dead serious

Our new song ‘Sunrise’ has been completed
and sent out to a distributor. It’s finally
released and available worldwide, that I’d been
hoping for a long time.
The distributor put up the song on online
stores such as iTunes and Amazon MP3. I had
looked forward to seeing ‘Sunrise’ displayed
there.
When I was looking around them, something
caught my eye. They categorize songs
according to genres. ‘Sunrise’ is categorized in
six genres, like pop/general etc. One of them is
miscellaneous/comedy. They felt a sense of
comedy in ‘Sunrise’ when they categorized it.
It’s interesting because I wrote this song being
dead serious with a deep theme…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

They were hovering right in front of the window

I saw God for the first time in my dream the
other day.
I was preparing for work in my room. I
looked out the window and noticed three small
dots in the cloudy sky. While I was figuring out
whether they were aircraft or UFOs, the three
black dots were getting bigger and bigger as
they were coming closer.
They were flying with tremendous speed
toward my window and I recognized each dot
was in the shape of a human. The two of them
were leading the way for the third one that
was flying a little behind them. I was extremely
frightened and covered my eyes. Even so, I felt
an urge to see them and opened my eyes.
They were hovering right in front of the
window.
As soon as I saw them, I clearly understood,
or was told somehow, that the two human-
shaped things at the front were angels and the
also human-shaped one in the middle behind
was God. In this dream, God was Jesus at the
same time. Their looks were so different from
my imagination. None of them had wings nor
was wearing white. All of them were quite
young with black hair, wearing black hooded
coats. They were flying just by themselves,
with their arms lightly forward and their knees
slightly bent.
I was completely awed and fearful.
God/Jesus was looking straight into my eyes
with a serious gaze while hovering. Then, He
turned and flew away with His angels high up
in the sky. When they disappeared, my mother
came into my room. I told her what had just
happened but she showed no interest. Instead,
she asked me to let her hear our new song.
The moment I pushed a play button, I woke
up.
Later on the same day, totally unexpectedly,
our new song had been finished at long last.

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

It was so funny, ironic, stupid and joyful

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

When I decided to go back to the mix down
from the mastering of our new song in order to
boost its overall volume, I prepared to take a
few more months to complete it.
Once I accepted the delay and released
myself from constraint called time, things
presented a new twist. I had compared the
volume of our song to other CDs with the
stereo components. Our song came from the
computer through the line-in of the stereo,
which meant I compared the line-in sound to
CDs. Before going back to the mix down, I
burned the song to a CD as a low-volume
version because except for the volume, the
mastering went perfectly.
It happened when I checked the sound of
the CD. The volume was as high as other CDs!
It had been indeed boosted already during the
mastering. I just compared it in a wrong way
through the line-in. I had been struggling with
the volume for a couple of months based on
my false judgement.
When I heard our song at the right volume, I
found out how silly I was and laughed out loud.
At the same time, I burst into tears for
indescribable joy. The only remaining problem
to complete this song was the volume. Now
that the volume was boosted, the song’s
completion was within my grasp.
Looking up at the ceiling of my room, I was
loudly laughing, crying, then laughing, and
again crying, with tears falling down. It was so
funny, ironic, stupid and joyful…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

The Katsura River hr658

Back in those days of my childhood, a person who was going to commit suicide always took his or her shoes off and put them together neatly before jumping from the top of the building on Japanese TV dramas. It seemed Japanese people wanted to take off their shoes even when they tried to kill themselves just as they took them off at the entrance of the house. I somehow feel convinced.

There is a bridge called Katsura-ohashi Bridge over the Katsura River about a twenty-minute walk away from my family’s house that used to stand in Kyoto where I was born and grew up. The bridge is about 400-feet long as the river under it is quite big and wide. On one summer day in the fourth grade, I went to the bridge with seven or eight friends of mine to play by the Katsura River. Because it was probably the first time each of us played at the riverside without a grown-up chaperon, the outing was felt like an adventure and we were having so much fun by the river.

After a little while, one of my friends seemed to have enough spree to suggest we walk in the river along the bridge piers  toward the opposite bank. It was midsummer and the river banks had widened with less water. To us, the river looked shallow and easy to walk in and go further. Since we were all feeling adventurous, we persuaded ourselves that a fourth grader was a big, old kid for whom crossing the river on foot was a cinch. We started splashing across the current with a war cry.

In the beginning we were only ankle-deep in water, but soon water reached to our knees. Our walking speed dropped tremendously. By the time our thighs dipped in water, the stream got fast. It was hard just to stand still without holding onto a bridge pier although we had trod across merely one third of the river. The fast stream crushed against the bridge pier and my thighs, splashing big waves. Suddenly, fear sprang out from the bottom of my guts and yelled at me, “You’re in real trouble! You can’t possibly move ahead. What if you get swept away? Not to mention the opposite bank, you’ll drown to death right here!” Panic engulfed me. I looked back to return, but I was too scared to move, feeling that with this one step I was going to be carried away by the current. There was no way either to go forward or to go backward. I was stuck in the middle of the strong current. Thinking that wasn’t what was supposed to go, I looked around other kids. They also had stopped walking with a scared face just as I did. As if a tacit agreement, we slowly tried and managed to move backwards. When we finally returned to the riverbank where we had set off, our spree had thoroughly gone. Dejected in heart, without talking, we plodded our way home.

About ten years later, I was looking at the Katsura River again from the edge of Katsura-ohashi Bridge after taking off my shoes and putting them together neatly. It was when over a year had passed since I started my career as a musician despite dissent from my parents and friends. Although I had tried harder than I had ever done before, nothing had worked. On the other hand, I didn’t want to live doing what I didn’t want to do. I was stuck without either way to go forward or to go backward, again. I leaned over the parapet and stared at the surface of the river, seriously intending to jump into it. Then, something came into view. I saw three ducks swimming out from under the bridge. They stopped right down below me and just floated there. I vaguely thought I might strike and kill them when I jumped and hit the surface. All of a sudden, that thought drove me out of a daze. I came to my senses and pulled myself back away from the railing. Until that point, the world around me had been completely silent, but noises came back to my ears all at once. I noticed some cars honked at me while passing by. I hurriedly put back on my shoes.

You should challenge at the risk of your life if you wish to fulfill your dreams. Only after you brace yourself for death, can you live your own life. To attain that understanding, I had had to do a few more suicidal attempts in the course of my life. I understood after all and keep challenging, thankfully. 

Time is relative like happiness

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

I found that the problem I’ve been tackling,
which is to boost the volume of our new song,
could be solved by redoing the mixdown. But
it’ll take a few more months to complete.
Also, I feel reluctant to tell my partner that I
need more time to complete the song. I
thought about an extreme.
What if I were the only human on this
planet? If there were no one else besides me, I
would redo by taking as much time as I want
until I reach my satisfaction. Time is relative
like happiness and bears meaning simply in
relation to others. Come to think of it, our new
song is written just about it. While I’ve been
working on it, I ignored what I had written
myself. So, I decided to go back to the
mixdown. Considering the song’s theme, it was
destined to take time…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

My Robot Band hr657

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

Year of 1984 was one of the bitterest years of my life and also a major turning point. After I was able to join the band of a locally acclaimed young man, the band had been striving to become professional in Osaka, which is the biggest city in the western Japan. While I had unwavering confidence in the songs we wrote, we constantly had difficulty in finding desirable members. Except for him and me, other members had come and gone, and we couldn’t materialize our ideal sound with any of them. Even a gig was almost impossible with just two of us being permanent members.

My partner and I couldn’t waste any more time searching for apt band members who shared similar passion as ours and played exactly how we wanted. As the solution, we came up with the idea to use a rhythm machine and a sequencer in place of human members. Those gadgets were the cutting edge of music instruments at the time and had just appeared on the market. We thought they would be perfect band members who realized our sound as we requested because we were the ones that put data into them. We weren’t sure about the passion side of machines, but at least they would commit and wouldn’t quit like humans did. Because personal computers were still in the floppy disk era and not strong enough for music, we connected a rhythm machine, a sequencer and synthesizers with cables to play a gig. Added to the machines, I was on the keyboard and vocals, and my partner was on the guitar and vocals. There formed my robot band.

Although it had seemed perfect, we faced quite a few obstacles to play in the band with machines. Let alone it cost heftily and carrying them around by two of us without a car was a daunting physical challenge each time, it took enormous time to enter the whole data of our songs into them. As thumb drives or hard disk drives were yet to come, we needed to record special signals sounding like ‘beeeeep, bip, beep, bip, beep’ into a cassette tape to save the data. The data consumed one cassette tape per song, not at one go although the signals were long. I once inadvertently tripped on one of the cables which erased the whole data that I had spent all night inputting. The worse troubles awaited us at the gig. The innumerable necessary cables and cords made setting and preparation for my band far more complicated and time-consuming than other bands. One single wrong connection would break synchronization. On one occasion, the machines didn’t start and we couldn’t play but stood still on stage because one of the stage staff pulled out one cable by mistake. On another occasion, one of the machines suddenly uttered “Pi!” and went silent in the middle of playing. Furthermore, I needed to put a specific setting for each song on the several keyboards during every interval between our songs. Because the stage usually went dark between songs, it wasn’t easy to see the correct buttons and switches on my keyboards. A stage staff person once came up on the stage to help me with the setting by lighting over my keyboards with his lighter. The venue strictly banned any use of fire and he was harshly reprimanded for that afterwards because of me. Through those unpredictable chilling experiences, I basically feared every time if songs would start without hitches instead of enjoying gigs whenever I was on stage.

Still, harder trials existed. Other bands mostly consisted of college students who played as a hobby not for a career. Their attitude toward music was incredibly easygoing and they were just having fun on stage. Their songs were frivolous likewise. Yet, they were able to draw a large audience since they had friends on the campus so that their gig was usually a big hit with a livened up crowd. On the other hand, my band was just two people standing surrounded by numerous instruments and machines, and singing serious lyrical songs. Because we didn’t have friends to gather, the audience were strangers who had no interest in our playing and just waited for our gig to end.

That was also the case when we took part in a live contest. To make matters worse, a contest was sometimes fixed where the winner had already been decided. As I didn’t know that the contest was only held to give that winner the credential before the label signed a contract with the prearranged winner, I was appalled when we lost to a really bad but pretty singer.

I had gotten to loathe live performance by those experiences. Not just loathe it, but I had gotten to break out in a cold sweat on gigs. Since then, we have performed live less and less and have done none these days. I guess that shows how much I learned the hard way. To this day, the nightmares I have most are that I am playing on stage. However, my robot band has been transformed since it got off stage. The machines turned into a personal computer with software who has been my important partner to create my music. Thanks to it, I have been able to embody exactly what sounded in my head. A long period of time later, my robot band eventually made my dream come true. 

money pit

I’ve been working for mastering of our new
song for some time now. I still can’t get it up
to my satisfaction though, after using
everything I’ve got. I successfully made the
sound itself exactly what I’d wanted. The only
problem is the volume. I tried countless
compressors and limiters, read a book on the
subject and looked it up around on the
Internet with no luck. Our song stays in low
volume compared to other CDs.
The other day, I found mastering software
that many engineers regard as an ultimate
volume booster. It looked attractive, but it was
quite pricey. It was my decision whether I
bought it or took our song to a studio engineer.
I just wanted to try the software and go
through with the mastering so badly. I decided
to try to the best of my ability and then, after
it became certain that I couldn’t, turn to a
professional. I bought the software.
Now, the road to a goal is one, only the
ending will be either the software or the studio.
I’ve known that completing a song takes time,
but music also can be a money pit…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

the happiest time in my life

An artist who has a contract with a major record company generally has a deadline for work. Due to the cost of studio use and the promotion schedule, they often need to finish recording in a couple of weeks. Sometimes, it requires compromise and the work results in what they didn’t want.

I, on the other hand, have no contract, no obligation, no bind. I’ve been working on the current song for seven years now, including two years of recording. These years have been the happiest time in my life, with contentment from work. I’m in an ideal position to pursue my music as much as I want, so to speak. I always wonder why people don’t live like this.

Of course, if they do, fame and money is almost certainly hopeless as is my case. I have no contract, no fame, no money, and call it ideal. Maybe I’m beginning to become a nutcase…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

matter of a little more volume

Photo by Benjamin Lehman on Pexels.com

I’ve been mastering our new song on my new computer, which has an updated version of Cubase. I’m more than satisfied with its effect line-up but sound itself was better on my old computer. In a timely manner, the sound card on my new computer got disconnected from the software suddenly and I installed the old physical one to replace it. Sound became much better but I found out that the overall volume of the new song wasn’t as high as it was supposed to be.

I had set some effects to boost the volume and it sounded on a par with audio CDs. As it turned out, the former sound card didn’t support the direct monitoring and I had listened to amplified sound by the computer. It’s the matter of a little more volume now that I’ve gained most of it with a variety of effects. From this point on, it has come down to my idea. The question is, do I still have any ideas left…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of Hidemi Woods “

They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint.

The rent of my apartment includes utilities, which means I can use them as much as I want. Since it’s murderously hot everyday, I’ve spent most of time inside my air-conditioned apartment, working for music and watching America’s TV shows. A few days ago, there was a note in my mailbox from the management company of this apartment.

It said that even though it’s utility-included, my usage has been so excessive that they may charge me unless the usage drops to an ordinary amount.

Well, I do have my say on this. First of all, I need air-conditioning more because my room is a duplex apartment and the roof is merely nailed iron plates that conduct heat extremely well. It’s their fault, not mine.

Secondly, who decides the ordinary amount? Japanese people are obsessed to categorize everything and they don’t allow someone or something sticks out. I hate to be categorized and fight against it all the time here. They should accept there is someone who works at home during the night and sleeps in the daytime.

Thirdly, the note asked me to care about the environment. They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint. It was them who had chosen iron plates for the roof! Before they start charging me, I really need to get out of this apartment…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of Hidemi Woods “