ASIA212Varley

Donald keene has defined n as a dramatic poem

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Unformatted text preview: stately court dance called bugaku (done to the accompaniment of gagaku or “elegant music”), while others enjoyed only a temporary vogue and declined. Still others, merging with miscellaneous native entertainments and ceremonials, ultimately contributed to the development of nò. 114 The Canons of Medieval Taste The two most popular theatrical forms of the early medieval age were “monkey music” (sarugaku) and “field music” (dengaku). Nobody knows the exact meaning of the term “monkey music,” although possibly it comes from the comic-like acrobatics and mimicry practiced by sarugaku actors. Dengaku, on the other hand, was a type of entertainment based originally on the singing and dancing of peasants “in the fields” at harvest festivals. By the Kitayama epoch, sarugaku and dengaku, though rivals with their own schools of performers, appear to have influenced each other to the point where they were probably quite similar in actual presentation. We know from the records that both were immensely popular with people in the capital and elsewhere. The last of the Hòjò regents, for example, is reputed to have loved dengaku and other diversions so much that he completely neglected his duties at Kamakura; and, in 1349, so many people crowded in to see a dengaku performance in Kyoto that the stands collapsed and scores were killed. The fact that sarugaku, rather than dengaku, was transformed during the Kitayama epoch into nò was partially fortuitous. In 1374 Yoshimitsu attended his first performance of sarugaku and was so captivated by two of its actors, Kan’ami (1333–84) and his son Zeami (1363–1443), that henceforth he lavishly patronized their art. This was a most significant event in Japanese cultural history, since without Yoshimitsu’s backing the geniuses of Kan’ami and Zeami, who were instr umental in the creation and perfection of nò, might have been dissipated on a theatrical form that still catered to rather low and earthy tastes. Given e...
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