Come one, come all, and experience my Japanese presentation! – HAKUJIN RYOURI BANGUMI

It is time. My Japanese presentation has been performed. Starring me and Luke Ansaldi, watch as two helpless Gaijin tackle this cooking endeavor. Japanese language proficiency required. If you don’t know Japanese.. just watch it, you would probably be very confused either way.

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5 Tips for People Considering Moving to Japan

I’m not going to bother writing about how I’m back to blogging and what not since I don’t really know whether I would continue updating regularly from this point. I’m not very good at regular updates am I.. Well anyway, I was hoping to change the format of my blog a little by making it a little more easy to digest. As I am living in beautiful Kasumigaseki in the Saitama prefecture of Japan, I feel motivated to share my experiences with everyone who reads this blog. Alright, here are some tips I feel are important to consider if you are moving to Japan.

1. Learn as much Japanese as you can – Japan consists of a majority of people who do not know how to speak English. Only Japanese. Living here, you will have to go overcome obstacles over simple matters such as finding the products you need in a grocery store. It is rare to find any english text on a majority of these products. That’s okay you say? Just ask an employee? No. They would not be able to help you either since it is most likely that they wouldn’t understand what you’re trying to ask for. How about wanting to ask for directions, ordering something in a restaurant but the menu is in Japanese. It is simple acts like these that are made really difficult if you do not understand any Japanese. Therefore I recommend to at least have basic knowledge such as reading the characters, Hiragana and Katakana, maybe as much kanji as you can take in as well, it would not hurt at all. Basic conversation, it all helps so much. You have no idea how many times I have had to get something done through a friend who can translate, but what happens if you do not have anyone who is willing to help you out with this? You’re screwed. I think this is the top priority you should think of.

2. Try to make friends with Japanese people – This is especially important if you want to improve in your Japanese. Come on, you’re coming to Japan, do you really want to spend all of your time with people from places abroad? This suggestion applies to anyone who is going to any country in fact. If you want to learn more about the culture and the way things work, this is really beneficial. Just remember, Japanese people tend to be really shy and you would really have to make an effort to introduce yourself to them.

3. If you use deodorant, buy a large supply of it before you come – I will break it to you softly. You are a filthy Gaijin. and you smell. Just kidding, but seriously bring as much to last throughout the time you are here because while Japanese have products, they are simply inferior since Japanese people do not see the need for them.

4. Do you actually want to live in Japan? – We all could have a hobby or an interest that originates from Japan such as video games, anime, music, and such. However, Japan does not revolve around this idea. Of course there is so much to see for that kind of thing, but living here is a different story. A lot of Japanese people do not actually enjoy things such as games or anime (by what I have seen at least). Japan is an incredible place. The culture is like no other, the people are so respectful, the food, the environments, there is so much to see and experience that you simply cannot get in other countries. It is not all about anime or games.. While I do very much enjoy Japanese video games, I have not allowed it to take over my perception of what makes Japan truly spectacular. Please consider this as your expectations of Japan could be very very different to what you think it is right now.

5. DO NOT GET SOFTBANK POCKET WIFI – Simply put, it sucks balls and you should not go near it. It has a limit of 7Gb per month but that gets drained in mere days. They also throttle internet speeds when you use over 300mb in a day so you are being ripped off in spectacular ways. You also must go through a long process to sign up for it as well as having the requirement of living in Japan for at least 2 years. The cancellation fee is a whopping 10,000 yen but guess what, there are hidden situations behind that price too. For example, I went to go and try cancel my subscription the other day and they claimed I have to pay 19,000 instead.. otherwise I must wait until December and THEN the price would change to 10,000. Thats fantastic. I really suggest trying to get the home internet from FLETS or NTT. Its incredibly fast. Unfortunately, I live in a dorm where they refuse to install WIFI for the tenants, therefore I am royally screwed.

I hope this helps you obtain a better understanding of what you are going to decide when moving to Japan. These are simply the first 5 things that popped into my head, of course there is so much more to consider. I shall write more information about Japan at a later time. Perhaps specifically about living in Kasumigaseki as well as attending Tokyo International University. Look forward to it.

Dubai Vlog # 2 – Video Games Live

A compilation of some of the footage we captured from the Video Games Live show which is pretty much 2 hours of video game music being orchestrated live on stage.. it was pretty awesome. I would say that last years show was kind of better but perhaps that was because were weren’t expecting it back then, this year had some great stuff though, personally my favorite themes they played were for Smash Bros. and Final Fantasy 8. It was a great experience I got to spend with my uncle, cousin and friends and I hope you enjoy taking a sneak peak at what we got to experience.

Dubai Vlog # 1

Since we’re in Dubai for a week, I decided to post vlogs since its about time I made some anyway.. This is the first of a series of vlogs, its pretty random and its just us heading our way to the airport and such, didn’t record much considering we forgot to charge the camera but the next vlog should be much more interesting. Enjoy… or at least try to..?

I also took a few photos from later on in the day, we met up with a few friends and chilled around, we also had some really damn good Iranian food. Tomorrows vlog should be much more interesting considering we’re going to the concert so watch out for that.

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The musical link between 20th Century Jazz and works of Claude Debussy and how they influenced each other

The 20th century introduced many forms of experimental and innovative styles and genres of music because of the change in times and culture that musicians experienced over the course of time. One of the relatively new styles that was introduced is known as Jazz ragtime, a syncopated form of jazz which grew in popularity immensely during the early 1900s, originating in America.  Ragtime was mainly composed for the piano usually in the form of 2/4 beats per bar with the treble acting as the lead and the bass standing as the rhythm. It is usually presented in 3 to 4 sections which are very different from each other. Although its origins are in the Americas, it instantly became popularized in Europe as well.

Some of the most famous Jazz artists of this kind are Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Bill Evans. During this time in Europe, countries such as Austria, France and Germany were still highly involved in the arts of classical music with composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Claude Debussy basing a majority of their compositions on inspirations from classical composers such as Wagnar and Mozart.

Because of its time being in the 20th century yet still being majorly inspired by the classical period, this form of classical music is now known today as ‘Neoclassicism’. Considering how it is largely based on the classical period, it would only be natural to include the same usual elements in compositions such as 4 movement symphonies as well as usually being in 4/4 time in the first movement, 2/4 in the 2nd, ¾ in the 3rd and 4/4 in the fourth. Although these do not define all compositions of this genre, this is just in traditional standards.

While early Jazz mainly consisted of following the chord progression and keeping a steady rhythm, ragtime changed things up by creating a modal type of Jazz. Constantly changing the mode or key of the music and not following any sort of chord progression and rather the melody which was usually played through improvisation. Neoclassical on the other hand is very traditional and follows a very planned out structure of chord progression and keeps everything steady at all times. Therefore, when considering this, it does not seem likely that Neoclassical and Jazz would influence each other in anyway whatsoever. However, that changed when Claude Debussy decided to stray from his usual attempts of Wagner-inspired compositions and attempt something much more experimental.

The influence of Ragtime on Debussy

Claude Debussy most likely grew fond of the ragtime style when the famous ragtime artist known as John Philip Sousa came to France along with his band to perform in an exhibition taking place in Paris During 1900. Although, this would not be justifiable until eight years later in 1908 when Debussy released his first composition based on a unique kind of musical impressionism, known as ‘Golliwogs Cakewalk’. A ‘golliwog’ is a ragdoll based on a black person which became very popular around that time while a ‘cakewalk’ is a form of competitive dance where the person who performed the most elaborated steps won the prize or ‘took the cake’. This music can definitely be considered to be ragtime as well as being possible to compare to other well known ragtime pieces.

Analysis of Debussy’s ‘Golliwog Cakewalk’ compared to a similar ragtime piece

Golliwog’s cakewalk is a musical ragtime piece which was compiled in an album called ‘Children’s corner’ which consisted of a series of songs dedicated to children and especially Debussy’s daughter. Created to mainly be played on the piano, it is meant to portray the joyful and happy feeling of the act of a child playing with toys or dolls. It is Debussy’s earliest work that changed his status from mainly a neoclassical composer to a musical impressionist.

Golliwog’s Cakewalk By Claude Debussy

The Entertainer By Scott Joplin

The structure of Golliwog Cakewalk is simplistic with only 3 sections of A B A which is also known as ternary form. While many ragtime pieces were structured in a similar format to this which range from A B A to A B A C and even at times A B C D, Golliwog keeps it simple which can be compared to the famous ragtime piece known as ‘The Entertainer’ by Scott Joplin which is structured in A B A with an added concluding section of C. This section can be considered to be in definitive ragtime because of its syncopated flow in 2/4 that suits a dance quite well. This can be justified by the similar 2/4 time signature in ‘The Entertainer’ as well as both being syncopated (Hemiola). What is also noteworthy is how the speed of both pieces are moderately fast (Allegro Giuisto), and both have a homophonic texture.

The tonality of the Debussy’s piece is almost indistinguishable due to its ragtime similarities through harmony, mainly being modal in it’s key. This is of course, one of the fundamentals in common ragtime pieces where the harmony follows the melody rather than vice-versa. In ‘The Entertainer’ it can at first be easy to mistaken the harmony of the piece because of its first 2 bars following a certain structure of harmony, although this definitely changes when it reaches it’s second section where some model elements can be heard, therefore a clear similarity of this can be heard in both.

The dynamics in Golliwog generally alter at certain times from piano to fortissimo,  this can be heard at the time 1:40 in the video displayed above, dynamics change to piano and then later on at 1:45, they suddenly burst back into fortissimo. It is clearly evident between bars 14-26 especially during measure 16 where a crescendo is apparent.

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A similar frequent change in dynamics can also be heard in ‘The Entertainer’ particularly through bars 37 to 47 as visible in the image of the sheet music below.

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Golliwog’s entire first section consists of two themes played alternatively over the course of 8 bars, although both themes do change into different variations of the original themes the second time they are played. The last 6 bars of the section are used as a transition to section B. Alternating between two main themes is also a very similar trait to ‘The Entertainer’ as it does in fact employ this technique as well as variate them over time.

In the development section of Golliwog, the chord progression is altered into an almost unpredictable pattern as it introduces 2 new themes with the first one playing over 14 bars and the second one over the next 12 measures, the section is then concluded with 17 more bars which accompany a variation of the 2nd new melody. The influence of Wagner on Debussy is definitely present in the main theme during measure 61, in fact it is taken from Wagner’s piece known as ‘Tristran and Isolde’. It is interesting to see how Debussy experiments with this theme up to the 81st measure. Between the bars 85-86 as well as 88-89, the notes on the high end of the scale are played in staccato (notes must sound detached from each other).

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Section B of ‘The Entertainer’ on the other hand cannot be adequately compared to the corresponding section of Golliwog. This is because Scott Joplin chose to continue the same trend of the first section but rather through the use of different harmonies and melody that is on a higher scale. It is played twice through the section and the second time it is played, the melody is played even higher on the scale before it returns to a reprise of the first section.  The final section of Golliwog is also essentially a reprise of its first section with the same themes but in different variations. The final 8 bars then conclude the recapitulation altogether. Despite them having differences in their development sections, another important factor of ragtime music is to include a recapitulation phase, and both of these pieces include this. Another noteworthy factor of the recapitulation of ‘The Entertainer’ is that it becomes unpredictable in it’s chord progression just like section B of Golliwog, further justifying its connection to the ragtime genre.

Overall, these two pieces are extremely similar in almost every aspect and element of music. Even the timbre of both these pieces provoke a very strong sense of richness, warmth and brightening sensations and just seem like they are meant for soley for the piano, which is not surprising considering ragtime music is majorly and essentially written for pianos. Debussy recognized the early fundamentals of ragtime and further expanded upon it by creating more music that rely less on the progression of harmonization and more on following the melody itself. This is why the neoclassical composer has come to be known as a major influence in 20th century jazz by seeing the similarities of future artists ahead of his time such as Miles Davis and Bill Evans implementing Debussy’s expanded reliance of melody into their own pieces. These can particularly be heard in the albums ‘The way to play’ by Bill Evans and ‘Milestones’ by Miles Davis.

Referencing

Upton, B., & Upton, F. K. (1895). The adventures of two Dutch dolls and a Golliwog. London: Longmans, Green & Co.

Blyton, E. (1951). The proud golliwog. Leicester, England: Brockhampton Press.

Mervyn Cooke (1997). The Chronicle of Jazz. United States: Abbeville. 256.

Allison. (2012). Critical Listening #3: Golliwog’s Cakewalk . Available: http://swayingonthetwoandfour.blogspot.com/2012/02/critical-listening-3-golliwogs-cakewalk.html. Last accessed 20th Nov 2013.

Dr. David Pilgrim. (2012). The Golliwog Caricature. Available: http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/golliwog/. Last accessed 19th Nov 2013.

Fela Kuti. (2012). African American Music Viewed As Unique. Available: http://blogs.longwood.edu/ashlynnkaufman/2012/12/02/african-american-music-viewed-as-unique/. Last accessed 19th Nov 2013.

Unlisted. (2000-2013). Characteristics of Ragtime. Available: http://www.jazzinamerica.org/jazzresources/stylesheets/4. Last accessed 19th Nov 2013.

 Appendix

Sheet music for ‘The Entertainer’ by Scott Joplin – collected from http://www.mutopiaproject.com

Sheet music for Golliwog’s Cakewalk – collected from www.mfiles.co.uk

The Entertainer – http://www.mutopiaproject.org/ftp/JoplinS/entertainer/entertainer-let.pdf

Golliwog’s Cakewalk – http://www.dersmuzik.com/dosya/m003DebussyGolliwogsCakewalk.pdf

My Top 10 Video Game Soundtracks So Far

Thought I’d make a new top 10 since you know.. everybody loves top 10’s. This list will consist of soundtracks of a video game as a whole and I will be limiting one soundtrack per game in a franchise. Please remember that this is my personal list so let’s all be fair to other people’s opinions!

10. Rayman Origins

I honestly went with this game rather than Legends because I just really love the creative style of combining lots of cultural styles of music together. Compare that to Legends, while it does have a great soundtrack, it is easy to recognize that most of the music has been inspired by common music such as how to train your dragon and 007. Origins on the other hand, has some of the most wacky music I’ve heard, from the crazy chase music while you’re after those chests to the strangely mellow ‘Sea of Serendipity”.

9. Megaman X

You’re going to be seeing a lot of music from the SNES era. I just find it incredible how they were capable of composing such great classics when being limited by such hardware. It just shows how you don’t need technical prowess all the time to create something truly memorable. Megaman X is a masterpiece to me, both the game and it’s soundtrack, need I say more about the badass boss music?

8. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

This was difficult to narrow down considering how the Ace Attorney series has such good music. (I wish I could just plaster Godot’s theme from Trials and Tribulations on here) I just had to go with the first game’s soundtrack, as much as I love some other tracks from other games, this soundtrack as a whole is pretty stellar and is superior to the rest. I’m just going to put one of my favorite tracks down here. Seriously if you haven’t played this game.. for the love of god try it out. It’s a different kind of game, even non-gamers could possibly really enjoy this.

7. Silent Hill 2

I was contemplating which horror soundtrack to put down here and I was stuck between this and Resident Evil. As much as I love the soundtracks from those games, I think this one just stands out as a single soundtrack alone. One of the best horror games I have ever played. Wouldn’t of been the same without the chill soundtrack (That alternative shit!!).

6. Super Castlevania 4

Hell yes. This is what you call a proper game. Sorry SOTN fans, as much as I love that game as well, it is no match to the perfection that is Super Castlevania 4. And now it sounds like I’m just praising the game, but it’s also the soundtrack really, in my opinion it’s the best one in the franchise. I’m going to put down Vampire Killer rather than Bloody Tears since I prefer that track from another Castlevania game instead.

5. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

While I feel that MGS3’s soundtrack is probably the greatest in the series, I feel that 4 takes that to the next level. Considering how you’re able to play your own tracks through a damn iPod in the game. It’s like every soundtrack enthusiasts dream, and not to mention how the soundtrack in this game is so massive because it has been compressed as little as possible. The true way to enjoy this soundtrack to the fullest is to listen to it in it’s intended form which is in surround sound, I find that insane.

4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Okay this was probably the hardest decision I had to make. Ocarina of Time, Majora’s mask and A Link to the past all have some of the best soundtracks in the series. When I considered OoT, while it does probably have the catchiest and most memorable songs, it is partly based on ALTTP, as well as Majora’s Mask having a lot of similar traits to Ocarina of Time, these 3 games seem very similar apart from Majora being quite a bit darker, but still. Wind Waker, I feel, can be distinguishable in the greatest sense from these soundtracks. Yes, it does have some traits from past games (Melodies in Windfall Island and Outset Island) but I felt it was the most effective in complimenting the atmosphere of the game. There is the much beloved and brought up tracks such as Dragon Roost Island and the Ocean theme, but I really appreciate the less acknowledged ones such as the theme played when departing from your island the first time and waving goodbye to your grandma, just the transition from a feel of adventure to lingering sadness is amazing. Overall, fantastic. There is some fantastic covers of Dragon roost online by the way.

3. Super Metroid

This is one of those soundtracks that is mainly really appreciated when accompanying the atmosphere of the game, and with that, this game is probably the one that does it best in my humble opinion. There were parts where I felt genuinely lost, scared and shocked, as well as those parts where you just feel like a badass. Still feel that this game is better than the Prime series, being the gems they are. Here’s one of my personal favorite tracks.

2. Super Mario Bros. 3

Just had to do it. My first game I’ve ever gotten the pleasure of playing was Super Mario 64, I feel that game got me into appreciating soundtracks in the first place. On the other hand, once I played this game, I cannot deny that it probably has the best collection of songs from any of the others. Here’s one hell of a medley.

1. Chrono Trigger

It’s so easy to put this as number one. Why? Because there is not a single song in this game that I can forget. I finished Chrono Trigger relatively recent, during the final days of December last year. This is a game I cannot find anything wrong with, I had doubts of it at first since I’m not the biggest Final fantasy fan, but this blew me away. I got the pleasure of listening to a collection of songs form the game last year in the Video Games Live orchestra, it was beautiful. :’) It has inspired me in my music in so many different ways. Thank you, Yasunori Mitsuda!!