Thousands of Miles from Home


The Little Things

Today was exciting for a couple of reasons. One is a little more "out of the ordinary" so I will save it for later.

My host brother, Tomoya, plays the base in the school brass band (the large upright base, although he also plays the electric). A few days ago he traveled with the band to an Ensemble Competition in Kurashiki which I attended with my host mother and father. The performances were rather breathtaking, considering that the students were in junior high school playing difficult arrangements without a conductor. I had never heard Tomoya's band perform before, so I was quite excited to attend the event. When I looked in the program, Uno Chuu (Tomoya's school) was playing 62nd after another local junior high. I also happened to notice that they were both playing the same musical arrangement, some ballad.

I was sort of absorbed by the bands. They were really excellent and easily kept my attention. Finally, a group of girls took their place on the stage. They all took a starting bow in unison and promptly began to play. My mouth dropped around the middle of the performance. I don't have much musical knowledge, but these girls could play. My mind kept flashing back to images of autistic robots. The base player's fingers moved faster than I could see. It was a cacophonous blur of sound. When they finished, all stood in unison, took a bow, and left the stage. It was about the time I turned to my host mom to say "That's going to be impossible to beat" that I saw Tomoya come on stage. Turned out the last band was Tomoya's competition. Uno Chuu gave it their best, but were obviously outplayed by the girls team. Sad, but I guess you can't win 'em all.

So today, Tomoya, Mayumi, and I took a trip to Okayama for the JAS New Year's Concert. JAS, or Japan Automobile Society hosts the concert every year at the Okayama Symphony Hall. It lasted about two hours and featured two very famous flute and cello players, accompanied by various singers and a full orchestra. Now when I think of flute players, the image of a very relaxed individual comes to mind. But for this concert the main flautist was the most agressive member of the orchestra. He would lean all the way over his music stand and raise his eyebrows until you though he was going to fall right off the stage. But boy could he play the flute. The soprano blew me away as well, and I left feeling quite satisfied. And to make it even better the whole concert was free because we attended the competition in Kurashiki for Tomoya's school and found coupons.

But today's really surprising development was on Japanese radio. Usually I refrain from listening due to the relatively short span of music and long span of advertisements. But today I caught KDDI's Prime Time Radio hosted by George Williams, who also hosts a very popular "Teach Yourself English" program on Japanese television. He is half-japanese half-british with superb fluency in both languages. I also find him extremely easy to understand. Some say he is a little annoying but I have to give him the thumbs up for effort. So anyway I am listening to his show and he has a special guest, Jonathan Poneman. I knew I had heard his name somewhere, and then I remember he's the founder/rep of Sub Pop, the label of not only Nirvana and Soundgarden (before A&M) but more recently Hot Hot Heat, Iron and Wine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Postal Service, The Reverend Horton Heat, The Shins, and Ugly Casanova (to name a few). Any one of those could do me on a desert island for years. So here I am in Japan singing along with The Shins playing "New Slang" while my host mom is wondering what in the world I'm doing. It's a small world I'll tell you. Little things like that make my day.


  • And the Afghan Whigs, by god! The sexy, sexy Afghan Whigs.

    By Cinnacism, at 3:04 AM  

  • Ben damnit you are having an amazing time there, so much music it seems like. I'm going to mail you a mix CD sometime and hopefully Kostya too

    By Bernard, at 1:33 AM  

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