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Note to my English readers
Books & Kisses’ BKReadAThon ran from Monday April 28th till Sunday May 4th. This is my wrap-up post but since it was a Dutch event I’m updating in my native language.
De Books & Kisses ReadAThon is alweer bijna een week voorbij. Dat ik pas nu mijn afrondende bericht schrijf komt doordat ik nog wilde meedoen aan challenge #6: Playlist. En dat was een beetje een breinkraker, zodat ik mijn lijstje pas vandaag, op de laatste dag, heb ingezonden. Daarover straks meer.
De readathon was wat mij betreft een succes! Ik heb twee van mijn drie doelen bereikt, redelijk actief deelgenomen aan het sociale gebeuren en vooral: genoten van het lezen.
- Ik heb het boek waarin ik bezig was uitgelezen, ruimschoots op tijd voor de bijeenkomst van mijn leesclub. A first! *bloos*
- Ik heb (vrijwel) iedere dag minstens 30 minuten gelezen; maar één dag is het me niet gelukt door mijn volle programma. Dat vind ik een aanvaardbaar, want realistisch resultaat. Gemiddeld heb ik bovendien ruim een uur per dag gelezen.
- Ik was NIET ruimschoots gevorderd in een nieuw boek – integendeel: ik had er net eentje afgerond en moest in een nieuw beginnen… Dat zijn nou juist mijn zwakke momenten, dus dat ik dit doel niet heb gehaald is een grote #FAIL. Hoe dat afliep lees je in een volgend bericht… ;D
Challenge #6: 1q84 Playlist
De pagina omslaan verzon een hele leuke uitdaging:
Bij de Playlist Challenge is het de bedoeling dat je een playlist verzint bij één van je favoriete boeken. Maak een playlist van 3-5 nummers en kies nummers die voor jouw gevoel precies bij het boek passen.
Niet zo eenvoudig als het lijkt! De moeilijkheid begon voor mij al bij de keuze voor een van mijn favorieten. Dacht ik eerst aan Mr Sandman van Barbara Gowdy, kwam ik er al gauw achter dat ik nog te weinig van het verhaal weet om daarvoor een goed lijstje samen te stellen! :( Naast Mr Sandman van The Puppini Sisters natuurlijk. ;) Maar wat heerlijk dat ik dus snel eens opnieuw in dit boek kan beginnen!
Ik koos uiteindelijk voor 1q84 van Haruki Murakami en maakte daarvoor een melancholisch muzieklijstje dat voor mijn gevoel bij de sfeer van het boek – en goed bij mij past. Het eerste nummer is nogal voorspelbaar omdat het een belangrijke rol speelt in het boek en bij naam wordt genoemd. Dûh dus. Maar de rest is puur associatief.
- Sinfonietta ~ Janáček
- Sex Crime (1984) ~ Eurythmics
- Urami Bushi (The Flower of Carnage) ~ Meiko Kaji
- In My Room ~ The Beach Boys
- Goodnight Mr. Moon ~ John Travolta
Je kunt de playlist beluisteren op Spotify.
Ik verklaar mij nader
Over het eerste nummer hoef ik niet veel te vertellen. De Sinfonietta speelt een belangrijke rol in de toegang naar een andere wereld, een andere tijd: 1q84 – een parallelle wereld. De andere songs uit mijn playlist passen allemaal bij een van de voornaamste personages uit deze trilogie.
Sex Crime (Nineteen Eighty Four)
Annie Lennox die “1984” zingt was wel het eerste waar ik aan dacht bij 1q84, maar dit nummer past ook goed bij Fukaeri, de dochter van de leider van een sekte waar meisjes brutaal worden verkracht. Fukaeri is gevlucht en schrijft een boek over de geloofsgemeenschap.
Een Japans lied uit Kill Bill met de titel “The Flower of Carnage” is natuurlijk perfect voor de huurmoordenares Aomame!
In My Room
Als ik aan de (afstotelijke) Ushikawa denk zie ik hem achter het gordijn spionerend in een appartement, opgesloten in een kamer. Hij is een triest personage; In my room is een melancholisch nummer. “There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets too.” [lyrics]
Goodnight Mr. MoonAwww. *going weak at the knees* Dit sentimentele lied van Mister Travolta doet me ontzettend denken aan onze zachtaardige held Tengo, terwijl hij op de trap van de glijbaan naar de (dubbele) maan kijkt. Zucht. Een beeld om niet te vergeten! ;)
En nu voel ik ook de behoefte om 1q84 te gaan herlezen… Er zitten niet genoeg uren in een dag, dagen in een week en jaren in een mensenleven!
De readaton op een rijtje
- Geëindigd met boek(en)
- Gelezen boeken
Crossing to Safety ~ Wallace Stegner (e-book)
Cats: Kobus Kruls parmantige kattenboek (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) ~ T.S. Eliot
We the Animals ~ Justin Torres
- Aantal gelezen pagina’s
- Totale leestijd
- Challenges en events
Twitterchat #1 (maandag) en twitterchat #3 (vrijdag)
Challenge #3: wishlistC en Challenge #6: playlist
Hanakotoba is the language of flowers: emotions or messages are communicated through the symbolism of flowers. Since it turned summer on June 21st, I figured I’d tell you about the meaning of orchids.
As a mah jongg-player I thought it was THE flower of the season, orchid being the Summer Guardian Stone. But having looked into Japanese flower symbolism, I seem to be wrong! Yeah well, mah jongg is originally Chinese, so.. :) Never mind. As the game is being played in Japan as well, this post is still relevant as my submission for June’s Hello Japan! mini challenge about Flowers & Japanese Gardens. ;)
Starting of with a haiku by Yosa Buson (1716 ~ 1783), translated by R.H. Blythe.
|An evening orchid,
Hidden in its scent,
The flower’s whiteness
|yoru no ran
ka ni kakurete ya
The orchid represents refinement. It is no common plant and it’s pleasures are reserved for the privileged few, so it is also a symbol of the rare and precious. The essence of refinement is an continual process of improvement until absolute perfection is reached.
In the art of fortune telling with mah jongg cards or stones, the Orchid Guardian protects young girls. If it appears in response to a question about a daughter or a younger female relative, it serves to allay any anxieties regarding their welfare.
I have a white orchid at home. It was a birthday gift from my aunt several years ago. White seems appropriate for a flower like this, since it indicates purity and cleanliness in traditional Japanese society, and is seen as a blessed colour because of its sacred nature: it’s the colour of the gods and therefore free of all ‘contamination’. But what is maybe best — if you’re into Zodiac signs that is (which I’m really not) — the white orchid belongs to my sign of Pisces.
I’ll leave you with the Japanese version of a beautiful song about flowers by Einstürtzende Neubauten: Blume, sung by Etsuko Sakamaki-Haas. I invite you to listen to the English translation afterwards.
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. June’s mission is ‘Flowers and Japanese Gardens’.
A big THANK YOU to all participants that joined in the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop for a brandnew copy of David Mitchell’s semi-autobiographic novel Black Swan Green. I’ve had a great trip down memory lane, enjoying your nineteen eighties recollections while listening to the hits that got mentioned — some of which I’d totally forgotten about… Shame on me!
“OMG what a blast from the past! I was born in 1971 so I’m not far behind you and this Human League song was actually one of my favourites from the 80′s (in fact it was at #1 in the UK on my 10th birthday!).”
“I liked everything about the 80′s except the big hair. it was a bad hair decade.”
“I’m a total 80′s girl who still enjoys wearing pink and green (in a contemporary way) :)”
“Later on I was very serious about The Cure, The Cult and The Smiths.I’d raise my eyebrows at my brother listening to Bon Jovi, Europe and Heart, while I put on another Echo and the Bunnymen record.”
“Okay….as soon as the question was posed, I had an answer (Tainted Love), but by the time I scrolled down to actually answer it, two other songs popped into my head (Come On Eileen and Take On Me) and as I started typing my response….well…let’s just say if I continue this comment, I’ll NEVER stop with my list of favorite 80′s tunes!!!”
These comments are killing me! But you probably didn’t come here to hear even more raves about that 80s decade. ;) So let’s get on with announcing the winner Mr Random.org kindly selected for us! And since the Oscar Night is coming up, we’ll do it in style.
The winner of
the 83rd Academy Award for BLACK SWAN GREEN is…
ELLIE from Musings of a Bookshop Girl!
Let’s hear her enthusiastic comment (#2539).
Like many of you Ellie couldn’t decide on just one song. Among the 6 (!) she listed was one of my favourite bands: Depeche Mode! If you’ve visited my home you know their Black Celebration tour poster decorates my restroom wall even today. :) How cool to send a book of my fav author to someone with a similar love! Of course I’ve heard Just Can’t Get Enough just one time too many — I guess a grrl can get enough sometimes — and would rather listen to one of their other songs. Like this awesome soundcheck of Somebody by Martin Gore and Alan Wilder, reunited for the Teenage Cancer Trust in the Royal Albert Hall (February last year).
Now there was one comment that sent me right into eighties heaven. Leslie from Under My Apple Tree had a hard time choosing but she managed to narrow it down to the song and video combination she loved the most and still listens to today: Take On Me by A-Ha! My, did I have a huge crush on Morten Harket when I was 16 years old. :) Even a concussion -don’t ask- couldn’t keep me from going to their concert! Of course I also wore the leather paraphernalia around my neck and wrists — almost up to my elbows ;) Yes me, the wannabe vegan! ;) I gotta have a picture of that somewhere so I’ll prove it to you later if I can find it.
There was one other ‘eighties girl’ who singled out Take On Me: Birgit from The Book Garden. Now although you’ll never hear me say Take On Me is the best song of the eighties (heck, I could never choose one favourite) I’d like to offer Leslie & Birgit a small consolation prize: a CD with their very own Black Swan Green soundtrack to swing to!
Congratulations to Ellie, Leslie & Birgit! And I hope some of you may pick up Black Swan Green someday because of the fun we had in this giveaway!
This is the first, of hopefully many, guest posts by Mr Gnoe. As a listology addict he compiled a Black Swan Green Soundtrack for us!
In a book about a teenager situated after 1960, music has to play an important role. Music is a big part of youth culture and David Mitchell does a superb job of sketching the life of a young teenager in the eary 80s (I know, I’ve been there ;))
There is a lot of ‘boyish’ music, like Madness, Elvis Costello, Adam Ant and the Specials. Music a boy wouldn’t have to be embarrassed about to like in front of his friends. But secretly Jason likes some ‘softer’ songs as well, like ‘Heaven’ by Talking Heads and John Lennon’s #9 Dream (not coincidentally Mitchell’s second book is called number9dream).
Music plays a big part throughout the book, but Mitchell really goes wild in one of the last, hilarious chapters ‘Disco’ (or should I say one of the last stories, since every chapter reads like a story on its own). This reads completely natural because events occur while the music is playing and you can imagine the characters remembering exactly who did what during which song, years after. And if you know and love these songs, like Gnoe and me, it’s a feast to read :)
All the songs in the book together form a nice soundtrack. In the 80s I would’ve made a Black Swan Green compilation cassette but now it’s a playlist for my iPod. Here’s what’s on it!
Don’t You Want Me – Human League (1982)
The first chapter ‘January Man’ starts with the phone ringing in the office of Jason’s father. From his sister julia’s room ‘Don’t You Want Me’ is thumping out dead loud and kicks off the book.
The Man with the Child in His Eyes – Kate Bush (1978)
Songbird – Fleetwood Mac (1977)
Julia is playing these two melancholic songs in her room, telling us (the readers) she’s not as tough as she pretends to be and not as lucky as Jason thinks she is.
Virginia Plain – Roxy Music (1972)
Jason secretly plays Julia’s Roxy Music LP in her room (“Julia’d go ape!“). At first I thought I had spotted a goof, because Virginia Plain was Roxy Music’s debut single but was not included on their debut LP. Wikipedia tells me it was rereleased in 1977 to promote their Greatest Hits album, so this must be the LP in Julia’s collection.
Heaven – Talking Heads (1979)
Jason is seriously impressed by Julia’s boyfriend Ewan’s new car and his taste in music.
An incredible song filled the car from four hidden speakers. ‘”Heaven”,’ Ewan told me, breezy but proud. ‘Talking Heads. David Byrne’s a genius.’ I just nodded, still taking it all in.
Mr Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra (1977)
Feeling good, Jason lays down on his bed and listens to ‘Mr Blue Sky’ five or six times in a row.
Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran (1982)
One Step Beyond – Madness (1979)
One In Ten – UB40 (1981)
Jason is away with his dad on a business trip. Going around town he hears music: Madness in a cafetaria, UB40 in the hotel at night.
Some girls share the earphones of a Sony Walkman and sing ‘Hungry Like A Wolf’. The Walkman was first produced in 1979 in Japan.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Tight fit (1982)
Some girls are singing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ in the back of the bus. This is originally a South African song, first recorded in 1939 but probably much older. The version you couldn’t not have heard in 1982 in England or in the Netherlands was the version of Tight Fit. It reached no.1 in both countries even though it was recorded with session singers and not the models playbacking the song Boney M-style.
Words (Between The Lines Of Age) – Neil Young 1972)
Jason watches Top Of The Pops and listens to a cassette tape Julia has made for him from Ewan’s LP’s. The first song is Words (Between The Lines Of Age). “Neil Young sings like a barn but his music’s brill.”
Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1979)
Ghost Town – Specials (1981)
Waterloo – Abba (1974)
Get Off Of My Cloud – Flying Pickets (1982)
The Goose Fair is in town, and walking around the fairground Jason picks up music from different directions. He especially likes that ace song ‘Olive’s Salami’ by Elvis Costello. Another song he notices goes ‘Hey! (HEY!) You! (YOU!) Get Off Of My Cloud!’, coming from the Flying Teacups. It doesn’t say in the book wich version of the song is being played (the original is of course Rolling Stones, 1967) but I like to think it’s the a-capella version by Flying Pickets from 1982.
The grand finale of the book. Jason, who was not really a loser, but far from popular has suddenly earned the respect of his class mates (No spoiler – I won’t reveal here why). This happened just in time, because at the end of the year there’s the Black Swan Green Grand Christmas Village Hall Disco!
For today’s Monday Movie Meme The Bumbles asked us to name our favourite prison films. Listing Shawshank Redemption is not allowed! LOL
* Following links is at your own risk — beware of spoilers in plot descriptions! *
|One of the first films I thought of is Martin Scorsese’s recent feature Shutter Island. Sort of an oldfashioned B-movie that is real fun to watch! With ‘future hero‘ Leonardo DiCaprio playing an US Marshall called in to solve the mysterious disappearance of a psychic resident out of Shutter Island prison — yes, which is of course set on an isle :) Bringing to mind that other famous escape from a prison island: Escape from Alcatraz, with Mr Clint Eastwood. I was 9 at the time and don’t remember much, so I can’t put it in my top-3 ;) Hey, I was 3 years old when Papillon came out, so I dare not even mention that classic! LOL|
|Another movie I saw this year was the impressive Un Prophète (A Prophet) which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. I would not dare use the word ‘fun’ in this case, because it was quite a depressing experience. If you’re one of those optimists thinking goal will help criminals to get back on the right track, you need to go see this picture and wake up.|
Sandy from You’ve GOTTA read this! threw in American History X and I’ve been thinking about whether to add it to my list too. I love that picture and believe everybody should go see it; it’s SO good. (Who doesn’t love Edward Norton anyway? And why doesn’t he play in more movies? *mope* ;) Still, I don’t really remember it as a prison film, so I’m excluding it with a heavy heart ;)
|If I was allowed to recommend only 1, my absolute favourite film would be the cult classic Birdy by Alan Parker (music by Peter Gabriel). Matthew Modine and Nicholas Cage — God, they’re young! — prove to be high class actors in this mesmerizing movie. Yes, I know we all have doubts about Cage sometimes, but think back to his part in Birdy and you can rest assured ;)
Now of course I’m cheating a little because Birdy is not really locked up in jail but in a mental hospital… Still, he’s in detention and when I think back to it, it really feels like prison. As it did to Birdy!
Under Lock and Key ~ Peter Gabriel (2:25)
Did I miss anything YOU would put in your top list of prison movies?
Hello Japan! definitely got me swinging into 2010. January’s topic was ‘Music to my ears’. And because I found it hard to decide on just one musical subject I tried to entertain you with some ‘Music Lessons’ on Fridays. I wish I’d called them music sessions though ;)
You’ve heard several genres:
- J-Pop (some Shibuya-kei represented by Pizzicato Five and J-Rock by Sheena Ringo),
- maho☆thaidisco’s (zunppa) techno,
- film music from Ryuichi Sakamoto,
- and contemporary classical music.
Now what’s missing? Next to popular artists Ken Ishii, Cornelius, Puffy, Hideki Kaji etc. (for those of you who want to learn more about Japanese pop music, check out Nippop), I would have loved to find out more about gagaku; traditional Japanese court music that has been an inspiration to many musicians like Ishii and Takemitsu. Well, something to wish for the future. And without a post about that ancient, 100% Japanese music, there’s a recurring aspect you might have noticed in the past lessons… There was always some connection with other nations, either western or Asian. What can I say? I’m a world citizen ;)
[4’10” David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto]
I really had an awesome JAPANUARY!
I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I did?
Hello Japan! is swinging into 2010. January’s topic is ‘Music to my ears’. I found it really hard to decide what musical subject to concentrate on, so I am presenting a 5 part series of ‘Music Lessons’ on Fridays. Welcome to the final session, #5! And enjoy your weekend :)
Don’t you love to start your weekend with some ‘feelgood’ music? I know I do! :) But who would have expected me to do so with J-Rock??? Well, here’s a cover song that makes me happy each time I hear it: Can’t take my eyes of you (椎名林檎), by Sheena Ringo. So energetic!
There are several ways to write her name in romaji (using the Latin alphabet for Japanese text). It’s Shena on Nippop.com, Shiina in Wikipedia. Me, I’m writing Sheena, because that’s how I came to know her first.
Sheena Ringo is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, pianist, oh.. and ballerina ;) As an artist she chose her childhood nickname Ringo (apple) instead of her real name Yumiko, because she used to be a shy girl and blush a lot: turning her cheeks red like apples. But later she also declared that she gave herself the name of an object, following manga cartoonist Sensha Yoshida whom she likes (his first name Sensha meaning ‘battle tank’).
Sheena Ringo is a great all-round musician. Last year she wrote some songs for another Japanese band I enjoy listening to: Puffy (AmiYumi). And good news for a film fan like me: in 2006 she directed the music for the movie Sakuran. I read about it in chasing bawa’s blogpost and I’ve been on the lookout for the dvd ever since!
Of course I can’t just leave you with a cover of a 1967 hit performed by Sheena Ringo; she usually writes her own stuff. Here’s the fine song Shūkyō (宗教 ‘Religion‘) from the album Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana (5’07”).
Hello Japan! is swinging into 2010. January’s topic is ‘Music to my ears’. I found it really hard to decide what musical subject to concentrate on, so I am presenting a 5 part series of ‘Music Lessons’ on Fridays. Welcome to #4 ! And enjoy your weekend :)
Little did I know when I went to the La Veuve Moustachue – Oorutaichi concert, that I would be absolutely thrilled by the evening’s closing act: dj maho☆thaidisco! I haven’t really seen her perform because I was dancing in the back of the Worm bar all through her gig. Well, I took a peek once or twice and saw her jumping up and down to the music. Cute!
Maho☆thaidisco, also known as LAKILAKI (and aodifi, and nijibenten), has her own style called zunppa techno. Yes, I’m a techno grrl ;) I haven’t been able to find out much about the genre, except that it is named after the way Japanese people describe the rhythm: “zunzun pappa”. Right. Anyone out there who can elaborate on that???
In 2000 miss Ishikawa travelled the tropics, looking for ‘dangerous dance music’. That’s when she discovered a good-naturedly Asian but strange, drugged out, chaotic rhythmic percussion infested disco with Thai vocals, and maho☆thaidisco was born — first as a dj, but more and more she mixed in a personal sound. Now her music isn’t limited to Thai techno anymore.
LAKILAKI creates her own accompanying art. It’s a real colourful kind of collage work combined with drawing. Check out her myspace page if you feel up to it :\ To be honest it kind of hurts my eyes, but my age gauger is jumping to 40 this year so what can you expect? LOL
At the end of the evening in Rotterdam I bought the cd Sumubasyo Kirumono Karamatta from Ms. DJ herself ;) There’s a short track on it called Tilbulg Bell, which is a recording of church bells in the Dutch town Tilburg, where maho☆thaidisco has played before. Since I don’t want to shock you with anything too chaotic, I’ve picked one of the more ambient songs I danced on. Here’s Wave (をかさねれば). Enjoy!
You can find a video of a shorter version @ YouTube.
The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai
Hello Japan! is swinging into 2010. January’s topic is ‘Music to my ears’. I found it really hard to decide what musical subject to concentrate on, so I am presenting a 5 part series of ‘Music Lessons’ on Fridays. Welcome to #3! Which is actually more of a report on a concert I visited ;)
Time flies… almost a year ago I went to a performance of classical music by contemporary Japanese composers that are influenced by ‘the West’ but have kept their Oriental identity. The works were selected by conductor Reinbert de Leeuw and performed by the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble.
The evening consisted of music by the well-known Tōru Takemitsu (Tree Line / Archipelago S.), Jo Kondo (Isthmus / Syzygia), Toshio Hosokawa (Voyage V) and the Dutch premiere of Vanishing Point by Dai Fujikura. Because of the program’s diversity the hosting concert hall, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, had called it ‘Japanse Mix‘; a Dutch name for a combination of rice crackers… Not surprisingly Reinbert de Leeuw pleaded in his introduction to forget about those nuts. So, apologies for the following ;)
My main sensation of the evening was that it completely cleared my head, almost like a yoga session! LOL. I don’t think I would have been able to listen as relaxed if I had been at home though. But tonight I was forced to stay put and listen ;)
Some thoughts & impressions…
Takemitsu is said to be the first Modern Japanese composer to be known in the West. Of course that has something to do with his affinity with jazz (among others); a genre not much to my liking — what might be the reason that I have to make an effort to appreciate his music. Although his oeuvre is quite varied of course. Here’s a quote on the interconnection of East and West by the master himself:
There is no doubt […] the various countries and cultures of the world have begun a journey toward the geographic and historic unity of all peoples […] The old and new exist within me with equal weight.
The evening was enclosed by two compositions of Takemitsu. The final, Archipelago S., was more ‘accessible’ to the untrained ear. It’s a piece written for 21 musicians and they all sat in a half-circle (crescent moon) on stage. Lots of solos so each got their fair share of attention ;) I’ve only got two different works of Takemitsu at home, so I’ll share with you Stanza II, performed by harpist Naoko Yoshino. Just to give you a general idea. It’s from Insomnia, a collaborative album with Gidon Kremer.
Something else Takemitsu said about his compositions appeals to me so much it really makes me want to love his music.
My music is deeply influenced by nature and Japanese gardens. From gardens, I’ve learned to treasure the Japanese sense of timing and color. Each element is precious… every rock and tree, and, somehow, we see reflected in all of them… the entire universe.
Back to the concert and other composers. What I especially liked about Voyage V by Hosokawa, were the Western flutes simulating the sound of Japanese wind chimes, ending in utter silence. A vanishing point, so to say, but that was another piece of music; by Fujikura. Is there any relation to the 1971 cult movie Vanishing Point? Anyway, the premiere of this piece was impressive in that it seemed to require the utmost concentration of all performers. The composer was present and seemed very satisfied.
Now you might have noticed I didn’t mention Kondo’s music.. I’m afraid I don’t remember much about it and I didn’t note down any striking thoughts. Maybe it was so minimalistic that it seems never to have existed? Bad joke, I know :\ Dutch readers can look it up in this review in de Volkskrant of January 31, 2009.
Although it wasn’t all as exhilarating as I might have hoped, we had a nice evening out that we concluded in the bar with a drink and snacks. Nuts, of course.
Hello Japan! is swinging into 2010. January’s topic is ‘Music to my ears’. I found it really hard to decide what musical subject to concentrate on, so I am presenting a 5 part series of ‘Music Lessons’ on Fridays. Welcome to #2! And enjoy your weekend :)
After last week’s New Year’s post I’d like to stay just a little longer within the Holiday theme and talk about the extremely melancholic song Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Here’s the short version, called Father Christmas.
Quite a contrast to the ‘happy’ popgroup Pizzicato Five that I presented you with on January 1st, eh?
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is the theme song from the 1983 cult movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, for which the great musician Ryuichi Sakomoto composed the complete score. Nagisa Oshima’s film might be best known for its starring actor, pop star David Bowie playing a Japanese prisoner of war on Java in World War II. Ryuichi Sakamoto is Bowie’s opponent as a young camp commandant.
I was hugely impressed when I saw Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence as a teenager. It’s a dramatic history of the Second World War, parts of which still get denied in Japan today. It is amazingly well performed and directed (as far as I can remember). A very powerful movie that should be compulsory for anyone interested in history and Japan. There, I’ve said it.
Of course that my father lived in Japanese internment in Indonesia as a child might have a lot to do with it. His aversion of all things Japanese never left him and I don’t think he would have appreciated my current interest in this country and its culture if he had been alive today.
But I’m getting sidetracked. The vocal version of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence has lyrics by David Sylvian and is called Forbidden Colours. This song has helped spread the movie’s fame as well. And as I’m sitting in the confessional already, I might as well tell you Forbidden Colours was one of the tracks on the goodbye tape of my first boyfriend when he left for the US… Need I say more?
The title of the song is derived from Yukio Mishima’s novel Forbidden Colors. Both film and book explore homosexual themes, but that’s the end of their relation; the movie was based on some memoirs by Laurens van der Post.
Because of his soundtracks (and his influence in developing the technopop style in Japan), kyoju Ryuichi Sakamoto is internationally probably the best known Japanese musician.
For those of you who don’t know yet: I’m a real fan of movie soundtracks. I guess it’s because film music is supposed to be evocative and plays at people’s emotions. I’m a sucker for that ;) Of course it might help that I LOVE movies too!
Both favs of newly discovered music in 2009 were film scores: Nick Cave’s soundtrack of — the best movie of 2008 — The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Max Richter’s music for one of two best movies of 2009, Waltz with Bashir. Both pretty melancholic as well — and that tells you something more about me, doesn’t it? ;)