Noh theatre has an array of performance styles, and Hayashido presents classical Noh music, introducing the allure of the traditional performing art through its musical accompaniment.
Noh Performance Styles
The subayashi is a performance of music that accompanies the actor’s dance and movement. A simple way to enjoy and appreciate Noh music.
The maibayashi is the climax of a play performed in traditional formalwear, not in full costume. The protagonist’s movement is accompanied by music and vocals with carefully timed silent pauses. During the performance, note the musicality within the form and movements.
The itcho is performed by one singer and one percussionist. The short sequence requires more complexity and has more ornate rhythms than ordinary performances to give the audience the same satisfaction they would feel when watching a full play. The singer and musician confront each other in a dynamic performance.
This first performance is a kamimai, or dance by a deity, without chanting. Unlike conventional kamimai, Suiha-no-den has a section with fast and slow movements and ends with the flute being played at a higher tone.
Suiha-no-den is a special piece within the play, “Yoro.” It represents the mountain deity who appears at Yoro Falls, in present-day Gifu Prefecture. In fact, the deity is a manifestation of Willow Kannon who offers people a means of attaining enlightenment. Both the Buddhist and Shinto deities may have different appearances, but they are essentially one and the same. Suiha-no-den emphasizes this using the analogy of how water and waves are inherently the same.
Taira no Tadanori, a Heike warrior, was also an outstanding poet. One of his poems was selected for inclusion in the imperial waka anthology, but he went into battle with much sorrow at the fact that it was accredited to “Anonymous,” because he had become an enemy of the realm.
Tadanori, who was killed by Okabe Rokuyata during the Battle of Ichinotani, appears as a ghost, and the battle scene is recreated through movement and music. Tadanori’s poem, below, is revealed in the final stage of the play.
When evening comes and I overnight under a cherry tree,
The flowers are the master tonight.
Even though the play depicts the battle, the protagonist does not descend into hell, saved by his wish for salvation. It concludes with the poet’s final moments, his poem about the cherry blossoms leaving a lingering impression.
Court poet Yamabe no Akahito was admiring the scenery at Wakaura, and on hearing the cries of cranes, he composed a tanka poem. The flock of cranes danced as everyone marveled. The cranes then beat their wings and disappeared into the distance. The elegant “Tsurunomai (Cranes’ dance)” is a special dance only performed in this piece. The graceful image of the flock of bright white cranes is depicted with their cries and their wings flapping as they take flight.
↓ The following three itcho pieces evoke images of autumn.
A scene from the Noh play “Kogo.” Minamoto no Nakakuni, on orders from Retired Emperor Takakura, rides a horse to Sagano in mid-August in search of Lady Kogo with only the information that she was staying in a humble abode. The early autumn night is emotionally expressed through the sound of horse’s hooves, the clear skies, the moon, and the sound of the koto.
A madwoman arrives at Miidera in search of her lost son. Attracted by the peal of the Buddhist temple’s bell, she strikes it, tells the bell’s history, and recites old poems. This piece is interlaced with imagery of a tolling bell and the full moon of a cool autumn night.
Matsumushi (Bell crickets)
A spirit reminisces about his long-lost close friend, becomes inebriated, and dances. At dawn, only the chirping of bell crickets lingers. The varied tones evoke the echoing chirps, underscoring the loneliness of the heart.
Rosei, a man who is lost in life, enters a mysterious world when he takes a nap on “the pillow of Kantan,” which is endowed with the power to bestow enlightenment on those who use it.
Rosei unexpectedly ascends the imperial throne in a bedazzling palace of silver and gold. He revels in his life surrounded by lords and beautiful women who serve him. After 50 years, it all vanishes into thin air. It was all but a dream induced by the pillow of Kantan. Rosei awakes enlightened to the fact that all the joys in this world are hollow.
This maibayashi revolves around “Raku,” the dance a rapturous Rosei performs as emperor until he awakes from his dream. The version performed on this day will be in the lively banshikigaku style of fast and slow movements, with the flute playing in a heightened tone.
Kumasaka was a member of a gang of bandits who attacked the convoy of wealthy merchant Kichiji Nobutaka that was transporting his wealth. Unbeknownst to the bandits, famed warrior Ushiwakamaru (later known as Minamoto no Yoshitsune) was also part of the convoy.
The gang is defeated through Ushiwakamaru’s furious energy. Kumasaka goes head first into battle using secret techniques with his favorite naginata, a long pole with a sharp curving sword blade at one end. But he loses his strength and stamina, and is killed.
This piece depicts the fight between Kumasaka and Ushiwakamaru from Kumasaka’s perspective. In the play, Kumasaka performs solo, but it is easy to imagine Ushiwakamaru’s presence. The intense, courageous battle scene makes the loser’s forlornness even more palpable.
In this piece, a lion, the spiritual beast of Monju Bosatsu, plays with blooming peonies.
After a grand opening divining the advent of a spiritual beast, a mystical atmosphere develops, evoking the serenity felt deep in the mountains. Breaking the silence, the lion begins a frolicking dance. The splendid performance portrays the vigor of the lion, a symbol of vitality. This piece appears in the Noh plays, “Shakkyo,” “Mochizuki,” and “Uchitomode.”