As the world has been watching Japan this week I thought it fitting to share another Japanese folk tale. This is for everyone who is in Japan or who is waiting for news about friends and loved ones. Spring is on its way. The wonderful symbol of Japan, the sakura, will soon blossom again. Our prayers are with you.
There once was an old man and his wife who lived in a modest house in a small village. The old couple were very kind to all they met. Unfortunately, they lived next door to another man and his wife who were mean and unfriendly. The kind old couple owned a pure white dog named Shiro, and loved him with all their hearts. However, their neighbours hated dogs and threw stones at Shiro whenever the poor dog came too far into their garden.
It’s not often that you will find a song which will take your breath away. I discovered this one last year, and many listens later it hasn’t lost the tender beauty or the power it held over me the first time I heard it.
Unbelievingly, I first discovered Xǐ huan [喜欢] ‘Like’ as a free download. It’s by Zhāng Xuán [张悬], most commonly known as Deserts Xuan or Chang, a Taiwanese singer who is thought to be one of the leading voices of contemporary alternative Chinese music. It’s from her second album, released in 2007 and entitled, Qīn ài de…wǒ huán bù zhī dào [親愛的…我還不知道], ‘Dear…I Don’t Know Yet’.
A long-time independent musician and composer, Chang began writing songs barely into her teens. She was performing her own music on stage by the age of 16 and at 19, she had written over 100 pieces of music. She chose the stage name ‘Deserts’ because it was “mysterious and suggests something hanging in limbo”; like her personality.
I found something truly awe-inspiring today.
Lux Aurumque was a project started by American award-winning composer Eric Whitacre using the Youtube social network. Inspired by a video of a young girl singing one of his pieces uploaded to the Youtube site, Whitacre had the idea to put together a unique performance of his choral piece Lux Aurumque, featuring Youtube users as the choir.
Uploading videos of himself conducting the piece with instructions, music and sheet music for the many different singing parts also published, Whitacre invited Youtube users to record videos of themselves singing the piece. These parts were then fused together to create the final piece of music, which was then itself posted on Youtube.
Be aware: the result might just move you to tears.
If you’re not a fan of Japanese anime, you may be tempted to believe that the genre is completely devoid of real beauty and depth. I’d like to share a little secret with you.
Ailes Grises ‘Grey Wings’
Kou Otani is one of Japan’s most underrated composers in the west. When you think of Japanese composers you might recall to mind Joe Hisashi, who wrote the scores for classics such as Studio Ghibli’s Oscar winning Spirited Away. Perhaps you might be familiar with Yoko Kanno, who has composed soundtracks for Cowboy Bebop, Vision of Escaflowne and others too numerous to mention.
In my opinion, Kou Otani beats them all.
Don’t you just love it when you accidentally stumble upon an amazingly beautiful song?
Holy Island is a track from the 2007 album Traces of Silver released by New Zealand legend Andrew White; a totally underrated artist in my opinion. Despite having worked with artists such as Karen Matheson of Cappercaille and Michael McGoldrick of the Afro Celt Sound System, White remains mostly unknown in the country in which he was born.
I first came across Andrew White’s music during a random search on youtube and bought this album on the strength of the first song I heard, the magical title track Traces of Silver. He has an arresting voice and wonderfully tender style of guitar playing, and there’s a refreshing sense of honesty and raw beauty in his lyrics, too.
Today, rather than opinions or politics I would like to share a song.
The song, ‘Pi Dul Gi Ya, Nop I Nar A Ra’ (비둘기야 높이 날아라) or ‘White Dove, Fly High’ was written in North Korea in the 1990s by native songwriter Sin Un Ho (신운호) and composer Ri Jong Oh (리종오). It was chosen for the American band Casting Crowns to sing when they were invited to North Korea in 2007 to perform in the annual Spring Friendship Art Festival in the capital city of Pyongyang. They returned two years later to perform again, this time recording the song for their upcoming album (listen above).
Yesterday, I discovered the most beautiful word in the English language.
No, it’s not from Shakespeare.
I know I started all this out in gloom and seriousness, but yegads, that is so far from how I feel right now. Yesterday, I was in one of those moments which you remember for the rest of your life and look back on wistfully. I guess you could describe it as ‘unparalleled joy’.
The most beautiful word in the English language is ‘remission’.