Tag Archives: music

‘After the Storm’, by Hirokazu Kore-eda – review

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Life reminds me of a Baroque fugue that begins with the exposition of a short melody developed by another successive busy melodies and interwoven into a dramatic final entry in tonic. For It is a continuous surrendering of the old and a trust in new beginnings with lots of in-between episodes, intricately interwoven by multiple strands of occasional chances called “luck,” failed expectations, and grace of hopes that creates a curiously riveting toccata. In this film by Kore-eda, Ryota’s is a ballad whose vicissitude of life diverts him from completing it. But then Ryota is a soft troubadour, who wants to sing a happy song with his fractured but beautiful family.

Ryota, once a promising novelist, now a divorced middle-aged struggling writer, makes a living as a part-time private detective under the pretext of enriching his writer’s imaginativeness for his next best oeuvre. He loves his ex-wife and his son dearly, so he always hangs around them surreptitiously. But he does not understand that how he feels about them is unrequited because he is not in their lives any longer. In fact, Ryota is even unsure of himself, of his reason for writing, and of what he wants to become amid his dwindling writing career and growing distance from his already fractured family. There is a sense of drift in his life, that feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and disappointments, all fragmented in the detritus of broken wishes, unpaid dues, and lost dreams. He has nonetheless a heart of gold, and his humor is his saving grace that helps him get going. Ryota’s life has been in the doldrums for so long that he forgets he has to move forward to get out of the stasis binding him in the longing for bygone days. A stream of pathos oozes out to see Ryota thinking, ‘Who would have known my life would turn out like this?’

Director Kore-eda uses the storm, more accurately a typhoon, as a medium to free Ryota from the memories of the past, from the obsession of his past, in order to give him a new meaning of life, will to meaning. Kore-eda does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing the innermost feelings of the characters without elaborate lines or supra-abudance of emotions throughout the scenes. It is a Japanese film, but the sentiments and judgments of the characters are rendered communicative to the hearts of the universal audience.

solo button for joe meek, really

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Joe Meek at work (from google)

I had thought Joe Meek as an imaginative character in the eponymous title of electronic music by Matmos until I came upon an article about the real Joe Meek from this month’s History Revealed. Since I liked the music, I read it with relish, which was also a great pleasure entertaining a long commute time on the last train home after work. It was indeed worth the reading because the article was both informative in telling about this highly sensitive artist who was ahead of his time and reflective in leaving the reader to ponder about what rushed into to cancel his own fate in his own hand.

Joe Meek was an innovative and unique record producer in 1960s, but he was more of a maverick figure in the music industry because of his uncompromising individuality in musical taste paired up with his blazing volatile temper, which were attributed to his thespian epilogue. But according to the article, the most capital assumed factor contributing to the tragedy of Meek was said to be his homosexuality in the time when it was an illicit tendency of warped minds and degenerate souls that belonged to Sodom and Gomorrah. That is to say, shoehorning obsession with sexuality into the sine qua non of a man’s demise is a non sequiter without considering other evidentiary elements.

It seems that Meek had cultivated the trauma of violently depressed, pitifully unstable childhood into a grand unified theory of self-loathing that in turn became self-indulgence to an inordinate measure. It was more of a lack of parental love and support in his childhood that fueled Meek’s high-strung disposition like an unquenchable prairie fire in wilderness. It is a precipitately formulated hypothesis that Meek’s tragedy ensued from his paranoia of persecution of homosexuals in his time. For a panoply of unpleasing manifestations, including alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive copulation, enduring guilt, and an inability to form a lasting emotional relationships, are also shared with heterosexuals. To me what Joe Meek suffered from was his inner conflicts with his unhappy past, his sovereign artistic sensibilities that made him uncommunicative and estranged, and his sense of insecurity, all pitchforked in existential reality of life where he as an indie producer had to constantly worry about what to do next if his records did not produce lucrative results. To corroborate this hypothetical theory, Joe Meek was said to have a Janus personality, redolent of the characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because he was also a very affable person with polite manners and a sense of good humor in to the bargain.

Such a man of complex inner world is often prone to fatal mental breakdown, which happened to Joe Meek. What carried Meek over the last sacristy of his sanity was his being interrogated by the police for the infamous “Suitcase Murder,” an epochal murder plastering the headlines of the media in January 1967 when the raped and dismembered body of 16-year-old Londoner named Bernard Oliver was found in two suitcases near the city. The police was hell bent on investigating all homosexuals in the city, especially the high profiles ,one of whom was the unfortunate innocent Joe Meek. Consequently and patently, the Inquisition let loose his sanity, resulting in his shooting his landlady and ending his own life thereafter. He was only 37 years old.

Therefore, to conclude that it was all about his homosexuality and nothing more causing his tragic end seems to ignore other more mental, spiritual, and existential matters that Meek must have struggled with. A spiral of loneliness, insecurity, frustration, and disorientation was Joe Meek’s quagmire, and from this quagmire in turn came his own killing field. “See though fear. Face the fear. Recognize a lie or a masquerade for what it is and deal it with a mortal blew,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson during his lecture to young men. But sadly, Joe Meek was too beaten down in harsh existential life where he felt unwelcome all the time despite his great artistic achievements. Thus, to end himself seemed to be the only escape from emotional turmoils, “for who would bear the whips and scorns of time… the pangs of despised love… when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?” –Hamlet, Act III, sc I.

Author’s Note: This writing is based upon my review of an article about Joe Meek from this month’s historical magazine History Revealed. Normally, I would bypass an article of similar nature, but this one held my attention for the following reasons: (1) Joe Meek’s dilemmas ensued from his inability to cope with the demands imposed on daily tasks in life due to a constant grip of depression and anxiety;  and (2) application of Freudian psychoanalysis on his miserably repressed sexuality in public to the proximate cause of his tragedy disregards the more essential elements of humanness. For these reasons, I felt pathetic toward his life, and thus wrote this writing.

music of life

1dc50954796a2e0491b7dc93d333effdPaul McCartney sings, “Long and Winding Road,” whereas Rod Stewart utters, “I am sailing.” Then Tom Cochrane brings life back to land by proclaiming “Life is a highway.” Whatever metaphor they confer upon life, one thing is certain that it has a meaning, a sense of sui generis purpose, which leads all humankind to the glory of Enlightenment. Methinks life is a very long marathon race toward the grande finale after sailing through the vicissitudes of human conditions in the course of solipsistic running. That’s why all life is priceless and worth the living. How fast I will run and what route I will take is totally contingent upon my sui juris decision. Frank Sinatra knew it as in My Way, and the Animals shout out, “It’s My Life.” Snoopy, as wisecracking as ever, sums it all of the above.

Author’s Note: I came upon this felicitous Snoopy cartoon on the last train home. It gave me a fillip to this short vignette. You know what? I feel much better now. 🙂

Academy of Ancient Music: “Baroque Journey” with Lucie Horsch – review

img_0202-1The recorder is a wonderful woodwind musical instrument: light in weight, affordable in price, delightful in timbre, and easy to learn, it has been adopted as a part of music curriculum at many elementary schools, just as ancient Greek schools necessitated students to learn an aulos or a lyre. However, this seemingly insouciant musical instrument was the centerpiece of Baroque music because of its florid and vivacious sound that strikes the chords with busy, sophisticated, delicate melodies of Baroque, the term which originally means irregular shapes of pearls in Portuguese. So much so that Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach had composed music just for the recorder long before the cello, the violin, or even the harpsichord came into the scene and outclassed the lovely recorder.

Ergo, the wanting of its significant contribution to the history of music and of its tainted beauty of the timbre has recently been brought to light, especially in Europe. The heroine of this jubilant revival of the Baroque recorder music is Lucie Horsch, a young Dutch recorder player whose musical finesse characterized by her vivaciousness of technicality and instinctive understanding of baroque music makes her exquisite musicianship look effortless and seamless. That classical music is not for the old conservative snobs but for anyone who has an ear for beautiful music is a tenet of the Arts on the grounds that the standard of taste and reason is universal in all humans as regards the principle of sentiment and judgment is common in humankind.  As illustrated in this music video, Horsch and her musician friends represent the democratizing of classical music in general, making it accessible to enjoy for all, not a prerogative of a few fortunate in a stuffy concert hall.

If you are a novice in Baroque music, then Lucie Horsch’s Baroque Journey is a choice introduction to the world of Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. She will be your Beatrice who will guide you to Paradise of the music, as she did for Dante in the Divine Comedy. In my opinion, the best number is The Arrival of the Queen of Shiba by Handel, for it best shows Horsch’s dexterity of playing the recorder flawlessly, delivering the best of her musicality with a burst of pep like a vivacious sprite.

Author’s Note: You can download Lucie Horsch’s Baroque Journey from your iTune on your iPhone to enjoy the delightfully whimsical world of a Baroque Recorder. The music will cast out from you a momentary vertigo of worries and anxieties and elevate your mood to an instant jolly caprice 🙂

Eleusinian Craft of Lady Alchemist

IMG_3985She writes, and speaks to a soul in many sorts of music. She sometimes invokes inspirations from her favorite Muses: Kalliope for epic poetry; Clio for history; and Euterpe for lyric poetry. In fact, she feels most ecstatic when the divine inspirations become one with her body and soul creating the ineffable rapture of the body and elevating the excitement of the soul in zenith. She is no less a dilettante of amateur music aficionado and an apprentice of alchemy of literature and history than Seraphina by herself.

She also has a secret: that she practices her secondhand acoustic guitar she bought from a traveling troubadour who with his finely cultivated artfulness of sweet talking laced with a streak of medieval chivalry, tempted her to possess it three years ago at a reasonable price of $100. And it turned out that the crafty troubadour was a nice sort of reprobate who could make your otherwise bleak life a bit more cheerful and jovial to live because Seraphina loved the guitar at first blush and has played it since the farewell of the sportive wayfarer.

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Seraphina is an Aquarius, and therefore an independent beauty. She is an autodidact and is at best when she’s least self-conscious and left alone. She has been teaching herself to play the guitar in hope of playing the songs she loves flawlessly by changing the chords swiftly in keeping up with the rhythms. One of her repertoires for her guitar practicing is “As Tears Go By” by Rolling Stones – not the version of Marianne Faithful – It is another secret that Seraphina sings the song while playing the guitar in her room, and she loves the moment of doing it because she feels like a Jane Birkin or a Joni Mitchell or a Francois Hardy.

Kurt Vonnegut once said, “To practice any form of art, however good or bad, is to make your soul grow, so do it.” In accordance with such supportive tenet of art, Seraphina thinks that it’s all about unlocking the artist from within. Surely, not everyone of us can’t make our names marked in the world, but then each one of us is something of a creator of a life. In her ideal firmament, being an amateur artist means being able to create her own artistic world unsullied by the material demands of life that often yield myriads of existential vertigo. But then who would know what might bring Seraphina into changing her weltanschauung in future? After all, we think we know what we are, but know not what we may be. In the brevity of life, Seraphina thinks to herself, ‘Sweets to the sweet: Farewell to worries!’

thanks-for-reading-Rok-Hardware