Monday, October 29, 2012

Finding the Handle

Finding the Handle

Thesis—My essay will support the argument  that heritage begat intertextuality, which begat sustainability. All three terms describe the same phenomenon. There is an evolution which takes place, sometimes an overt metamorphosis, other times a covert photosynthesis, that allows music to live and reproduce itself time after time. Heritage, intertextuality, and sustainability define that process.

Dissertation--I began this assignment by digesting all of Jeff Todd’s discourse on his research blog which outlines sustainable music and its myriad of multiple essence. I was abruptly struck by his reference to Thoreau’s “Pastoral Symphony.” Todd went on to describe how he(Thoreau) heard a symphony in sound of nature; that the esteemed poet “heard” echo and silence. Pardon my colloquial usage but, “Who does that?” I was captivated in that moment. My prosaic entry was off and running.

The term “cultural commons”  will be critical to this discussion…it represents cultural heritage, including music.

Where is the intersection of heritage and copyright? When does intellectual property become public domain? What is the difference between borrowing and copying?

Can you “have your cake and eat it too? Lewis Hyde pushed for cultural commons while copyrighting his own book; curious.

What is collective being? It’s intangible and therefore tricky. An individual claims ownership of statements, concepts, and theories that are derivative from a previous group(or person). Eliot wrote that melodies and even lyrics can be classified in terms of a mixture of individual talent and tradition handed down and internalized into one’s own conscious thought process.

The idea of sustainability encompasses the concept of composers, songwriters, performers, musicologists, and all devotees of the arts, to freely research, use historical material in whole or in part, and borrow and intertwine text (Ataka, Kanjincho, Men Who Step).

At what point is the entire argument a matter of degrees? At what point do we follow established rules versus rewriting them…to say nothing of ghost writers or author’s pen names. What is truly original and what is embellishing and improving upon tradition/heritage? To what extent do we “stand on the shoulders of our ancestors(giants)”? Ben Franklin deferred much of his credit for inventions to others, groups, entities viewed as “collective intellect”.

To what extent are Kanjincho and Men Who Step on Tiger’s Tail the result of collaborative tradition and cultural heritage? When does a composer, playwright, or director stake a personal claim to unique creativity? The dilemma of this debate rages on as concerns our true selves, our inner selves, and our personality. How much of one’s humanity is fashioned from “nothing”, mysteriously appearing out of genetically predetermined matter?  How much can be traced to a  confluence of environmental factors, philosophies and real-life chronological events?

The perpetual existence of sustainability will depend on some combination of collective being, folk traditions, cultural heritage, and individual agency. As usual, the majority will impose their will on the masses.

Intertexuality is the “living out” of sustainability/tradition/heritage…it’s the borrowing, citation, conscious or unconscious reference, and substitution that can be definitively documented as to its occurrence.  If one can conceptualize the structure of a pyramid one can imagine how “Men Who Step on the Tiger’s Tail” was based on “Kanjincho”, which was conceived out of “Ataka”, which was birthed from “Tales of the Heike”.

The no drama was an entertainment form which came about as the result of intertextualizaiton, folk tradition, cultural heritage, and the collective being of people like Motokiyo Zeami and his father Kan’ami. From the principle of “maximum effect out of a minimum of means” the facets of staging, setting, music, casting, costumes, and movement/dance came into being.

The plays themselves, like Ataka , were dependent on intertextual processes, as well as the pervasive nature of generational storytelling. Because the genre of a “living person drama” or “warrior play” was so well received, Ataka  became a staple of the repertoire of no dramas performed on stage. The dan sections and subsections of Ataka reprinted in chapter 4 of Wade come from the aesthetic principle of jo-han-kyu. Jo-han-kyu is an example of cultural heritage, and a vital segment of intertextuality.

The evolution of kabuki from no can be extracted from the text’s lengthy discussion of traditional heritage/intertextuality. Wade points out that we know from the preservation of woodblock prints that kabuki staging and performance  forces were adapted from no dramas by managers and actors who wanted to appeal to their audiences.

The playwright Namiki Gohei III and nagauta musician Rokusaburo Kineya IV together played pivotal roles in the development of kabuki, and the eventual production of Kanjincho, the kabuki form of Ataka. Other adaptations such as the expansion of the hanamichi from the original no bridge can be traced to  intertextual/traditional/sustainable influences.

More examples of intertextual heretablitiy can be seen in the role of Benkai and how his character came to be associated with the Ichikawa family, highlighted by Danjuro Ichikawa IX performance in the initial rendition of Kanjincho for the emperor in 1887.

The collective legacy of Kanjincho can be seen additionally in its inclusion into the canon of  eighteen grand spectacle plays of the 19th century…Kanjincho is now considered to be the exemplar of kabuki style in Japanese public school education.

Musically, kabuki  lent significance to the role of musicians by maintaining the traditional instrumentation of the hayashi but expanding it with singers and shamisen players. This act achieved the intended effect of popularizing kabuki and further entrenching its place in the culture. It represented another building block in the structure of sustainable music as it relates to kabuki. The intertextual references such as musical depiction of the action on stage were made possible by the introduction of the geza room. The managers and directors dedicated an area slightly offstage where the musicians were hidden from audience view, yet could still see the play unfold before them. The growth in the number of actors and musicians resulted in the advantage of allowing the reserved, understated quality of no to continue while accommodating the flashier, more outwardly emotional style of kabuki.

As I read and ponder Wade’s text in depth, I was reminded of the old rhetorical dispute of the “spirit of the law” being pitted against the “letter of the law.” What’s marvelous about embracing sustainable music and Japan’s intertextuality is that both the old and the new can thrive in a brand new setting. One is not forced to choose between either the “spirit” or the “letter”. They can coexist equally! Such is the case in the opening scenes from “Men Who Step on the Tiger’s Tail”. The story and  setting of the plays are immediately recognized, yet they are  transformed by the sounds of a male chorus. Also, the composer of the film’s score, Hattori, successfully substitutes the Western-style orchestra for the hayashi while keeping in mind the integrity of the no’s asymmetrical rhythm and speech patterns. Other compelling representations of intertextuality must not be overlooked, such as the matsuri bayashi and unmistakable Japanese  scales juxtaposed against the European instrumentarium, military band influence, and hymn-like choral music.

Jeff Todd Titon’s tradition-based writing sets the stage for an enlightening, insightful examination of sustainable music as it relates to the concept of intertextuality indigenous to Japan. Bonnie Wade illustrates and describes in rigorous detail a veritable plethora of instances where cultural commonality occurs. Ultimately we as students are left richer for our awkward, but still authentic attempt to answer the questions asked of this blog.

Here are some links to examples of sustainable music


Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai. Ataka. Japanese Noh Drama. Volume 3, t149-72. Tokyo: Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai, 1960.

Titon, Jeff Todd. “Thoreau’s Pastoral Symphony.” Sustainable Music, Sept. 30, 2012.

Titon, Jeff Todd. “Sustainability Unbound (3): Collective Being.” Sustainable Music, April 30, 2012.

Wade, Bonnie C. Music in Japan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005

1 comment:

  1. I have to disagree with one point you made,

    "If one can conceptualize the structure of a pyramid one can imagine how “Men Who Step on the Tiger’s Tail” was based on “Kanjincho”, which was conceived out of “Ataka”, which was birthed from “Tales of the Heike”."

    I think that intertextuality is less of a linear relationship like you described here, and more of a circular one. For example, I don't think that "Men Who Step on the Tiger’s Tail" was based on kanjincho, but rather a work that evolved from all three of the previous works (Kanjincho Ataka, and Tales of the Heike), and relate to all three in different ways. I think that's also the main idea behind intertextuality, that it is a collective group of texts that all relate to one another, and can even be understood as one text.