Sun 23 June 2024, 4.30 pm

CBSO Centre, Birmingham

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Ticket price: General £15, Student £7.50


As the second half of our mesmerizing journey into the realm of Noh Theatre, we present two new pieces of music by Ben Nobuto and Hollie Harding, after their intensive exploration of Noh aesthetics during their visit to Japan in Dec 2023. Kindly supported by The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation.

Noh theatre is an ancient Japanese performing art that has captivated audiences for centuries, these two new commissions have been written under the guidance of its most skilled interpreters, in a very special 2-year cultural exchange between traditional Noh artists and contemporary composers.

These new Noh inspired works will additionally be performed as part of the Mu:Arts Noh Reimagined Festival 2024 in London.


Hollie Harding

Hollie is a composer, researcher, and curator of contemporary music events in the UK and overseas. She is interested in looking at different ways of constructing performance scenarios and exploring the impact this has on compositional processes and the listening experience. Her piece Melting, Shifting, Liquid World is the first composition to incorporate the use of openear, bone-conduction headsets alongside live acoustic and amplified instruments to create a multi-layered sonic environment for the audience to move around and within. Her work has been broadcast on Radio 3, Resonance FM and BBC4 and her latest chamber ensemble piece will be released by NMC in June 2022.

Hollie is interested in collaborating with performers, across art forms and mediums, most recently working with director Josh Ben-Tovim (Impermanence Dance) and George Monbiot on an audio-visual piece exploring themes of rewilding and human loss of connection with the natural world. She also has a passion for working with amateur musicians and was 2017 Composer in Residence with CoMA, subsequently led workshops on their Summer School in Orkney and had pieces performed at their 2018 and 2020 Festivals of Contemporary Music for All.

Hollie was one of four selected composers on the Cohan Collective 2018-21 residencies working with choreographers, dancers and members of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Pavilion Dance Southwest. Teaching also plays an important role in Hollie's artistic life and she has been Associate Head of Composition (UG) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama since 2020, prior to this she was a lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (composition and professional studies) 2013-2020.


Ben Nobuto

Ben Nobuto is a British/Japanese composer, pianist and producer from Kent, UK. With a style described as ‘postmodern’ (Nonclassical) and ‘utterly contemporary’ (Manchester Collective), his music explores themes of attention and fragmentation, often drawing from internet culture and popular idioms in a playful, ironic and surreal manner. More often, his music is concerned with the symbolic nature of sounds rather than the sounds themselves, how memory and meaning are embedded and transmitted sonically. His works have been commissioned by ensembles such as Manchester Collective, CBSO, Manchester Camerata, Ligeti Quartet, NYCGB, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Brother Tree Sound, and have featured on BBC Radio 6, Times Radio and Resonance FM, among others. As a pianist, he often performs his own work, combining a genre-fluid approach to piano-playing with electronics, as in his performance at UK New Artists’ Leicester Takeover Festival in early 2022.

Recent projects include a commission from Manchester Collective as part of their ‘Heavy Metal’ tour (including a première of the new work SERENITY 2.0 at the Southbank Centre), and a collaboration with Manchester Camerata and Orchestras Live for a community-based project called ‘Create Space.’

In late 2020, he was selected a winner of Roundhouse Rising Festival’s Stems Challenge, a UK-wide competition for young producers. Ben graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2019, where he holds a BMus and MPhil Distinction-award degree in Music. He was the recipient of the 2019 Bliss Prize for composition.


Noh Reimagined

Noh Reimagined is a series of projects and festivals exploring the 650-year-old Noh theatre tradition.  Noh Reimagined presents classical masterpieces by top Noh performers, together with premières of ambitious commissioned works, inspired by Noh, which have been created by contemporary artists from diverse disciplines.

In the past three editions of Noh Reimagined festivals (2016, 2018 and 2022) which took place at Kings Place, London, we presented the best of the classical Noh performances embodying Noh’s aesthetic, philosophy, unique musical system, movement, and dramaturgy – which were reinterpreted and reimagined by inspirational British artists and shared with diverse audiences.

What is Noh?

Noh is a traditional Japanese theater form that originated in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was developed by renowned performer-playwrights Kannami and Zeami. Zeami, considered a genius actor and playwright, transformed street entertainment into a refined art. Many of his plays are still performed today.

Noh gained popularity under the patronage of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and became the official art of the military government in the Edo period. Though it lost governmental support during the Meiji period, Noh made a comeback through the dedication of performers and private sponsors. Presently, it has a dedicated following and around 1,500 professional performers.

Noh plays are categorized into gods, warriors, beautiful women, miscellaneous figures, and supernatural beings. The main character often appears with companions, and the waki plays a secondary role. A chorus narrates the story, while instrumentalists provide music. Noh's stylized movement, masks, exquisite costumes, and symbolic staging create a unique and powerful theatrical experience.

More info and resources on Noh



Mu:Arts & Akiko Yanasigawa Founded in 2004 by Akiko Yanagisawa, Mu:Arts has a highly successful track record in curating, producing and coordinating cultural productions and events. In the past 15 years Mu:Arts has brought established and emerging musicians and artists to major festivals and venues in over 40 countries. The successful projects we have produced include the series of “Noh Reimagined” festivals which explore the art of Noh, the iconic theatrical tradition that originated in fourteenth-century Japan. 

Mu:Arts aims to offer open and creative platform that encourages genre-defying, cross-cultural collaborations, connecting tradition with contemporary life, arts and culture. Akiko studied aesthetics and philosophy at Gakushuin University, Tokyo, and obtained MA in Arts Management at The City, University of London where she studied orchestra management, arts policy and management as well as managing of cross-cultural projects. She set up Mu:Arts in 2004 in London. Since then, she has been working with top class and emerging artists from Japan, UK and Europe, and managed and produced highly acclaimed projects at major venues and festivals across the world. 

In 2015, She started Noh Reimagined project which unwraps the art of Noh, the iconic theatrical tradition that originated in fourteenth-century Japan, offering open and creative platform for artists that encourages genre-defying, cross-cultural collaborations through Noh. It aims to connect tradition and contemporary life, arts and culture.  In the next two years, Noh Reimagined project plans to expand outside UK to Japan and Europe.

Akiko is enthusiastic about bringing arts and culture to all sections of society and to this end set up the Azuki Foundation, a registered charity that offers unique events and workshops using Japanese cultural elements to promote creativity and well-being in local communities. She speaks at conferences and events and contributes articles for national papers and magazines. She was on the nomination committee for Classical: NEXT (2015-2018) , and invited as an advisory panel of music and arts projects.


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