Echoes of Dream - Piece for Shamisen and String Quartet by Imanishi Taichi

The spotlight of the concert went to the piece for shamisen and string quartet composed by Mr. Imanishi Taichi, and which got the collaboration of shamisen player Mr. Ishikawa Hibiki.

While it could be at first glance a difficult piece to understand, I felt it was there that was its point.
Honestly, I'm not the best person to write a musical piece review, and I feel many details won't be enough. However, I guess telling what you feel when you listen to it makes a review just as fine as any other. And after exchanging some comments with Mr. Imanishi Taichi, I was sure of that.

"Echoes of Dream" is divided in three movements. On the first, "Wandering", we are taken into the middle of a dream. That's it. It's honestly the best way to describe it. A dream which you can't see clearly, and takes you to already walked roads, and suddenly in a twist something new gets before your eyes, and you don't know what to do except keep dreaming and walking, and walking, and walking,... and when you realize it, the first movement is over.

This was honestly my favorite movement. To describe the inside of a dream, outside of a dream, might be one of the most challenging things for human beings to do, and even if they achieve it, there's a high chance few people will understand, because dreams are just that, dreams. And everyone's dreams are different.

With the goal of integrating the west and the east music styles without offending their aesthetics, Mr. Imanishi Taichi put 2 years of hard work to complete this piece after numerous revisions.

And that's where the second movement takes the stage. Entitled "Sunlight", you can feel and imagine a hot ray of light coming from the sun in a clear day right from the first note. Here, after having the shamisen "adapting" to the western style, you can later listen to a face-off between the two styles, always under a hot and bright sunlight.

In the third movement, entitled "Returning Home", every being is taken to their "home", or whatever every one of them might value as "home", which in my opinion kind of "explains" the whole piece.

When comparing it to many other classical pieces, there is a great difference. While pieces from long ago are quite "perfect" and "utopian", "Echoes of Dream" is an incomplete piece. And it is deliberately written that way. If you listen to it and feel something is missing, then you got it right.

It is, above everything, a human piece. Because human is not a perfect being. Human is an incomplete being, who grows as he lives, just like this piece. It amazes in a different way from listening to other pieces, because it focuses on THE human being. And human beings are all different. They think a lot of things. Live in a lot of places. But they are all together in the same world, living their own dreams, and dreaming their own lives.

That's what you will be able to find in this piece.
My congratulations to Mr. Imanishi Taichi for his brave work, and my best wishes to his composing career.

Below you can listen to an excerpt of each movement. Enjoy!



Found this poster in a metro station in Tokyo.

While I think it is a great initiative, I wonder if Japanese people can't access...?

One more year, one more sakura

And it's over again.

The cherry blossom season is so beautiful, but yet so short...! Maybe that's why it is so special.

With my new life already happening, my free time has dropped quite a lot, so I wasn't able to take pictures in many places, but still, here's what I got this year! Enjoy!

To see the full gallery click here!

Studio Ghibli: Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば)

Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi o Sumaseba, lit. If you listen closely) is a 1995 Japanese animated romantic drama film directed by Kondou Yoshifumi (近藤 喜文) and written by Miyazaki Hayao (宮﨑 駿) based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Hiiragi Aoi (柊 あおい). It was the first theatrical Studio Ghibli film to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki Hayao or Takahata Isao.

Whisper of the Heart was Kondou's only film as director before his death in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kondou would become the successor to Miyazaki and Takahata.

Tsukishima Shizuku is a 14-year-old student at Mukaihara Junior High School, where she is best friends with Harada Yuko  Living in Tokyo with her parents Asako and Seiya, as well as her older sister Shiho, Shizuku is a bookworm and is keen on writing. During an ordinary evening, she looks through the checkout cards in her library books. She discovers they have been checked out by Amasawa Seiji. Over the next few days, Shizuku encounters a young man, later revealed to be Seiji, who often annoys her.

Finding a cat riding a train, Shizuku follows it to discover an antique shop run by Nishi Shiro. In the shop there is a cat statuette, "The Baron", which is one of the main characters in a related film entitled The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し), which was released in 2002.

This might be one of Studio Ghibli's films that I liked to watch the most. It's beautiful! From the music to the animation, the atmosphere, the characters...

I like how it focuses in so "normal" daily lives, but how always something somehow supernatural changes everything, starting a whole new story, as the protagonist says in one of her lines.

The film score of Whisper of the Heart was composed by Nomi Yuji (野見 祐二). At times during the film, Shizuku translates John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Japanese for her school's chorus club. She writes her own humorous Japanese version of the song, called "Concrete Road," about her hometown in western Tokyo. The songs were actually translated by producer Suzuki Toshio (鈴木 敏夫)'s daughter Mamiko with Miyazaki Hayao writing supplemental lyrics. These songs play a role at points in the story. A recording of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," performed by Olivia Newton-John, plays during the film's opening sequence. The song was also performed by Shizuku's voice actress Honna Youko (本名 陽子).

Please watch the trailer below, and let yourself be immersed in this lovely story :)

Also, listen to the main theme!

Studio Ghibli: The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し)

The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し, Neko no Ongaeshi, lit. The Cat's Repayment) is a 2002 Japanese animated drama film directed by Morita Hiroyuki (森田宏幸). A spin-off of Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi wo Sumaseba, lit. If You Listen Closely), it was theatrically released in Japan on July 19, 2002 through the Toho Company. It received an Excellence Prize at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival.

The story is about a girl named Haru, a quiet, shy and ditzy high school student who has a suppressed ability to talk with cats. One day, she saves a darkly-colored, odd-eyed cat from being hit by a truck on a busy road. The cat is Lune, Prince of the Cat Kingdom. As thanks, the cats give Haru gifts of catnip and mice, and she is offered the Prince's hand in marriage. Her mixed reply is taken as a yes.

The rest is up to you to imagine, or watch for yourself! :)

In 1995, Studio Ghibli released a film entitled Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi wo Sumaseba, lit. If You Listen Closely), about a girl writing a fantasy novel. Although the girl's life had no magical elements, the film featured short fantasy scenes depicting what the girl was writing of the Baron, a character of her novel, was so popular that an indirect sequel was made, featuring the Baron and another girl, a high school student, named Haru. Muta also returned.

Personally, I think it was a really fun movie! It has lots of interesting elements, and that touch of "curiosity" that is so common to Studio Ghibli's movies. It's really easy to feel attracted from the start to the end of this great work (^^)

Enjoy the trailer below!

Dulcinea Quartet, what a great concert!

Last Sunday, I went to Dulcinea Quartet first concert of their 2015 Japan Tour!

It was held next to the Tokyo JR Station, in Tokyo Tatemono Yaesu Hall, a place where I had never been to, and that was really beautiful!

Actually, it was my first time listening to a quartet performance this close, and I was completely astonished by the players' communication between them.

When playing in an orchestra under a conductor's direction, its completely different. Of course there must be some communication between players to make the music sound smooth and fluent, but if you look at the conductor, it somehow gets in place.

But this performance was really amazing. Despite the difficulty of every piece, all four of them (five, including the shamisen player Ichikawa Hibiki, in one piece) had perfect communication between them, and that made music sound really good.

It was my first time listening to a shamisen (Japanese traditional instrument) live, and it was amazing! It is an instrument I like a lot, it has such a great sound!

I'm not going to spoil too much on their pieces, as there are still a lot of performances coming soon, which I remind, are:

March 30
April 5
April 7
April 8

Lastly, I want to thank Dulcinea Quartet for their invitation to this superb concert, and want to congratulate each and every one of them (including Ichikawa Hibiki) for their amazing performance. Hope to listen to you guys someday soon! Wish all the best for your next performances!

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