Piercing the Structure of Tradition: Flute Performance, Continuity, and Freedom in the Music of Noh Drama
What does freedom sound like in the context of traditional Japanese theater? Where is the space for innovation, and how can this kind of innovation operate within the rigid instrumentation of the Noh drama? In Piercing the Structure of Tradition, Mariko Anno investigates flute performance as a space for exploring the relationship between tradition and innovation. This first English-language monograph traces the characteristics of the Noh flute (nohkan), its music, and transmission methods and considers the instrument’s potential for development in the modern world. Anno examines the musical structure and nohkan melodic patterns of five traditional Noh plays and assesses the degree to which Issō School nohkan players maintain, to this day, the continuity of their musical traditions in three contemporary Noh plays influenced by William Butler Yeats. Her ethnographic approach draws on interviews with performers and case studies, as well as her personal reflection as a nohkan performer and student under the tutelage of Noh masters. She argues that traditions of musical style and usage remain influential in shaping contemporary Noh composition and performance practice, and that the freedom existing within “fixed” nohkan patterns can be understood through a firm foundation in Noh tradition.