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Why Ji-Utai Play Multiple Roles and What the Function of Ji-Utai

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Asia Music History
Why Ji-utai Play Multiple Roles and What the Function of Ji-utai
Abstract
This essay is stared to consider the question that why the chorus (Ji-utai) play a multiple roles in a play. In order to answer this question, this essay firstly introduce the representative two different opinions, which considering the function of the chorus in Noh. And it evaluated which is more reasonable from different perspectives. Then finally it concludes that the chorus conveys the emotion of the scene and help the audience to be absorbed in the play.
Introduction
In traditional Noh dramas, some passages of the play are chanted by a chorus instead of by the main characters such as the shite and the waki. In modern performances, this chorus (ji-utai) sits at the side of the stage as a group. Unlike the primary actors, the member of the chorus do not wear an elaborate costume. The choruses play a significant role for the Noh performance because half of the text are chanted by the ji-utai. For example, the chorus sometimes play the role of the Shite(principle actor) and sometimes becomes a narrator in a same play. However, the meaning of those chorus’s chanting is covered in mystery with various views. Therefore, this essay will introduce two significant opinions which describes the meaning of the chorus, standing in a different point of view and evaluate both of them. Then finally this paper will consider what the meaning and function of the chorus (Ji-utai). Noh is basically composed of three main parts, the shite, the waki and the ji-utai. Noh plays are centered on the action and emotion of one character performed by the shite, or principle actor. The second main character is the waki, serves primarily as a foil for the exposition of the shite’s character. The ji-utai is the chorus of performers that sings the verses to certain Noh sequences, around eight Jiutaikata sit in the jiutaiza, or “chorus seats,” to the right of the stage. (The Life Structure of Noh, 1973). According to Mario Yokomichi, during Muromachi period, the choral part were sung by both the principle shite and the assistant actor the waki. Of course, simple chorus existed at time, but it was of small scale. However, in the late Muromachi period, Noh was began to be consider as not only a dram, but also appreciated for its music. Indeed, some plays that half of the play were sung by the chorus were created during this period. As a result, the popularity of singing contributed to the gradual expansion in chorus size and the shite and the waki, who were previously dominant choral singers gradually ceased to chant such section. Free from the need to lead the chorus, the major actors began to devote themselves to improving their dramatic performance. Then, how the expansion of the chorus were generated and supported, then gain its popularity. Two distinguished schooler answered this question from different perspectives. One claims that the chorus does not have particular meanings and it was generated just because singing by group enable the audience clearly hear what the main character say. The other argues that the chorus help the Noh to create a narrative story by thinking that the structure of Noh should have a narrator. Omote Akira represents the former ideas that the chorus does not have a meaning itself. He is a leading schooler of Zeami, who was the creator of Noh drama in its present form. He classified the script of the chorus into two types. One is called do-on(同音) and the other is ji (地). Do-on is the instruction for chorus how they chant the parts that the shite is supposed to sing, while ji indicated that how the chorus chant the waki parts (Omote 1985). What he remarks in here suggest that both the script Do-on and ji are not the original part for the chorus, but it is supposed to be sung by the main characters such as the shite and the waki . In other words, the chorus only has the function that it enables the audience to clearly understand what the main characters say. In fact, Omote noted in his book that originally Do-on should be sung by the shite and the chorus just supported to let people understand what the shite said( Omote 1984). Therefore, it could be said that Omote was thinking that if it possible, all the passages should be sung by the shite and the waki. On the other hand, Toyoichiro Nogami, who studies British literature and Noh, pointed out that Noh is not a drama and screenplay like a Shakespeare, but a narrative that allows to exist third-person view in a story because Noh does not occur any conflictings between the characters and its cornerstone is the conversation among the characters(Nogami1930:23). Nogami claim that the existence of the chorus prove that Noh is a narrative story in a variety ways. According to him, the chorus is centered on the Noh performance and what the main characters say is the quotation from the direct narration. In other words, it could be said that the chorus is to the main characters what the descriptive text is to the dialogue parts. He also pointed out that why the characters sometimes explain what they feel by themselves. In the Noh scripts, there is the author who are higher than the actors and chorus and they are chanting instead of the author like puppets. He also mentioned that the main characters and the chorus is to what the illustration is to the book in a sense that the illustration of the sense is not always needed. To sum up, Nogami asserted that the chorus is playing significant role to make the Noh narrative story. This paper will support what Nogami think of the meaning of the chorus in a variety views. Therefore, next it will focus on why what Omote asserted wan not enough to support and why what Nogami say would be reasonable. As this paper mentioned above, Omote claimed that the function of the chorus is the speaker of the main character’s voice and the shite and the wiki would be enough to perform the Noh plays. This is based on the fact that Do-on is only sung for the shite and Ji is only for the waki. However, what he mentioned is missed the essence of the Noh. What makes Noh really Noh is its unique rhythm of the word (5-7-5) and tempo. The Noh is not merely a drama and dance, but its essence is the Uta(歌) and how actors sing it(謡). Therefore, Do-on and Ji are not merely for the assistance for the audience, but also the accompaniment for the actor’s Waka(和歌) and Utai(謡)(Donald Keene 2001). In fact, there are three important rhythms for ji-utai to fit what actors say into 8 beat. According to Keene, these three rhythms Hiranori,Tyunori and Onori has the important functions to show the feeling of the characters to the audience by changing its rhythm such as this sense is conveying serious emotions (Donald Keene 2001). This fact indicates that the chorus originally have a significant role to let the author convey the feel of the scene by using rhythms, rather than just letting people clearly hear what the characters say. Therefore, it is remarkable to say that the chorus has an important function, rather than what Omote thought. Finally, why what Nogami mentioned would be more reasonable. The reason for this lies in the fact that the characteristics of the chorus (ji-urai). The features of the chorus is really different from what western drama has. In western drama such as an opera and a Greek tragedy, the chorus are usually formed by the group of peasants and solders and they introduce themselves. In short, the chorus in western has a specific roles. On the other hand, in the Noh play, the chorus(ji-utai) have never introduced themselves and they do not have a role because they sometime play a role of the Shite and sometimes become narrators. In other words, their existence is not restricted by the certain role. It also could be said that they can be an anything such as narrator, the Shite and the Waki and the accompanist. Therefore, what Nogami claimed in the book that the existence of the chorus help the Noh to build the narrative story is supported by the adaptability of the chorus that this paper mentioned above.
Conclusion
Up until now, this essay mentioned that there are two points of view for the meaning of the chorus. One is proposed by Omote Akira, which suggests that the chorus does not contain a meaning itself, but it supports the audience to clearly understand what the character said. The other is by Toyoichiro Nogami and claims that the chorus encourages the Noh to create a narrative style story. Secondary, this paper conclude that what Nogami say is more reasonable if one consider the characteristic of the chorus. Then, finally what is the function of the chorus(ji-utai)? It could be said that the chorus is centered on the Noh plays because as Donald Keene mentioned in his book, the essence of the Noh lies in the 5-7-5 rhythm and the chorus are controlling this most important rhythm. In addition to this, the chorus(ji-utai) let the audience absorbed in the Noh plays in a sense that the chorus play the wide range of roles such as the Shite, the Waki ,the author and even the what audience might feel. That is why Ji-utai does not belong to the specific roles and it occasionally plays the each important roles.

Work Cited
・Donald Keene, “The collected works of Donald Keene ”vol.1,vol.6, Kodansya:Tokyo ,printed 2013 * Omote Akira, “Iwanami-kouza, Noh and Kyogen 1” Iwanami-gakujyutubunko:Tokyo * Tokyoichiro Nogami “Noh no Saisei(Renaissance of the Noh)” Iwanamishoten:Tokyo print 1935

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