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

It was so funny, ironic, stupid and joyful

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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

Time is relative like happiness

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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

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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

I think it’s worth trying

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I installed Cubase to my new computer for mastering of our new song. I’ve decided to do the mastering by myself instead of taking it to a professional. Basically, I don’t trust those who are so-called professionals or authorities. I believe I can do better. After working on the song for seven years, I don’t feel like leaving it to someone in this very last process. It might hit a dead end, and then, I’ll turn to an expert. But until then, at least I want to try and I think it’s worth trying.

On the other hand, by doing so, it’s become uncertain whether the song should be completed by the end of this year…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

No! This isn’t what I wanted at all!

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After the mix down of our new song, I couldn’t manage to get it to the suitable volume. Instead of taking it to a recording studio to adjust it at the mastering, I decided to do the mastering by installing Cubase AI on my different computer, recording the song to it and increasing the volume.

The other night, I had a dream in which I took the song to a studio engineer for the mastering. I listened to the finished sound by the engineer and screamed in despair, “No! This isn’t what I wanted at all! This is too muffled!” And I woke up. It seems that I think the sound of our new song isn’t crisp enough. Now that my dream told me so, I will use the equalizer again on the mastering. Thus, our new song is in a final burst. Well, I’ve been saying this for over six months now…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook: The Family in Kyoto: One Japanese Girl Got Freedom by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple Books, Google Play, Audible 43 available distributors in total.

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

Lost and Found hr654

The unprecedented has happened.

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The prefecture where I reside in Japan has rolled out its travel stimulus benefit to help the struggling tourism industry that covers almost all the travel costs. Although I had given up going on a trip since my income decreased tremendously, the benefit allowed me to book a gorgeous hotel in the city for practically free by clearing some small detailed conditions. I was overjoyed by this unexpected luck and preparing for the trip.

A few days before the trip, I noticed my clothespin was missing at the locker room of the communal spa in my apartment building. I used it to close my bag every evening there and it seemed I had dropped it somewhere between my apartment and the communal spa. I thought of returning to look for it but I was already naked. I didn’t want to put on clothes all over again just for a clothespin. As it was too cheap for someone to keep for themselves, I guessed I would find it where I had dropped it on my way back to my apartment, and took a bath. Nevertheless, all that I could think of was the clothespin while I was in the spa. I seemed attached to it more than I had thought. Also, losing something wasn’t a pleasant feeling no matter how petty the thing was. By the time I hurried out of the spa and back to my apartment while looking for the clothespin, what I wanted most in the world was that clothespin. Sadly, I couldn’t find it. I entered my apartment, disheartened by the loss. And my partner said from the back of the apartment, “Something of yours was left there.” I saw the clothespin on the floor of the hallway. I picked it up as if it were a gem, feeling so happy. On top of that, some of the items that I had put up on the online flea market were sold on the same evening. It was a relief for me because they hadn’t been sold for some time and I had been worried. The day turned out to be wonderful, I thought. But it didn’t end there.

I have hypersensitivity to sound and hear high-pitched sounds boosted. While I get almost no income as a musician, I ironically have a full-fledged occupational hazard as one. I am especially sensitive to children’s shrieking and I reflectively shush them when I hear it. My partner has been recently watching a musical TV show before going to bed. Inevitably the sound has reached my ears every night. The female singing voices from the show have annoyed me immensely. I had wished the series would end soon, but it has gone on and on. On the night of that wonderful day, the female singers were hollering and blaring my favorite song ‘That’s Life’ on the show. It sounded awful and I felt their performance was a disgrace to that supreme piece. I couldn’t take it any more and snapped. I yelled at my partner and we quarreled, which was the first fight with him in a long time. With such a small thing, the whole day was ruined. To be precise, I ruined the day with it.

I am not an atheist, but not so religious either. I simply can’t help feeling that something with great power is watching over me. Although it gave me a grandly wonderful day, I didn’t appreciate it, not to mention I ruined it. I was sure that it would take away what it had given me as a punishment for such an arrogant, faithless reaction of mine. In light of what happened today, the punishment would be losing my possession of much more importance than a clothespin and be no more sales at the flea market. I was convinced those two matters would happen to me soon anyway though I regretted bitterly and apologized to that something for what I did.

A couple of days later, I set off for a two-day trip to the city. I dashed out of my apartment by jamming my accessories into my bag as the bus to catch was coming and there was no time to put them on. At the bus stop, two women were chatting loudly while I was taking a mask out of my bag to wear it. I shushed them as usual and got on the bus. I was putting my accessories in my seat and saw my pendant missing. I rummaged through my bag where I had put it, but it didn’t appear. On the bus, in the train, and at the hotel, I kept searching for it by turning out all my belongings, but couldn’t find it. I lost my favorite, most cherished pendant. And I knew it was coming. The punishment. It did happen.

I tried to see how I had lost it, and recalled taking out a mask at the bus stop. That was the only time I took something out of my bag before getting on the bus and the only chance something else could be out with it. I also remembered I was shushing others at that time. I realized again how unappreciative I had been. I was given a practically free trip and still got discontented. Come to think of it, I had managed to live despite financial difficulties and other problems. I had been constantly rescued by something but never appreciated but disregarded because of dissatisfaction. Now I found myself having been so perverse. I asked for forgiveness and determined to be grateful for everything from now on. During the short trip, I learned that much by the punishment and came home the next day with the firm determination to be a better person.

I came into my apartment and turned on the light. On the floor of the entrance, I found the pendant. It had never been in my bag. But it was apparent to me that something returned it to me. Soon after that, another sale was made on the flea market. I was awed by the mercy I received. I was forgiven. A financial crunch that assaulted me had often made me doubt that something. Yet, it still surely watches over me. Since the trip, I have kept my determination and appreciated everything. I haven’t shushed people but smiled. Then, it seems people have become nicer to me and days fuller. 

coming close to an end

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As my work for our new song is coming close to an end, I’m preparing for the next song as well. I’ve already written the song but the long, time-consuming process of the arrangement awaits me.

For the arrangement, I need a new computer. The one I’ve been using now is seven years old and it’s too risky to rely on it completely. Its specs are obsolete, too. And I don’t know how long it will take to finish the next song. I’ve had my eye on a certain model of HP for my new computer and an online shop started the special sale for that particular model by reducing its price drastically over the weekend. I bought it yesterday and took delivery of it today. I got it much sooner than I had originally planned. I’m so excited to have a new computer but now I remember that I haven’t finished my current project yet on my old computer…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook: The Family in Kyoto: One Japanese Girl Got Freedom by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple Books, Google Play, Audible 43 available distributors in total.

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