The world of No as I perceive it, concerning some problems in music.
For example, in reference to No, rationality and irrationality, the relationship between form and content, the continuity or discontinuity of time, the concept of "space," and religion as well, may be recognized as issues. They are raised here because they concern the essential qualities of music, itself an art form addressed to the human being. At the stage that precedes an ultimate expression to the outer world (at the essential root, in other words) nothing but these types of issues can determine the nature of things.
European rationalism (and this is not limited to the world of music) is apparently confronting various limitations during the latter half of the twentieth century. This probably suggests that man-made order and organizations, which constituted a mechanism for probing truth and reality, have lost the thread of their original larger purpose, that they have, indeed, become the objects of man's continuing pursuit in and of themselves. As a result of this, in turn, human beings have been separated from the original sources of their vitality. In music, this circumstance accounts for the shifting function of musical works from the communication of substance to the mere (and insignificant) exhibition of sounds. In this climate, some sectors of European society have begun to focus their attention upon the irrational worlds of Eastern societies, hoping to step away from hackneyed European patterns--in part, with the help of Eastern ideals. I feel the time has come when the World of No can be evaluated in terms of its true meaning within a global perspective.
No embodies typically Eastern modes of thought, of understanding reality. An Eastern perspective on existence and nonexistence, substance and space, what has been cut out and what remains, can be thought of as monistic. The world of No] is to be found in the midst of such balances. Space is not a vacantness, but a substance containing emptiness. The mai [the dance aspect of No] done by the shite [the principal actor in a No) drama], or rather the very existence of the shite, arises from the harmony at the point of contact between actor and dance, from his actions in the presence of space and cosmic energy. I feel a vital excitement in and only in this particular harmony. The same holds true for no bayashi [the music of No]. It is not only the sounds that form the music. Unlike the rest in Western music, a pause in no bayashi is a spacing with potential of its own. The pause is not there in order that the listener grasp sounds as realities, but rather the two existences--sound and the potential in the spacing--form a harmony at their point of contact; both have equal importance. Furthermore, they not only coexist but become one. It is in such a world of structure that I recognize the essentials of an Eastern way. If one starts from this point, the possibility of "figure" and "form" serving as concrete representations of existence comes into question.
Daisetsu Suzuki, in his famous work Zen and Japanese Culture, mentioned that Zen does not value form, for it has chosen to value spirit. This idea seems very significant to me. If we take the meaning of "form" superficially from Suzuki's words, its connotation is the same as the traditional European one; in other words, it would mean that the form is a foothold for reaching into the hidden depths of reality. However, if we probe more deeply, Suzuki's "form" goes totally against the European concept. According to my understanding, Suzuki's "form" does not create reality. Rather, his "form" is created by the inner spiritual world which we comprehend intuitively, through spiritual existence.
Formulating things in such a way, it may seem as though we do not have to think so much about form. But this is not at all true. From the Eastern standpoint, we must value form because it values content (spiritual existence). I dare to take Suzuki's implication to be that Zen values form because it has chosen to value spirit. I cannot avoid the thought that a clue to the question of how No is to be, in the true sense, No itself is to be found in that, in the Eastern sense, form values content. At this moment, this idea touches upon my own musical works. This ideal of form manifests itself in various other types of art as well; for example, in calligraphy it is represented in the ideograms that signify the spirit (e.g., ki-in symbolizes spiritual emanation). To put it differently, form is expressed in the substantiation of spiritual matters. In haiku [seventeen-syllable Japanese versel, such form reveals itself from within the natural phenomena which are necessary in order to express human existence as solitary--under cosmic and inhuman circumstances. Additionally, in No, form is represented through conventions that have been handed down from generation to generation. At the early stages, when one is learning No, these conventions (forms in themselves) are taught as the means, no matter what kind of criticism there is. It is apparent, however, that persisting in a convention from beginning to end would never result in a creative, vital power. In the world of N6, then, as well as in other kinds of art, there is another significant meaning of "form": that each person is initiated through the use of form but gradually must transcend it. We can recognize, at this point, that the idea of initiation through form itself originally arose from the fact that content was valued above form.
All of the preceding facts connect in the recognition of an infinity within the limited, namely, intuitively comprehending the notion of infinity as an inner experience. Form should not be something grasped from outside, but rather it should be a restricted instance of the manifestation of the inner spirit. In such a conceptualization of "form" I can see the existence of Eastern method, one that is in a totally different dimension from the European one.
In the world mentioned above, human existence is always comprehended in a rather strict way: in the context of form standing, as it were, face-to-face with cosmic energy. I believe that the terms wabi and sabi, understood to imply a taste for simplicity and quietness--in such art forms as cha-no-yu [the Japanese tea ceremony] and haiku--have various connections with the Eastern comprehension of form. The reason that vitalistic time--that is, immanent rhythm in a musical sense--comes into existence is that forms have been restricted to their Eastern characterizations.
Music, an art that concerns time, changes its quality depending upon the way in which we perceive time. In European music, the "time" that functions as the underlying structure of music flows onward. European time flows into the future. In such a circumstance, the future is already insured by time itself and one can predict the future on the basis of linear time. On the contrary, musical time in the world of No is circular. It is a time that becomes eternal only when a person confronts it. To put it differently, "time" is perceived only when it is pointed out in the circular context. And "pointing out" can not be accomplished by a simple pattern in musical time. For example, even if No music has been conceptually organized into a simple eight-beat system, it is not actually played in eight beats, nor is it played in four. What happens in reality is that time is divided independently into single beats. Although, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as "beat" in the rhythm of No, even if the music is driving; there is only upbeat, downbeat, and their phrasing. Onori, hiranori, and mitsuji are not terms specifying rhythms, but in their essence indicate the distribution of lyrics. It seems, therefore, that there is no rhythm in No aside from the upbeat and the downbeat, as observed.
A performer of Western music expresses himself in accord with a dependence upon flowing rhythm. In contrast, the hayashikata [an instrumentalist in No] nails each beat to an endless cosmic expanse. The hayashikata perceives each beat as a spiritual emanation of his own that has been forced out by an immanent energy. In a world of perception such as this, future times call unexpectedly, and a true human vitality is created within an intense field of strain. I have always sought the vital power of music within this situation, and will continue to do so.
The avant-gardists of European music acquired the idea of soundspace from the work of Anton von Webern. In their rationalism, they finally succeeded in recognizing the pause as the potential space between sounds. In addition to this, the idea of objet sonore has arisen with musicians who look at sounds as objects. On another front, composers such as Olivier Messiaen (who focuses his work within the irrationality of Catholic mysticism) and Andre Jolivet (who tries to restore the incantational functions of primitive religions within his) are attempting to revitalize European music, and the avant-gardists are rocking the proud and traditional foundations of European music.
It is, however, apparent that so long as expression in the European manner possesses a demonic character, the solution inherent in the European scheme can never be surpassed.
As explained above, it necessarily follows from the peculiar mechanisms of the world of No that expression can only exist through employing the moment of denial.
The importance of immanent existence is affirmed by denying bodily and physical standards, in spite of the fact that No itself apparently makes use of these structures. "Human" is, for the first time, understood in its original sense not only through human relationships but rather by employing the cosmic, the nonhuman situation. This concept is nothing but one pattern in the world of religion. Yugen [profound and quiet elegance] as a quality of No can be comprehended within a religious world that totally transcends human individuality. Speaking of my own work, I owe my image of this religious world to the consideration of No.
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|Title Annotation:||A Jostled Silence: Contemporary Japanese Musical Thought, part 3|
|Publication:||Perspectives of New Music|
|Date:||Jun 22, 1993|
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