Friday, December 30, 2011

ABBA: Happy New Year (1980)

From the ABBA Super Trouper album.

Seems to me now
That the dreams we had before
Are all dead, nothing more
Than confetti on the floor
It's the end of a decade
In another ten years time
Who can say what we'll find
What lies waiting down the line
In the end of '89...

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mari Kawamura, Récital de Piano

I got a chance to go to listen to Mari Kawamura at Suntory Hall in Tokyo yesterday. She performed a very rich program of Shumann, Satie, Debussy and Mussorgski. She has studied piano in France and in the US and released one CD so far. I liked her no-nonsense style and relaxed interaction with the audience. English website here:

Mari Kawamura

Unfortunately, I can't seem to find anything by her on Youtube, but here is the Prélude from Suite Bergamasque by Debussy.

Both Satie and especially Claude Debussy are well known and liked in Japan. Debussy even asked the printers to put the now famous Hokusai image, The Hollow of the Great Wave of Kanagawa on the cover page of the musical score for his La Mer (The Ocean).

mellowmarie, an avid art appreciation blogger, writes:

as i noted before, i myself had always sensed japanese tones in his melodies and had wondered if he had ever been influenced by japanese traditional music. it is interesting to learn that he was influenced by japonism.

in a webpage from the Department of Music, Trinity College, Dublin that just happened to hit, it says that debussy was influeced by japanese prints by hokusai hakushika. but i still don't get it. why could he get the japanese melodies by just observing prints? had he ever had any access to actual japanese music performed? or did he happen to have japanese melodies just by impressions he got from prints and other material arts? this is really a fascinating topic that i would return later.

And her link to the webpage is a real gem, with the following details:

Hokusai's painting shows a wave breaking over into spray, foam, and smaller waves. It is an image of terror, elegance, and awesome power, simultaneously through Hokusai's usage of perspective. In a study of Hokusai's work in 1896, Edmond de Goncourt writes,

"The design for The Wave is a deified version of the sea made by a painter who lived in a religious terror of the overwhelming sea surrounding his country on all sides; it is a design which is impressive by the sudden anger of its leap into the sky, by the deep blue of the transparent inner side of its curve, by the splitting of its crest which is thus scattered into a shower of tiny drops having the shape of animals' claws."

This vivid yet suggestive imagery is very well suited to the spirit of Debussy's works. It is seen in Debussy's view of nature, which is typically vague, dreamy, with a type of "luminosity." La Mer is an obvious example and will be dealt with further on in the paper.

That cover for the tune that took Europe by storm (hrm) in 1905 looked like this:

And was created by Hokusai in 1831, some 65 years earlier, when it looked like this:

Valery Gergiev conducts the London Symphony Orchestra performing Debussy's La Mer. Recorded in March, 2007 at the Barbican in London.

I had the pleasure to enjoy Valery Gergiev conducting twice a few years ago in Tokyo, including at the Suntory Hall. Unforgetable. I even took a few photos, and immediately, hall staff was on hand urging everyone not to retain such a small but obviously valuable memento. OK, that's not what they said. I still have the photos. They mean a lot to me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Speaking of Hope - Dvorak Ballet

Melody by Dvorak, dance by Nadezhda Pavlova (Nadezhda means "hope") of Bolshoi fame from the 1970s.

And if you liked that, how about her performance in La Bayadere? Nice comment on the Youtube video:

Pavlova´s extensions are like poetry in every role that she dances, she makes them so natural and when they are necessary, not just for showing - off

This is one of those classic stories that link east and west, as the origin of the "temple dancer" ballet was a visit from India in 1839 to Paris, and then a later visit to London (which ended in tragedy as the main dancer could not endure the cold and fog). The word "bayadere" was already known as Johann Goethe had written his Der Gott und die Bajadere (The God and the Bayadere) in 1830. The term seems to be from the Portugese, while in India, Devadasi is used.

I like how the TV producers of the day made the dance and music the focus, with no stage props to distract from the experience. I hope we can all enjoy music and dance again like this. Technically speaking, this is sublime, if there is such a thing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vladivostok-based Sail Training Ship Nadezhda In Yokohama

I had the good fortune to see a very beautiful sail ship in Yokohama yesterday, the Nadezhda. Based in Vladivostok, she is a research ship built in the late 1980s in Gdansk, Poland (a very exciting year for the Solidarity movement that originated on the ship yards). Read about the history on the ship's sister ship Mir's website:

Mir English website

MIR ("Peace", "World") is the third ship of a series of six ships of the M108-class, also called "MIR"-class, which were built in the '80s at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. The first of this series is the sister ship built for the Polish navy: Dar Mlodziezy. The other sister ships, which were built for the former Soviet Union: Khersones (Crimea peninsula, where there are remains of a Greek settlement) Pallada, Drushzba (means "Friendship"), Nadeshzda (means "Hope").

Photo of Nadezhda at anchor in Yokohama taken with my mobile thus not the best quality. Click to enlarge!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Princess And The Pilot

I went to see a wonderful anime film today, The Princess and the Pilot (とある飛空士への追憶) which was recently released in theatres here in Japan. I liked the flying scenes and the beautiful art work, truly magic on a big screen. Madhouse Studios is a smaller company than Ghibli, which this story seemed to take some inspiration from, especially the fanciful European setting and the huge steampunk aircrafts that hover above the sea. The pilot is a young flyer who is ordered to rescue a princess, but who said she wants to be rescued? Ghibli would have made this story a lot more sentimental, but I liked how the pilot stays true to his mission until the end.

The fighting scenes involve aircraft like the Shinden, which was developed late in WW2. Our hero's plane is called Santa Cruz, a fierce two-seater. All have already been transformed into plastic models for true fans.

As often happens in anime, we are both in the past and in the future, at the same time. Lovely sound track with theme song performed by Seiko Niizuma. Highly recommended!

Official website: (in J but there are plenty of trailers here)

To Aru Hikūshi e no Tsuioku's story revolves around Charles Karino, a Revaamu Empire mercenary aerial pilot who mans the twin-seater reconnaissance seaplane Santa Cruz. One day, he receives a preposterous assignment: to fly solo over 12,000 kilometers of enemy waters to protect a girl named Fana del Moral. Fana happens to be the next in line to the empire's throne and a girl possessing beauty "equal to 5,000 beams of light."

Source: Anime News Network

Update: Oh, blame me, I didn't even think of the obvious connection to recent news here about saving the The Imperial Y Chromosome (Shisaku).