Singapore Workshop on a Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center
シンガポール シンポジウム ・日本舞台芸術リソースセンター
June 24-26, 2005
National University of Singapore

Generously funded by The Japan Foundation

Individual Presentation Abstract


Moncia Bethe and Karen Brazell
Otani University, Kyoto and Cornell University, Ithaca

Noh as Performance : an interactive, electronic version

Presentation (.ppt file download)


Many years ago we published two studies about noh in the Cornell East Asia Series :
Noh as Performance: An Analysis of the Kuse Scene of Yamamba (1978, hereafter Performance), and
Dance in the Noh Theater (3 volumes; 1982, hereafter Dance)

The Performance volume is still in print, but because the Dance volumes had elaborate photo layouts that could not be readily reduced to the new, smaller format of the Cornell East Asian Series, they went out of print; however they are now available online at, Each study was accompanied by video tapes that have deteriorated so badly they are no longer sold.

Because the analysis we provided in these works has not yet been surpassed and because technology offers so many new tools to use in expressing our ideas, we plan to create revised, electronic versions of these studies. At the Singapore GloPAC Planning Conference we would like to explore possibilities and develop new ideas for three interrelated, initial projects:

1) An interactive, electronic video of the kuse scene of Yamamba. Monica has taken a new digital video tape to use in this project. This could be made into a CD or DVD to accompany the printed text as well as be a part of the Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC).

2) An interactive text of the Performance volume. We would scan in the text, revise parts of it and make it interactive, using some of the more detailed analysis we did in the Dance volumes to expand our presentation.

3) A new interactive glossary of all the terms used in the above. This could eventually be expanded to include all the terms in Dance or even more broadly to include all the terms used in JPARC.

At the Singapore conference we would like to solicit new ideas about tools that would be useful in fulfilling our objectives and to receive feedback on the feasibility and effectiveness of the tools we have conceived. Below is a list of ideas we are considering, some of which we will present at the conference.

1) Streaming video (or progressive download video) with Japanese and English subtitles recorded separately so that the viewer would have four options: no subtitles, Japanese, English, or both subtitles. If the quality is good enough, we would like this to be an enlargeable screen.

2) A multi-screen layout in which the viewer could view the video (with or without subtitles) and also follow it in English and/or Japanese scores and/or moving floor plans (see below for these tools). A relevant example is in the DVD The World of Yorozu Kyôgen

3) Audio-video scores. There are various traditional scores for noh (utaibon, katazuke, drum and flute instruction books) as well as more recently created scores developed by us in English and by Japanese scholars. We would like the capacity to present audio and/or video clips along with a display of an appropriate score with a marker coursing through the score to indicate the point of the performance.

4) Moving floor plans. Floor plans of the noh stage (probably both with and without the hashigakari) on which could be etched in real time, slow or fast motion the outline of dance patterns and sequences for various purposes:
To show where a dancer is in a dance from an overhead view. This would help the viewer to understand the structure of the dance.
To illustrate the principle of jo-ha-kyû: The etching would move at different speeds to show jo-ha-ky û progression within a kata, or to illustrate dances performed at different speeds. To effectively illustrate the latter, one would need speeded up versions without musical accompaniment as well as partial examples in real time with music.
To illustrate movement variation in dances (mai, hataraki, etc). To do this we would want to use icons (see below) to distinguish between ground and various highlight patterns

5) Icons for types of dance movements and music patterns. These would be particularly useful in versions of the moving floor plans and in the glossary.

6) Animated movements from still photos. Using the still photos of dance movements and having them show in a quick or slow series to illustrate the movement better than a series of photos on the page would do. Complementary to video clips of the same movements.

7) Creating costumes for specific characters. Using techniques found in some on-line clothing catalogs and elsewhere we enable the user to experiment with creating costumes for traditional characters and for designing their own costumes for “modern” performances based on traditional arts. In addition to choosing the style of undergarment, robe, trousers, mask, hairpiece, and head piece, the user could change the design and color of each item.

8) “Karaoke” music. Present scores with a missing vocal or instrumental parts so that the user could input, temporarily record, and then hear themselves “perform”.

9) Interactive quizzes, visual and oral. Multiple choice quizzes modeled on something like to enable users to test their knowledge either as they are reading the interactive text or in general. After seeing or hearing an example (which would be repeated randomly) the user would chose an answer, be told if the answer is correct or not, and allowed to repeat the question until they get the right answer or to go on to the next question. These would be designed in varying degrees of difficulty. Some examples (the possibilities are endless):
Identify instruments: kozutsumi, ookawa, taiko, nookan
Buttons would have pictures of instruments as well as names.
Indentify the basic sounds of each instrument.
Basic Chant: tsuyogin, yowagin, kotoba (kyoogen chants too?)
Basic rhythms: hiranori, oonori, chuunori
Identify dance patterns.
Identify the scene in a noh play by looking at a brief video clip.

10) Tools to help users analyze a dance and create “new” dances based on traditional models.
Enable users to learn to divide a dance portrayed in a video into dance sequences and patterns so that the user can learn the underlying modular system. A version of the interactive quiz based on dance sequences might work here so the users could see if have chosen the right breaks.
Each movement pattern would have its own icon, so the user could line up the icons of the kata in order they would appear in a traditional dance, or, if they wished to create a new dance, in an order the user thinks is appropriate.
Each kata has an associated floor plan, which would help the user to place that movement on an appropriate place on stage and incorporating it into a floor plan.

If the program were sophisticated enough, the user could add movement and sound! After recreating a traditional dance (at whatever level), the user could check with a stored dance to see how close they came to being “accurate.”

We will refine these ideas to make a coherent electronic text.



Dance In The Noh Theatre, Volume 3 (pdf version) on Dspace:



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