Wednesday, April 15. 2015 | Comments (0)
So, what fresh horrors are visited on the imagination of Kumiko Omae? Nothing new, actually; Kumiko has spent the last week attempting repeatedly to talk to Reina Kousaka and clear up the tension between them. Unfortunately, the problem is that she doesn't actually know what to say...Kumiko feels obligated to apologize to Reina for not believing the Middle School band could make it to Nationals last year. Except, she honestly believes she was right in her opinion at the time and doesn't really think she owes anyone an apology for that. In fact..
Hazuki and Sapphire assure her that there isn't a problem, then. And for the record, Reina isn't acting cold or aloof in any way. She's not making cutting remarks or sidelong glances. This entire conflict, at least at this point, appears to be in Kumiko's head. And it stays there.
Well, since that plot point isn't being resolved any time soon, our three heroes move on to the entree of the day: picking their instruments. Sapphire/Midori is sticking with her contrabass, but Kumiko sees a new way to solve her emotional distress: switch to a new instrument. After all, her selection of Euphonium wasn't a matter of fate...
When I was in band, most of the schools I knew anything about (this is mostly very small schools, mind) had school-owned instruments. These consisted of all of the percussion instruments, of course; and usually the larger wind instruments: tuba, euphonium, trombone, baritone sax and tenor sax, and french horns. Alto saxes, trumpets, clarinets and flutes had to be purchased. Some of the larger or richer schools had school-owned smaller instruments as well, but usually it was just the big, expensive pieces. Of course, a side-effect was that if a family absolutely could not afford an instrument, you wound up playing one of the big instruments or on percussion, despite your aptitude or desire. In a few cases, it might also be that the family didn't actually care about their child's experience in band, and so left them to use the school's instruments until they didn't have to take the class anymore. The point being that in my own band experience, what instrument you plaid also carried some connotation of your commitment to the band. To put a fine point on it, hardly anyone ever chooses to play Euphonium or Tuba. I find it interesting that the band club in Japan is echoing this situation a bit, as Kumiko laments that not too many people ever wanted to play Euphonium; the implication being that if someone would have wanted to play her instrument, she could have taken another instrument then.
The question that must be answered about Kumiko...is she a wet noodle, or is she lying to herself?
Continue reading "Hibike! Euphonium episode 2"
Tuesday, April 14. 2015 | Comments (0)
Hoo boy. About half of this episode is Asuka-centric, as the new band members choose their instruments. The rest of the episode is about Kumiko trying to figure out how to make peace with Reina. Hibike! Euphonium is definitely a dramedy, rather than another whimsical comedy; even if the drama isn't all that deep. Although...I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the drama is going to get a little deeper than we've seen.
Sunday, April 12. 2015 | Comments (2)
Wednesday, April 8. 2015 | Comments (2)
There is a Japanese cultural phenomenon that I don't quite get. It's actually fairly universal among all cultures, to be honest, but the Japanese really add that "do or die" element. In America, we call such a thing "visualizing" or "goal setting". Affix that goal firmly in your mind, and work toward that goal. It's a tool to keep you focused.
The Japanese consider this type of thing just another in their long line of superpowers. If you "visualize" something hard enough, you WILL achieve it. Where it gets ugly is if this goal is a group activity. If you fail to achieve your goal, then SOMEONE wasn't visualizing hard enough. SOMEONE didn't want it bad enough. You can imagine what this could do to the chemistry of a baseball team, or chess team, or mahjong team.
Or your concert band.
At the Kyoto concert hall, the results of the regional concert band competition are about the be announced. For the record, I did this all through Junior High and High School. I was a band nerd, if that concept even means anything anymore. In Texas, your performance was graded with a "Division". Division 1 was excellent. Division 2 was above average. Division 3 was bog standard. Division 4 was "why did you try?" I've heard there was a Division 5, but I don't know why you would embarrass someone like that. I went to a very small school that had to field beginning players in order to have enough warm bodies to make a fully operational band...the result of which was a few Division 2 awards and a bunch of Division 3s. Our best performance ever, we received one Division 1 and two Division 2s, and one of the Division 2s had originally been a 1 but was marked out. True story; I saw the judging forms. So, winning a Division 1 was my goal all through school but it never happened. In Japan, apparently, the awards are Gold, Silver and Bronze:
Unfortunately, here and in Japan, getting a Division 1/Gold doesn't mean you go on to the next level of competition. Only the best of the Division 1/Gold teams are selected to advance.
And wouldn't you know it...
Dud Gold. Our unknown heroine and her bandmates have received top marks, but have not been selected to continue on. Satisfied with this result, she turns to congratulate her friend...
...only to be rebuffed. Kousaka Reina was ABSOLUTELY expecting to continue on to national competition.
And she's clearly not thrilled with our heroine's attitude.
Reina storms off, and as far as we know the two never speak again.
All of that drama before the opening credits. Maybe this isn't "K-on with band instruments."
Continue reading "Hibike! Euphonium episode 1"
Saturday, March 28. 2015 | Comments (0)
Most impressive. Clearly, if you were in the audience you wouldn't see a lot of the effects, as this video was recorded by a digital camera set up before hand with all of the tracking and effects built in. However, you can still see the use of front and rear projection, travelling screens (you can see the shadows moving in a few shots) and several transparent LCDs. The Sankaku Complex article I found this linked from implied that the fx-heavy/almost no singing performance was unique or unusual, however here is a concert by Perfume from 2009:
Heavy fx, dancing, and vocals so thoroughly processed that a vocaloid would shun them. I have yet to find a song that's better than moderately pleasant noise, although I'm open to suggestions if there are any Perfume connoisseurs out there.
Monday, December 29. 2014 | Comments (2)
Hibike! Euphonium is apparently a tribute to under-appreciated musical instruments. As a euphoniumist from Junior High until I dropped out of music entirely in college, this is a must-watch for me.
Friday, December 12. 2014 | Comments (0)
Briefly, in the '70s and '80s, the pop-influenced Countrypolitan style dominated not only country music charts but pop music as well. Johnny Duncan had three #1 singles in the late '70's and several other top tens. However, like most of the artists from the tail-end of the Countrypolitan era, he dropped completely off the charts when the neotraditionalist sound exploded thanks to some guy who's now considered the greatest country singer and performer of all time.
However, considering Duncan was one of the most popular artists in mainstream country for a few years right when I was old enough to pay attention, he was one of a handful of artists who grabbed my attention and defined my early taste in music, such as it was.
Many of Johnny Duncan's songs not only connect thematically, but sequentially. This isn't really surprising considering the narrative themes employed by country music at the time, but Duncan's distinct interpretation of the Countrypolitan sound set his songs apart to start with. It also helped that Duncan was the most frequent partner of the Queen of Collaborations and Country Music's #1 Bridesmaid, Janie Fricke. For instance, listen to Stranger followed by Thinkin' of a Rendezvous:
You can stick She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed and It Couldn't Have Been Any Better directly between those two songs and just fill the story out a bit. Like everyone else in the '70s and '80s, Duncan's songs were obsessed with cheating, although he left divorce to other artists. However, my favorite Duncan was Jo and the Cowboy, which goes back to the beginning. You can throw it into that story sequence, but only with some imagination.
I've been waiting for signs that Countrypolitan is coming back into vogue, but I suspect it's a genre that's dead and gone. As a musical genre, it was largely appreciated only by a subset of GenX. In fact, there was an extremely small effort to revive the sound about ten years ago (right on schedule) by such popular acts as Lambchop and HEM. While the influences were there to some extent, both bands moved on quickly. At the time, Countrypolitan, at least the last few years of it, was derided by "classic country" and "country/western" fans for its Nashville Sound influences and pop sensibilities. Country music seems to have always had a strong instinct to launch the successful crossover artist to great heights and just as quickly abandon them in shame. It's a shame there's never been any real move to embrace those country artists who fell before George Straight's mighty acoustic guitar and traditional style.
Monday, October 20. 2014 | Comments (0)
The title will be, apparently, Macross Delta; and the producers are currently conducting a public audition to find this series' songstress, ala' Megumi Nakajima the seiyuu for Macross Frontier's Ranka Lee. The series is set in 2067, 8 years after Macross Frontier.
My great shame as a devoted Macross fan (coming to the series via Robotech, as so many American kids did) is that I've never finished Macross Frontier. I don't mean I haven't watched the movies yet; I have tried to watch the series repeatedly and haven't made it past the third episode. While the setting is wonderful and fits well into the Macross universe, I don't like any of the characters. Regardless of the plot, the character arcs are as predictable as a harem anime. They're all caricatures. It feels like the writers just went with tropes and stereotypes. Consequently, I have to struggle to make it through each episode and have no interest at the end to start the next. That's usually a sign you're not enjoying your viewing experience. Beyond that, Macross stories after the first have tended to drop more subtle story elements while building up a couple of the simpler concepts. As dopey as the "victory-through-music" plot of Robotech and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross was, there was also a reasonably realistic and complex love triangle and themes of duty, honor, loyalty and respect. Subsequent Macross stories have focused more on the music as a parallel plot element (i.e., there has to be a lot of music because it's Macross, so we have to have some kind of band or talent show that runs the entire length of the series) and the love triangle is the primary plot element, with all plot complications related to whatever mysteries surround the musical heroine/heroines, and how will our hero not care about the sudden and disturbing revelations. All of the other plot points are replaced with A) one or more telegraphed, arbitrary deaths, and B) more love triangles for the supporting characters. Any mention of the nobler qualities of the human psyche are handled fleetingly and cynically, if at all.
Side Note, and caveat: I haven't watched all of Macross Frontier, as I mentioned, so this may not be at all accurate. However, I've wondered recently if the sudden drop-off of interest in Macross Frontier the past couple of years has anything to do with increasing interest and support of the Japanese Defense Forces, even in popular culture (i.e. KanColle). Frontier, like earlier Macross properties following the first, dispensed with the military (the United Nations, as all anime military was for a long time) as a hero vehicle and turned to vigilantes and mercenaries. In fact, the military is more likely to act as a minor villain or at least a hindrance. It will be interesting to see if Delta returns to something like the original role of U.N. Spacy given the popularity of the J.D.F. at the moment. (further note: I was going to include a link or two illustrating my claim, but I am having some bizarre internet problems and half of the websites I try to visit won't load today. You're welcome to search for news from Japan. Understand that by "popular" I don't mean people are celebrating the Defense Forces in the street or anything like that; but there has been a change in the Japanese perception of its military's role in the world, along with an increase in the amount of trust the Japanese people are willing to place in their military leaders. Don't rely on western news sites for confirmation; they're clearly baffled by the idea of citizens supporting their military, let alone trusting someone with a rank.)
Thursday, September 18. 2014 | Comments (0)
Monday, June 9. 2014 | Comments (6)
Videos below the fold. This is the kind of thing I actually spend a lot of time thinking about. Anyway, in the full post is a list of songs/videos found on Youtube. One can flowchart through these songs explaining what they all have to do with each other. This flowchart also, incidentally, explains the point in time when New Age and Synth Pop started transitioning to a new sound. If you're a fan of 80's music, none of these songs is a prime example of, I guess you would say, the fundament of what people think of with the 80's sound. However, most of this music represents a point at the sharpest part of the curve into a new style. In that, these songs are the most extreme marriage of Synth Pop, R & B and and Hip Hop. Well, in the context of the times, anyway.
For what it's worth, this was my favorite year.
Music can be accessed by clicking the link.
Continue reading "Flowcharting music..."
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