pathetic. Here one could see how it represented many of human weaknesses that effect so many if not all of us, and what it does to it owner.
I was able to participate in the workshop where Hisa Uzawa quickly through us into quite a bit of detail and movement. This quite put me into a trance state that I immediately recognized as what is conveyed to the audience.

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