2020 Special Lecture: Traditional Japanese Theater and Music(Noh and Kyogen)

Font size  SML

Register update notification mail Add to favorite lecture list
Academic unit or major
Humanities and social science courses
Anno Mariko 
Course component(s)
Mode of instruction
Day/Period(Room No.)
Course number
Academic year
Offered quarter
Syllabus updated
Lecture notes updated
Language used
Access Index

Course description and aims

What are the musical principles, building blocks, and performance practices of traditional Japanese theater and music? How are traditional performing arts transmitted from master to disciple? How are they performed today? This course explores the music and genres of Noh and Kyōgen, which are designated as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, by tracing their origin and development throughout history and by investigating their influences on traditional and contemporary theater forms. The course aims to give students the skills to critically analyze audio-visual recordings of compositions and performances, identify the driving forces onstage, and recognize the space for improvisation within the rigidity of tradition. Students will participate in oral transmission of the instruments and Noh singing and dancing, integrating theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

Student learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course, students will have an appreciation of traditional Japanese theater and performing arts. They will understand the characteristics of Japanese theater and music and will be able to discuss them with colleagues in academic and non-academic settings.

Course taught by instructors with work experience

Applicable How instructors' work experience benefits the course
An instructor with work experience as a performer will provide hands-on experience in the performing arts, based on practice in the field that fosters critical thinking and encourages creativity and self-expression.


traditional Japanese theater and music, Japanese performing arts, Noh, Kyōgen

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

The course focuses on class discussions. Students are expected to read the appropriate materials before class to prepare for discussion and to write response papers on the reading and class materials. At the end of the term, students will give a presentation on some aspect of traditional Japanese performing arts based on the paper they will submit at the end of the course. (Note: Syllabus is subject to change based on the level, needs, and actual number of students.)

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 1. Introduction to course 2. Overview of traditional Japanese theater and music identify course aims; acquire basic knowledge on traditional Japanese theater and music
Class 2 Noh: History, genres, performers, costumes, and masks understand Noh’s history, genres, performers, and performative aspects
Class 3 1. Analysis of Noh Plays 2. Noh structure and analysis of Noh Izutsu 3. Analysis of New Noh and English-language Noh analyze traditional and contemporary Noh plays; identify aspects of traditional and contemporary elements in performances
Class 4 1. Noh Transmission: Instruments and music 2. Kyōgen: History and characters 3. Final paper proposal due: 75- to 100-words experience oral transmission of Noh instruments from teacher to student; comprehend Kyōgen’s history and characters; prepare paper proposal
Class 5 1. Noh transmission: Utai (chant) and shimai (dance) of Yuya (*Please wear socks!) 2. Kyōgen: Genres, costumes, and masks experience oral transmission of Noh chant and dance; comprehend Kyōgen’s genres, costumes, masks, and performative aspects
Class 6 Kyōgen: Analysis of traditional and contemporary performances analyze traditional and contemporary Kyōgen plays; identify aspects of traditional and contemporary elements in performances
Class 7 1. Final Presentations 2. Final paper due in class consolidate key concepts; articulate ideas and opinions on issues; demonstrate knowledge of course material; deliver a presentation

Out-of-Class Study Time (Preparation and Review)

To enhance effective learning, students are encouraged to spend approximately 100 minutes preparing for class and another 100 minutes reviewing class content afterwards (including assignments) for each class.
They should do so by referring to textbooks and other course material.


Handouts and reading materials will be provided in class and/or uploaded into OCW-i.

Reference books, course materials, etc.

1. Malm, William P. Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments. Tokyo, London, and New York: Kodansha, 2000. (ISBN: 4-7700-2395-2)
2. Salz, Jonah, ed. A History of Japanese Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2016.
3. Hoff, Frank, and Willi Flindt. “The Life Structure of Noh: An English Version of Yokomichi Mario’s Analysis of the Structure of Noh.” Concerned Theatre Japan 2 (Spring 1973): 209-256.
4. Keene, Donald. Nô and Bunraku. New York: Columbia UP, 1990.
5. Tyler, Royall, ed. and trans. Japanese Nô Dramas. London and New York: Penguin, 1992.

Assessment criteria and methods

Class Participation: 30%
Response Papers and Homework: 30%
Final Paper proposal: 10%
Final Paper and Presentation: 30%

Related courses

  • LAH.H317 : Special Lecture: Traditional Japanese Theater and Music(Kabuki and Bunraku)

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

No experience in theater or music is required. Skills in reading and discussing materials in English are needed.


Attendance at the first class is compulsory for students planning to take this course. It is recommended that students take this course in sequence with (LAH.H317) Special Lecture: Traditional Japanese Theater and Music (Kabuki and Bunraku).

Page Top