Towards a Community of ‘Amateur Creativity’ Research?

Here is a great review of the symposium ‘Amateur Creativity: Inter-disciplinary Perspectives’ – delighted to read that my paper on Amateurs in Noh Theatre was so well received!

Get Creative Research

Within days of beginning the Get Creative Research Project we came across the AHRC funded initiative, ‘Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space’, and were excited to find that a symposium coming out of the project would be taking place at the University of Warwick in mid-September. The Amateur Dramatics project – of which Helen Nicholson is the Principle Investigator – is a collaboration between Royal Holloway and the Universities of Exeter and Warwick, where co-Investigators Jane Milling and Nadine Holdsworth are based respectively. The project also involves two PhD projects, undertaken by Cara Gray and Sarah Penny.

Attending the symposium in Warwick on 17th and 18th September was a great opportunity to hear more about the work of the Amateur Dramatics initiative, and to engage with the work of researchers within theatre studies (and some from other disciplines, including media studies and anthropology) whose research…

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Amateurs at the heart of Noh – 能の中核をなす「素人」

As part of my year at the Art Research Centre at Ritsumeikan University under the Japan Foundation Fellowship Programme, I have been asked to write a brief article about my current research on the role of amateurs in the world of Noh. The article is available both in English and in Japanese on the Japan Foundation web magazine Wochikochi.


Noh: "Kiyotsune" - photo by Barbara Mosconi
Noh: “Kiyotsune” – photo by Barbara Mosconi

Shimotsuma Shoshin as videogame character

I have posted on the presence of Noh in videogames elsewhere, but I recently found this and I felt compelled to share. Apparently one of the characters in the popular videogame Sengoku Taisen is Shimotsuma Shōshin 下間少進 (1551-1616), here under original (I think) name, Nakataka. Shimotsuma Shōshin was a high ranking monk at the Honganji temple in Kyoto, as well as skilled Noh performer of the Konparu style – he performed up to 70 plays in his career! As politician, he was first affiliated with the Oda family and, later, with Toyotomi Hidetsugu, of whom he was Noh instructor. Shōshin is an important figure in the history of Noh, especially because of his record of Noh, Nō no tomechō 能之留め帳, but I thought he would be too specific to see him in a videogame. I was wrong!

As for his ‘portrait’ below… what an interesting mix of fanciful Noh costumes, oversized buddhist beads, and visual-kei haircut!


Call grandpa, there’s Noh on TV

This is the face of traditional theatre on the national ‘educational’ channel, NHK’s Eテレ (e-tele), broadcasting programs on traditional performing arts between 22:00 and midnight. In a roundtable on the decrease of Noh amateur population published on Nogaku Journal in 2010, critic Horigami Ken complained about how dull TV programs are today, claiming that the absence of classical arts on TV is one of the reasons why young people today are not interested in Noh.

Nippon no geino

Yes, I too would like to see more Noh on TV and, preferably, I would not like to see it introduced by this nice&tidy couple of presenters, interviewing old geezers and kind baachan dressed in sober kimono, gently bowing and speaking in softly. Noh is everything but gentle or soft. It’s not something to be nodded at from behind a glass case (be it a TV set or a museum stand). Noh is magnificent, powerful, heartbreaking, enlightening. Not for the faint of heart, I daresay. Have you seen this program? Certainly NHK, like much of the Noh establishment, don’t care much about trying to reach new audiences, and only feed the progressively aging spectatorship that started following it in the 1960s. Noh is not only for them. Give us the real thing, not this pre-digested glop, only good for retirement home entertainment.

On imitating the teacher’s voice

A small piece of advice for those who practice Noh utai (chant). If your teacher’s voice is that of an elderly man, it doesn’t mean that you have to sound elderly, too. What I think the student should do when imitating the teacher’s chant is grasp its ‘essence’, focusing on melody and rhythm, if possible simplifying the ornaments and embellishments that you might hear and concentrating on the core of the chant. Listen to how young actors (of the same group) chant and try understand what the link between their young voices and that of your teacher is.

Remember that imitating requires a great deal of personal commitment.