Noh, Zen and Now

Author: Kim Rockell (Komazawa University)
Speaker: Kim Rockell
Topic: General Sociolinguistics
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


Part of the broader research project Linking Japan to the world through the Performing Arts [JP20K01193], this paper explores the symbolic world evoked by Japanese Noh theatre, Zen Buddhism, and a contemporary iteration of Noh set in cyberspace. The research draws historical sources, and ethnomusicological perspectives gained through firsthand experience learning to perform traditional Noh in Japan, and in producing a contemporary, educational English language Noh-style play, The Coding Catastrophe, in Fukushima and Tokyo between 2018–2021. The complex of semiotic resources that combine in Noh are considered from the point of view of semiotic clusters (SC), reaching towards an understanding of how such signs of imagination, identity and experience help to connect people to their world (Turino, 1999). At the same time, The Coding Catastrophe points towards more dystopian aspects of the digital turn, exacerbated during COVID-19, such as sensorial multimedia floods and resultant ‘technological unconsciousness’, for which Noh, Zen, and ‘now’, understood as heightened consciousness of the present, may offer a curative offline alternative in the search for new symbolisms in contemporary Asia.

Keywords: Noh, Zen, Ethnomusicology, Semiotics, Theater-based education, Performance-assisted learning