An Update: Yes, I’m still alive

Hi folks.

I’m still here, but I’m focusing my blogging efforts on my music career now.  If you’ve missed me, this is where to find me.

Also, I’ve released an album of original music under the name 星空.  (Because what good is knowing the kanji if you don’t use them?)  Here it is in its entirety:

See you ’round the internet!

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I finally “get” Perfume

Perfume is an insanely popular Japanese electro-pop trio. So I’d heard of them for ages, but I could never get into their music, it being totally different from what I normally listen to.

Well, I don’t know what happened, but now I get it. I own a bunch of their songs that I bought on iTunes, and their poppy synths and child-like voices are getting me through some tough times.

This may be sort of like my brief Girls Aloud phase, but less embarrassing. (Sorry if any of you are Girls Aloud fans, but let’s face it, they aren’t very good.)

Anyway, this is my current obsession. As with most music videos, I have no idea what’s going on here.

Video Post #7 – やさしさに包まれたなら (Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta nara)

Hi folks.

I posted this video a while ago now and never quite got around to putting it up here.

It’s the ending song from Kiki’s Delivery Service, if you watch it in Japanese.  The lyrics are beautiful, and you can find the English translation here.  Sorry the video quality isn’t spectacular – the internet is so bad in my house that I couldn’t be bothered making the video super high quality and then waiting 2 hours for it to upload.  (I got stuff to do, yo!)

Oh, and I didn’t mention in the previous videos, but the pink and yellow jazz hanging off of the microphone stand is actually a gift from a Japanese friend.  His grandmother makes them and he brought one for me.  Nice, huh?

Video Post #6 – ぐるぐる (eufonius)

Hello all!  Jessica here.

Today’s video post is particularly special to me, as I have been in love with this song for what feels like absolutely ages now.  It’s called ぐるぐる (guruguru), and it’s by the band eufonius.

I wrote in October about how much I loved this song. Well, I’ve pretty much been trying to learn the lyrics and piano part since then.  I’ve even recorded it several times, but I always made a huge mistake on the piano or forgot some of the many, many words or got otherwise interrupted.  Even in this recording, there’s a pause at 2:26 in which you can hear someone opening a bedroom door.

So, making a version of this song that I felt comfortable uploading to YouTube is a pretty big deal for me.  🙂

Japanese Language Is An Improvised Jazz Solo – Discuss.

I decided to make the title for this post sound like one of those dreaded essay questions from high school.  I don’t know what made me do that.  It just felt like the right thing to do at that moment.

I guess you could say I improvised it.

***

I grew up in a Midwest American town that boasted several ferocious school music departments.  Out of 1200 kids in my high school, 400 of us were involved in music.  I was in, among other things, the jazz band.  In jazz music, there will inevitably be a bit where the notes turn into slashes with chemical – looking symbols above them.  If you were the one who volunteered (or, more often, was forced into it), that meant it was your turn to stand and make something up on the spot – it was your turn to improvise.

Something a bit like this.

Something a bit like this.

Jazz improvisation instruction is full of contradiction.  One day it’s, “just play anything, there are no wrong notes, Miles Davis built a career on that concept you know”, and then next lesson it’s “These are the notes of a D Dorian scale.  When you see D minor, restrict yourself to these 7 notes and no others”.  Jazz is freedom and spontaneity, then jazz is hours upon hours of finding ever more gruelling ways to play scales.

“They” (music educators everywhere) will tell you jazz is like speaking.  You learn scales (vocabulary and grammar), but then when you take a solo (have a conversation) you forget all of those things and just make it up as you go along.  But that analogy never really worked for me.  Jazz improvisation is HARD and language (English) is EASY.  I didn’t have to sit and drill adverbs for an hour a day before I could tell someone they were going too “slowly”.  It was something teachers said and I never believed. Panic resumed.

However, now that I’m studying Japanese, I’m starting to get what those bespectacled, goatee’d lecturer-dudes were talking about.  I have spent months now learning the difference between は, を, and が and I thought I nearly had it.  But, when faced with a real live Japanese person, all of that goes out the window and I mess them up.  Also I know that か is at the end of a sentence when it’s a question.  I know it.  But I haven’t practised it in real time.  So I forget that too, and that’s easy. I feel like a bit of an idiot…

…just like when I would know the notes of a melodic minor scale, know them, could recite them, could play the scale on my instrument, but when faced with a performance situation – gone.  Out the window.  It’s a really dreadful feeling.

I think it comes down to the difference between knowing and knowing.  There’s knowing something with your head, and then there’s knowing something so well that it is a part of you.  After years and years of trying, I can now achieve passable jazz solos on multiple instruments.  I never feel like I’ve done as well as I could have, but the audience claps and the world keeps moving.  It was only partly due to practising scales.  It was mostly due to being faced with that real situation over, and over, and over again and playing some really dreadful solos in the meantime.  Now the notes are more a part of me than something that I think about.

That’s what I never understood.  English has always been a part of me – I don’t remember learning it.  And it’s such a part of me that I can say things that are wrong or don’t actually make sense (like “meese” is the plural of “moose” and “smack that b**tch up”) and they become correct in that moment because I’ve expressed myself in that way.

So until I get lots and lots and lots more practice, Japanese will be at the “ohmigodohmigodohmigod there’s so many people here and they’re all looking at me and Mr. Public School Music Teacher will be so disappointed in me if I screw this up” phase.  However, if I’ve survived it once, I can do it again.  In the meantime, people of Japan, ごめんなさい