Noh Masks and Early CGI

I have only one thing in common with Marcello Mastroianni ...

My suave ways? No, no! Apparently we both enjoy a good Noh mask.

When I was very young, our downstairs neighbor had an exquisite collection of Noh masks, and I still remember them laying on their little silk pouches on a low table. I was reminded of them by a weird and beautiful video I ran into a few months ago; extremely early computer generated imaging from 1972, by Fred Parke:

Isn't it engaging and a bit disturbing?

"Several types of masks, in particular those for female roles, are designed so that slight adjustments in the position of the head can express a number emotions such as fear or sadness due to the variance in lighting and the angle shown towards the audience."

The following is an illustration of this principle, showing three views of the same mask:

I've never seen a Noh performance, but would so love to. I'm sure I would have virtually no idea what was going on without a great deal of homework, but I enjoy bewildering experiences. Other neat facts:

"By tradition, Noh actors and musicians never rehearse for performances together. Instead, each actor, musician, and choral chanter practices his or her fundamental movements, songs, and dances independently or under the tutelage of a senior member of the school. Thus, the tempo of a given performance is not set by any single performer but established by the interactions of all the performers together. In this way, Noh exemplifies the traditional Japanese aesthetic of transience ..."

"The floor is polished to enable the actors to move in a gliding fashion, and beneath this floor are buried giant pots or bowl-shaped concrete structures to enhance the resonant properties of the wood floors when the actors stomp heavily on the floor. As a result, the stage is elevated approximately three feet above the ground level of the audience."

The birth of a Noh mask:

"Effacement" Clip from Solrun Hoaas on Vimeo.

And what to do at the end of a Noh performance?

"Watching a Noh play is like dreaming; it starts and ends without any clear signs. Thus there are not a few fans that prefer not to clap their hands at the end of a show in order to avoid spoiling an aftertaste. It is important to have good manners when we appreciate art; however, many people say we should not completely forbid hand clapping if it is done to express excitement. But we have to refrain from clapping our hands at the end of a tragedy. We should also remember that a show is not over if someone is on stage."

A precedent, loved since infancy, which might explain my love of the things:

... a delightful Brancusi head. I loved it as a child, and how it lolled along the bottom of a vitrine in the Art Institute (though our version is bronze). Funny how yesterdays post was all about forgetting the face, and here we are today ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to read about culture and how they would wear masks. It's interesting how they interrupt the meaning of them.

-Zane of ontario honey

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