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Sonic visions : intertextual relations of words, music and image in Japanese nô theatre Stothers, Deborah Lee

Abstract

This study on Japanese no theatre addresses questions pertaining to contemporary concerns on text and performance: Who perceives in the no, and how is author/performer/ audience intersubjectivity achieved? How are we to discern this art form's sonically coded intertextuality? When no plays were acquiring written form during the medieval period (1186- 1573), Japan was in the process of transition from an oral and ritual performance tradition to the increasing predominance of written language. Thus, it is appropriate to situate these questions at the interstices of oral, written, musical and performance texts. The historical no audience actively remembered through snatches of lost phrases, half forgotten songs, past stories and poetry learned by heart. Audience engagement constituted a continuous process of calling to mind in the performative present that which had slipped into past memory. With regards to plays by three major no playwrights (Kan'ami, Zeami, Zenchiku), subjective intent was mirrored on the polished stage of audience collective memory. In adopting the methodology employed in the analyses of no literary texts and their corresponding chanted melodies this investigation acknowledges the precision with which no plays were created as intertextual blueprints of literary and performative affective-expression. On the basis of a linguistic principle governing Classical Japanese called kakari musubi Cgrammatical concord' or 'agreement'), contrastive particles as they are used in the no are argued to be remnants of an oral tradition in the process of transition. They act as performative links between the written and chanted texts, signalling intertextual references and coinciding musically with an intensification of the melodic line. The procedure of mapping particles in relation to the chanted melody of the immediate text and its intertextual source material reveals contrastive and sometimes unexpected significations. The distinct ways in which a play's sonic intertext is combined or juxtaposed with its visual and perceptual fields shed light on individual stylistic differences between the three founding no playwrights receiving comparative treatment in this investigation.

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