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Deadweight of Love
ISMN : 979-0-2325-5084-8
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Deadweight of Love: Serenata Nō constitutes a musical hybrid not only in its combination of traditional Nō singing with contemporary composition, but also in its use of a stage play as the basis for a concert work. As a counterpart to its hybrid nature, however, the piece emanates from a single conceptual association derived from the Japanese kanji 謡. Read as utai, this designates the vocal music in Nō theater and is based on the Chinese character 謠 yao, which refers to a form of sung poetry usually translated by the English term “ballad.” This word, in turn, comes from a Romance-language stem meaning “to dance” (as in the French “ballet”).
A typical Nō play, culminating in the dance of the shite (main actor) that follows the revelation of the protagonist as a spirit or transformation into one, is in essence dance drama. Deadweight of Love introduces dance into the concert setting by transferring this function to the violin. Thus, passages of highly rhythmic and florid music echo dance movements from solo suites of the Baroque era in Europe, contrasting with the freer writing that accompanies the Nō chant.
The shite’s performance of the poetic text is almost evenly divided between the traditional chant version of the play and the composer’s “setting” of the words. Deadweight of Love moreover calls for the shite to impersonate three different characters from Zeami’s drama, going so far as to stage certain moments to gesture at once to both Nō and Western acting traditions. This further hybrid dimension is reflected in its designation as a serenata, originally a Baroque genre that set highly theatrical texts to music specifically for concert performance.
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