Omote (Noh masks) (1978)

Basic Information
Japanese 面(おもて)
German Omote
Opus 035
Year 1978
Category Stage
Duration 35 min.
Instruments Noh-Player, Perc, Elec-Sounds
Score information

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About this Work

The characteristic beauty and style of Noh and Gidayū are exclusive in nature. This exclusiveness is apparent in all traditional arts in Japan, and most severe in the performance of Noh and Gidayū.

In this piece I have attempted to explore the timeless expressions of the Noh masks against the stylized human "vocal expression" of Gidayū.

"Omote" is the symbolic encounter of these two traditional art forms and the attitudes they represent. It is at the same time a synthesis of the two forms into a possible new mask play and a synthesis of concrete and abstract elements of music.

The Noh masks which appear in this work, "Kojyō", "Zō Onna", and "Han-Nya" are the representative of the hundreds of the masks that exist in Noh theater.

"Kojyō" (小尉) is the drunken, joyful and showy "fairy mask" (male mask). "Zō Onna" (増女) is the sexy female mask. "Han-Nya" (般若) belongs to the demonic female character, and expresses "jealousy," "anger," and "suffering" of women.

An important characteristic of the Noh mask is the numerous expressions that exist in a single mask. Depending on the angle that the viewer looks at the mask, a series of contrasting image will appear. For example, when looking directly at the "Zō Onna" masks, an expressionless or neutral image is apparent. However, when the same mask faces downward, the expression changes to a sorrowful, crying face, and when it faces upward, a laughing, joyful expression appears. Similarly the "Han-Nya" mask varies from a strong, frightening expression when looked at directly, an agonizing expression when facing downward and an intimidating expression when facing upward.

The electronic tape is composed of sounds of vocal expression found in Gidayū and sounds of performed on percussion instruments. The sounds were altered electronically at the "Elektronisches Studio des Westdeutschen Rundfunks" and completed in May 1978. The composition was commissioned by the "Westdeutscher Rundfunk" (Cologne).

Maki Ishii