Monday, June 16, 2008

Notes On the Preface to "The 1687 Gidayū Collection of Jōruri Scenes" by Takemoto Gidayū

In the preface to the collectionTakemoto Gidayū 竹本義太夫 (1651-1714) relates the story of a friend who came to him in search of the secrets of and Jōruri. During their meeting, Gidayū discusses the various techniques of the two dramatic forms, and the importance of mastering Heike recitation and “maintaining the balance between the masculine (skill) and the feminine (heart)"; but he stops short there, advising his friend to dig through the "Kadensho" to find the deeper secrets.

Yet the practical advice he gives his friend reveals much about his attitude toward Nō and Jōruri. Here are some of his points:

*First, he explains that Nō is not the father of jōruri; rather, jōruri is both the mother and father of jōruri. Nō is jōruri`s foster-parent.

*Regarding individual tendencies and inevitable idiosyncrasies, Gidayū advises his friend to observe the laws of decorum and not to “startle the listener.” “When asked to perform at a private residence," he goes on, "one must tailor the performance to the desires of the patron.” Such an emphasis on decorum might be compared to similar advice given by Horace in his "Ars Poetica."

*Gidayū's Nō is no art-for-art`s-sake. For him, the purpose and meaning of the Nō lies explicitly in its relation to the audience, without whom there would be no Nō. “Is not its purpose to entertain the hearts of the audience?" he asks. Gidayū is ever-mindful of the primary importance of entertaining audiences. “The ability to entertain without boring one’s audience," he explains, "should be considered the secret tradition of the art of Jōruri. Those who achieve this skill should be considered masters.”

*Regarding the tradition, Gidayū recommends “listen[ing] to many kinds of music, drama, and storytelling, and to discard that which is not pleasing to one’s heart; that which remains will most likely be effective as art.” Again, the success of the work is measured in terms of its effect on the audience.

*Gidayū also warns not follow blindly the dictates of any single school. “One must open one’s ear and mind," he explains, "because no one school has the secret teachings and traditions.”

*Finally, he advises against seeking fame, for it will come naturally to those who deserve it.

[A translation of this preface can be found in Gerstle’s Circles of Fantasy: Convention in the Plays of Chikamatsu]

Friday, June 6, 2008