Japanese theater. Noh is more of a sacred art form, with Buddhist and Shinto elements, while Kabuki may be characterized as entertainment. Someone described watching Noh as like being bitten to death by butterflies. It's very ritualized and abstract, and very hard to follow for most people (this includes most modern Japanese. Dance and music are major components. As rarifed and existential as most Noh dramas are, I find a freaky kind of pleasure in them. I guess either you grok Noh or you don't grok Noh.

Noh is sung or chanted in Japanese, It's stylized dance and music make it more reminiscent of Opera than of theatre in the western sense. Noh is also masked theatre. The Noh masks are very expressive and the patterns have been handed down from generation to generation.

The choreagraphy and masks in Noh Theater are all pre-set, freeing the actor to be very creative in the way that the songs that comprise the dialogue are sung.

According to James LaFleur, in his book The Karma of Words, all Noh Plays can fall into 5 general categories:

  • Plays about Gods ( Kami-noh )
  • Plays about Maritial Figures ( Shura-noh )
  • Plays about Women ( Kazura-mono )
  • Plays about Misc. or Contemporary Figures ( Genzai-noh )
  • Plays about Demons ( Kiri-no-mono )

The other main theme is Karmic Effect. The tragic hero in the noh play is forced to do something that will condemn him or her to transmigrate down in the next life, becoming a demon or an animal.

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