Japonica: the Liner Notes
Updated: Jan 10, 2020
I remember wading through a sea of people in Namba train station still dazed from the ridiculously long flight across the Pacific. I met a Japanese friend at the station who took me to my new employer's office. I was given a cell phone (a much better one than any I had seen in the US) and taken to my new apartment. When I opened the door I remember thinking, "Is this all? Where's the other half?" This first day was the beginning of an adventure in Japan that changed my life in so many ways.
A few years later, I met my wife. We then had our first child in Japan. Eventually, we moved back to the US. For a long time after we moved back I felt I wanted my friends and family to understand the life I had lived overseas. I had considered writing a memoir, but instead I decided to make memoir in musical form. On January 10, 2020 I'm finally releasing the EP Japonica. The name of the album comes from the idea of a Western take on Japan— Japonica being a Latin way of expressing things related to Japan.
Each of the pieces on the album expresses either an experience I had or an aspect of Japan that made an impression on me. The music on this album is, for the most part, not overtly "Japanese" sounding. I mostly stick to Occidental harmonies and instrumentation. Since the music has no words, I thought I'd take the time to explain the sentiments behind each of the pieces for those of you still kind enough to be reading.
Sunrise on a New World - This piece is a bit of a play on words since Japan is known as "the land of the rising sun." For me, coming to Japan represented a new life and a new world of exploration. Still there was a bit of sadness in leaving my old life. Both of these ideas are expressed in this song.
Osaka - I tried to convey the idea of a busy and crowded city in this track. Osaka is a city of several million people. This minimalist piece came to me as I thought about what it feels like walking down the street in a bustling city.
Arashiyama - I've already written more extensively here about this piece, but it's a piano and violin duet inspired by the popular tourist destination in Kyoto. This was one of the first sightseeing places I visited after moving to Japan, and I recently had the opportunity to go back with my whole family. Among other places of interest there, you will find a bamboo forest, a mountain with monkeys at the top, and many traditional shops and restaurants. I've also been down the river that cuts through the town. It's not whitewater rafting, but it's incredibly serene and beautiful.
Last Train Home - I didn't grow up riding on trains, so riding them every day in Japan was something new for me at first. The trains only run until around midnight, so if you stayed out later than that you had to get a taxi. On more than one occasion I found myself on the last train back to my apartment. I often found myself reflecting on life during these rides. This song is meant to portray the feeling of riding the train alone late at night. The light percussion gives you a sense of the clickety-clack of riding on a train.
Evening at the Parks - By the time I met my wife I was living in the heart of downtown. There was a recent development of shops near the station called Namba Parks. This became a regular place for dates. Those were such precious times for us, and the music is meant to convey a sense of quietness and warmth.
In Another Life - I often dream about being back in Japan. In fact, I would guess that I dream about it once a week or so. The experiences I had in Japan, both good and bad, have profoundly changed my life. It amazes me how quickly time has passed since those days. This song, which is a bit of a nod to J-pop, sparked an unexpected emotional reaction in me when I first came up with the melody. Something about it really made me feel sentimental about those early days in a new country. It feels like another life.
Here's the album link on Spotify. I hope you enjoy this album. If you do, I'd love to hear about it. Shoot me a message on Twitter or Facebook. Also, I'd like to thank those of you who directly contributed to the making of this album in a financial way. That means a lot to me and I really appreciate it!