Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, June 29, 2008

SECs and the City, Part Q

Once upon a time I did a post on this blog in which I talked about SECs, or Stupid English Catchphrases. I'm talking about all those wonderful English phrases used by marketers and promoters here in Japan to make their products look classy, but which were concocted with a sadly inadequate understanding of the language. The results can range from bizarre to flat out hilarious.

For example, take the TV commercial I saw last night.

In the ad, a number of different people from different walks of life (businessman, office lady, housewife, etc.) all look square at the camera and say (in English):

"I am a..."

After a whole string of these, they mention the name of the loan bank which is being advertised:

"Dikku" (pronounced "Dick")!

I guess we are to assume all those people are saying, "I am a DIKKU!!!"

I seriously have to wonder if some native English-speaking consultant somewhere is laughing out loud while counting all the yen paid to him by Dikku for his creative input. That's just too good to be a coincidence. And speaking of dikkus...

Yesterday (June 28th) saw the largest music-related event in the history of Kashima, the Kashima Music Fest (hugely budgeted fanfare). It wasn't intended to be quite so huge, but it was.

It started out innocently enough. Some months ago the music club at Ye Olde Academy got an e-mail from the director of the Garfield H.S. orchestra in the U.S. saying they were coming on a tour of Japan. They had came to Kashima before, namely a few years ago, and we had staged a joint performance/reception at our school. (I posted about it on this blog, but I won't link it just in case I'm still being spied on.) We still had fond memories of that event, and we'd been hoping to do it again. Now the Garfield orchestra was offering just such an opportunity. However, true to form, Mssr. Maestro Ogawa wasn't one to leave things as they were.

The orchestra at Ye Olde Academy is currently in maintenance mode after the loss of several key players to graduation with few truly viable replacements. Figuring they'd be in no condition to work next to the Garfield orchestra (which is definitely a high-class project), Mssr. Maestro Ogawa decided to involve the Kashima Philharmonic as well. Then he got to thinking (ominous diminished 7th chord). Last time the Garfield orchestra came, we held our concert event at the school auditorium, but with a full orchestra on the floor it can only hold a few hundred spectators. The Kashima Workers' Culture Hall is always a possibility, but even it can only seat around 750 people. Mr. Ogawa figured we wouldn't be doing the Garfield orchestra justice unless we could get at least a couple thousand into the venue. But was there any such place anywhere nearby? Yes, there was. The Kashima Sports Center, fully completed in 2002, was designed to seat 2,002 (Yes, you read that right. It's because it commemorates the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in which Kashima was one of the venues) in its main arena, which also happens to have a stage. Problem solved...

...NOT. Unfortunately, the manager of the KSC was extremely anal about it. He said basically, "I am a dikku!" "This facility is only for sports or sport-related events. We won't agree to its use for any other purpose without a specific directive from the City of Kashima." Well, Mr. Ogawa went to City Hall to get just that. Not very optimistic about it, he started resigning himself to using the Kashima Workers' Culture Hall instead, but then he got a phone call from the Mayor...which turned out to be more than he'd bargained for. Basically, the Mayor said, "SURE you can use the Sports Center for this event! And while you're at it..."

And thus the Kashima Music Fest was born. In addition to the Garfield and Ye Olde Academy orchestras and Kashima Philharmonic, it included all the junior high bands in Kashima, all the senior high bands in the Eastern District of Ibaraki Prefecture, a senior high Taiko Drum Troupe, a local ballet troupe, and three community choirs. It also involved a nightmare of organization, logistical planning, recruiting, promotion, rehearsal, and ticket sales, nearly all of which was dumped directly into Mr. Ogawa's lap...and subsequently delegated to the executive committee of the Kashima Philharmonic! The fact that we had never tried to pull off anything even remotely like this before was bad enough...coupled with an untried venue. To make the whole thing worth it, we put together a performance itinerary which was very ambitious in scale, putting pressure on the many performers and directors alike. We (Read "I") also had the complicated business of trying to work out various issues with the Garfield orchestra, which had enough problems of its own, without putting undue pressure on them. In the end the sheer scale of the thing was intimidating to say the least. There were just SO many things that could go totally wrong at the least provocation! By the time the Garfield buses rolled in on the evening of the 27th for our first and only full rehearsal together, many if not most of us were nursing ulcers and scars from torn hair.

Anyway, without going into all the rehearsal stuff (or the fact that I had to be responsible for five different instruments), I'll go directly to the event itself.

There had been some concern about the weather, but the 28th turned out to be nice...if a bit hot and muggy. After all the massive expenditures, we knew we had to sell at least 1500 tickets to break even. Thankfully, almost all the 2002 tickets were sold, and about 1800 people showed up. Unfortunately, the KSC management (still being a...dikku) insisted on blocking off part of the stadium parking lot and wouldn't let us use the air conditioners, citing worries of circuit breaker capacity. (They told us later...while the event was in progress...that they had special high-capacity power connections for special events...for an additional fee. Gee, thanks...dikku!) The result? A hideous traffic jam followed by a main arena that quickly reached oven temperature. That didn't stop the overwhelming majority of the audience from staying for the entire, three-hour marathon!

It all started with the junior high mass band, consisting of the concert bands of Ye Olde Academy (junior high) and two of the Kashima public junior highs. Three other junior high bands in town had hoped to be there, but a ridiculous gaffe on the part of City Hall had led the principals of those three schools to intervene and pull them out after rehearsals had already started. I didn't get to hear their final performance, but they made a valiant effort. They were followed by a Taiko Drum (traditional Japanese percussion) troupe from Kashimanada High School, which provided an exciting break from the usual fare. After that was the senior high mass band, which was made up of the concert bands of all twelve senior high schools, public and private, in the Eastern District of Ibaraki. The fact that the total number of players was only about 70 shows in no uncertain terms the sad state of high school music in this part of Ibaraki. Some of those bands have fewer than a dozen members each. They worked hard, and their performance was quite good.

Next was the joint Kashima Philharmonic/Ye Olde Academy orchestra performance. We started out playing a sort of Straussian 2001: A Space Odyssey medley including the intro from Also Sprach Zarathustra and "The Beautiful Blue Danube" (each by a different Strauss brother). This was followed by a suite from "Pirates of the Caribbean", which is always a blast to play. We then did some quick seating changes and started the highlight of our set: Ravel's "Bolero".

"Bolero" is quite a fascinating piece. It is repetitious as can be, repeating the same bass line more than a hundred times and including a mere three melodic themes. However, it is full of surprises. Conventional instruments are used in unconventional ways. Unconventional instruments are used in conventional ways. And all along, that theme just keeps building, building, building as if the sun is rising and a city is coming to life. But then, just as it seems like that theme is arriving at a glorious climax, it suddenly turns into a screeching, grating cacophony and ends in one of the nastiest closing hooks in the history of classical music. It sounds easy, but it's not. Actually, "brutal" would be an appropriate term. It requires some extremely skilled musicianship, both from its various, taxing solos and the steady, controlled rhythm that forms the piece in the first place. I had always wanted to play it. I had always been rebuffed. This time not only did we do it, but I had TWO solos (one on Eb clarinet, another on tenor sax)!

Not surprisingly, we had ringers in our ranks; each of the string sections plus the horn, trumpet, trombone, and oboe sections had one professional extra each. Most of them are our regular guest clinicians, so we know and work with them very well. The trombone ringer, however, was someone Mr. Ogawa came up with through contacts, and he was definitely a...dikku. When members of our orchestra tried to greet or thank him for his help he responded by not responding or even acknowledging their existence. Instead of setting up, warming up, or attending the announcement assemblies and march to the backstage door, he spent the entire time leading up to our performance in the concert hall sitting in one of the audience seats typing text messages on his cell phone. We were not impressed.

"Bolero" was the piece we had worried about the most because it is so demanding and because there had been so many problems in rehearsal. I myself wasn't in good shape at all when we rehearsed on the 27th. During the main performance, however, fortune smiled on us. We kept it together, held the tempo, and all the solos and ensembles came in properly. As for me, I felt really good during "2001" and "Pirates", so I just relaxed and got into my solos. I really felt more in the groove than I usually do onstage. My Eb clarinet solo felt really good. The sax solo felt even better. I have yet to listen to the recording (which may yet yield unpleasant surprises), but it really seemed to be a shining moment for us, and the thunderous applause we got from the biggest audience we'd ever faced made my throat seize up for an instant. Definitely a shining moment.

Come to think of it, the only low point was the trombone solo. The ringer sounded great in rehearsal, but he was full of holes during the performance. Our own trombonist probably could have done as well without costing as much. What a...dikku!

Garfield was up next. Unfortunately, I had to haul four instruments (A clarinet, Bb clarinet, Eb clarinet, tenor sax plus their stands) back to our practice room and get ready for the final production number, so I wasn't able to hear much of their performance. They're one of the top school orchestras in the U.S., though, and what I heard of them was top notch. I'm sure they did great.

Then came the ultimate performance spectacle. The final set was the Garfield orchestra together with the Ye Olde Academy orchestra and Kashima Philharmonic. But that wasn't all. We brought out the massed choir and ballet troupe. What did we play? The Triumphal March from Verdi's Aida. Aida is an opera to end all operas simply because it calls for such a massive scale. This one selection is no different. A challenging and dramatic tune on its own, with the added choir and ballet it was nothing short of amazing. It was also a daunting undertaking. We rehearsed it with the choir only four times. We rehearsed it together with the ballet troupe and the Garfield orchestra only twice (the evening of the 27th and the morning of the 28th). Anyone with any common sense would call us insane to attempt something like this with nearly all amateur performers! I wish you could've seen it! The Garfield kids are wonderfully competent, so they had no trouble adjusting to Mr. Ogawa's interpretation of the piece, which was very different from what they'd rehearsed at home. The choirs were also far more on the ball than we'd feared, and they stayed right with us powerfully and, most importantly, in tune. I couldn't see much of the ballerinas, who were dancing behind us, but they gave a lot of added spark to the piece. Those glorious brass-and-choir fanfares (I say partly because they mainly consist of the word "Gloria") really rang out in that sports arena. So did the applause. I could see some members wiping their eyes. We've pulled off some miracles before (like...Beethoven's 7th last winter?) but nothing like this. History was made in Kashima.

Now if only the ballet troupe had come out for the second curtain call along with the rest of us...

We played two encores. The first was J.P. Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" under the baton of the director of the Garfield H.S. orchestra...and played very much American style! :) This was followed by the soft, emotional piece "Sen no Kaze ni Natte" (Become a Thousand Winds...aka "Don't Weep By My Grave") sung by the choir to our orchestral accompaniment (arranged by this moody minstrel). Then it ended...and we all heaved a huge, collective sigh of relief.

I went to the reception for the Garfield orchestra afterward, but I just felt drained. The traditional after-concert party for the Kashima Philharmonic was also sparse and kind of melancholy...though Mr. Ogawa was happy and had only good comments (which is EXTREMELY unusual!). Then I was off to Kashima Central Hotel, where the Garfield group was staying, to help out as an additional interpreter/gopher, but I think I was too burned out to be of much use. (I won't complain about the complimentary room and breakfast, though.) Now the Garfield group is on its way back to Seattle after having finished their latest Japan tour with a bang (or a glorious fanfare, take your pick). At Ye Olde Academy all the music rooms are quiet and dark.
I'm back home thankful for the rest. As for Mr. Ogawa, I'm sure he's enjoying a much-deserved bottle of wine.

Tomorrow is Monday...

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

(Snow) White-Washing Education to Death

And Japan goes and takes the cake (and eats it too) once again.

It seems that a kindergarten in one of Tokyo's many suburbs wanted to stage a school play based on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". However, the parents thought it was unfair that only ONE GIRL (gasp!) would be selected to play the lead. Therefore, they organized a relentless campaign of harassment and bullying until the teachers finally caved in to their demands.

The result? A performance of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in which all 25 students at the kindergarten played the lead role (i.e. Snow White) and no one played any of the other roles.

The parents apparently gave the performance a rousing ovation and called it a triumph of personal rights for their precious snowflakes (Tip of the hat to Fark) who all got to be Snow White.

(Article in the Times. The same article has appeared in a number of different publications from various countries both printed and online)

This would be laughably absurd if it weren't so pathetic. This is a perfect example of the state in which Japanese education is finding itself these days; schools and teachers are becoming more and more under attack from what is known as "monster parents". Basically, the parent of the 20-oughts is someone who feels that his child has rights without responsibility, that society owes him and his offspring special treatment, that he is entitled to have his sushi and eat it too. It's not just the education system that is under attack, either; instead of respecting the certified professionals whose services they hire, such as doctors or lawyers, they noisily demand that those professionals make special allowances for them. Quite often those demands are just plain outrageous. Not surprisingly, more and more school districts, hospitals, etc. are having to take outrageous measures, such has having contracted lawyer teams on standby, simply to be able to do their jobs.

This isn't a faraway thing, either. My wife wound up being driven from her tennis coach position because the "monster parent" father of the team captain, who she'd demoted after he'd not only failed but had scandalized his position, had organized the parents of the first-year students (i.e. the ones that didn't know her) into a posse and harassed both the principal and the local superintendent trying to have her sacked both as coach and as a teacher. (To their credit, the latter refused to punish my wife in any way, and a lot of parents even came out in her defense, but the posse was causing so much trouble that my wife finally quit.) Mssr. Maestro Ogawa at Ye Olde Academy very nearly lost his job five years ago because of something vaguely similar (though I shouldn't and won't give details), and it took me risking my own job by forcing the people up top to listen to the full story and even making efforts to form a counter-posse to defend him. Now I'm having to deal with something of a "monster parent" myself; this person isn't malicious or overly demanding (yet), but she has been pestering the teachers and harassing certain students in the music club every time her precious snowflake has trouble getting along with her seniors (which is about every other week). We've actually been lucky. I know of other teachers and schools in our area which have suffered far worse.

Experts are saying that the "monster parent" phenomenon is a product of the late 90s, when Japan both suffered an economic downturn and saw a rash of faulty product scandals. It is said that, because of these factors, young adults are now far more aware of and quick to demand their individual rights as paying consumers. Well, that may very well be part of it, but after having been a teacher here in the Land of the Rising Bile for almost two decades, I'm far more inclined to believe it has more to do with the bubble-economy indulgence of the 80s. After all, most of the parents of elementary-school-age kids now were in high school when I started teaching here. I remember what they were like as kids: spoiled rotten. These were the children whose fathers were more dedicated to their companies than to their families and whose mothers were intimidated by their doting grandparents. In other words, they got lots of money from their parents and naught else, allowing them to get what they wanted when they wanted without many rules attached. Life was just one, big, convenience-oriented consumerist paradise. Now those spoiled brats are parents, and guess what? They still expect to be given whatever they want whenever they want. Bottom line? This country proudly dug its own grave twenty years ago. The question is whether it can now avoid melting into it.

While I say all this, I realize my American and European readers are probably thinking "Been there, done that..." because the PC and "soccer mom"/"helicopter parent" phenomena have been around for longer than they have here. However, since the "25 Snow Whites" story has gotten so much coverage in American and European press, I have to wonder if this is yet another field, like cars and electronics, which Japan came into later but has now started to overtake the competition.

Anyway, by interesting coincidence, the latest post on Happysurfer's "From Where I Am..." website is a list of 11 Rules of Life, often mistakenly attributed to Bill Gates (because he quoted it in a speech) but which was actually created by Charles J. Sykes, author of the book, Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, Or Add. Personally, I think this list is both excellent and very timely:

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time..

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Amen. This should be required reading for all parents.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's Great To Be...

...writing again.
...drawing again.
...thinking again.
...dreaming again. again.

I feel like part of my soul has reawakened.

I only hope I don't get too distracted...
...or carried away.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Cornucopia of Emotions

So many things I am feeling right now.

Yesterday brought the sun,
The heat and the mugginess of summer.
Today brought the June rains
And the coldness of early spring.
Something doesn't seem right here.

I check my younger students' papers
And revel at how well they're doing.
I check my older students' papers
And grit my teeth at how well they're NOT doing.
Something's not quite right here.

On Wednesday I watched my daughter's class.
How mature and well-behaved her classmates were!
On Tuesday my daughter was sobbing in her room.
How immature and rotten her classmates had been!
Something's not right here.

The liberals tried to lower taxes,
But the conservatives raised them instead.
The liberal Upper House called the PM incompetent,
But the conservative Lower House supported him instead.
Something's definitely not right here.

Two years later,
This boy still does nothing
But stare blankly or sigh with disgust.
His homeroom teacher tells me
That I need do nothing
But ignore him, go on as I must.
Something is wrong here.

It took more than eight years
For the price of oil to double.
Now they say it'll take a couple of months
For it to double again.
Something is most definitely wrong here.

Akihabara Electric City,
A high-tech paradise
For the intelligent and maladjusted,
Now a scene of needless slaughter,
An immature rampage
By someone intelligent and maladjusted.
Something's seriously wrong here.

I take my tea strong
And my coffee stronger;
They hardly affect me at all,
But this single No-Doze,
A mere half a dose,
Has me bouncing all over the hall.
Just what the heck is wrong here?!?? it me?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

You Mean You Liiiiiiiiieeeeeeed to Me??!?!???

The reality TV boom started in Japan only a little while after it started in America. While not as numerous as they were at the peak of the genre, some reality TV programs are still soldiering valiantly on, buoyed by a following that is as vocal as it is loyal.

...which really makes you wonder about human nature...

Only a couple of years after it got its start here in the Land of the Rising Gas Prices (and Vanishing Butter), however, the whole concept of reality TV in Japan received a devastating blow. One of the most successful reality TV programs here was a show called "Gachinko" (listed here), which started in 1999. It definitely had a very masculine tone; its whole theme was one of conflict. The longest-running segment, not surprisingly, was "Gachinko Fight Club", in which boxer wanna-be's with delusions of grandeur (and serious attitude problems) trained to take part in a boxing tournament, with the winner being accepted into a pro club. There were plenty of other segments, too, all of them short term, all of them basically involving a gang of losers training and competing to achieve some sort of goal, which was usually the right to be declared legitimate at something (e.g. a ramen chef, a college student, a tennis player, and others). There was always lots of hardship, lots of struggle, lots of bullying, lots of abusive instructors, lots of humiliation, lots of really manly trash talk, and of course frequent fights.

But that was the thing. A lot of people had to wonder just how real "Gachinko" really was. The macho drama seemed a little too pat. It was both predictable and repetitive. People often asked how it was that, no matter what the participants were working at (I mean, come on...ramen chefs?), they kept getting into fights constantly. It just didn't seem quite right. That didn't stop "Gachinko" from being one of the top TV programs for at least a few years. What did finally stop it was the ultimate "whoops": someone found a script for an episode of "Gachinko" in a dumpster behind the TV station and promptly took it to a rival media service. It was all over the news quicker than you can say, "Dad gum it!" The producers of "Gachinko" neither denied nor confirmed the authenticity of the script, which everyone took as an admission of guilt. The show's popularity crashed, and its history came to an abrupt end. It was also a blow to reality TV in general in Japan, but a few series continue to linger.

One of the still-running stalwarts is an interesting program called "Gakko e Ikou!" ("Let's go to school!"). It's a sort of combination variety/reality show starring a (now not) youth singing group called V-6. Its programming includes comedy sketches, games that students can play between classes, interviews, songs, and reality segments. One of the most common of the latter is them going to visit a random junior high school somewhere in the country and interviewing students. They also set up a sort of confession drama where students (and sometimes teachers) can get up on the roof of the school, address the faculty and student body, and get something off their chest. Usually it's either an apology to someone or an expression of gratitude. Sometimes it's a confession of love, after which V-6 ask the subject to offer his or her acceptance or rejection. It's all rather tearful and dramatic.

Apparently it's all totally phony, too. You see, about four or five years ago V-6 showed up at one of the junior high schools right here in my town. It was really quite a sensation, I can tell you; it was hard enough to believe that V-6 had been in this part of the prefecture, let alone filming an episode at one of our local schools! It was the talk of the whole area for quite some time. Unfortunately, however, the truth is only now starting to come out. Now my wife works for our local school district, and she heard it straight from the horse's mouth.

The whole thing had been scripted. And rehearsed.

That didn't really surprise me too much. After all, in 2004 a former student of mine got interviewed "on the street" in Tokyo for another famous TV program. She said they told her exactly what to say beforehand and even did another take when she didn't get it right.

Face it; reality doesn't sell. People want something larger than life. That's why the Japanese version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" stopped its American-style "random audience member" participation and limited its participants to celebrities after only one season. That's why the "radical" quiz show "Hexagon", which started out as an engaging battle of intelligence between six people of similar profession (including beauticians, school teachers, doctors, etc.) degenerated into an annoying inane prattle fest trivia competition between three teams, the whole point of which is to make fun of the most hopeless idiots in the bunch. Of course, one has to wonder whether the stooges on "Hexagon" are really half as stupid in real life as they are on the show. After all, it's a given that one can't really trust "reality" on Japanese TV.

(If you don't mind a little cuteness overload, here is a clip from an episode of "Gakko e Ikou!" from last year in which they arrange an interesting interview/reception for Johnny Depp when he was coming to Japan to promote "World's End". It is in Japanese, but can be fun even if you don't speak the language. But is it real?)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Betty Bought a Bit of...HEY!!!!!

Oh, what turbulent times we live in.

I think the recent era has done much to show us just how delicately balanced everything is. Many if not most if not all of the various processes at work in the world have been in a state of equilibrium for some time. Throw off the balance, and everything comes crashing down.

Look at the close relation between fuel and food. Demand for petroleum remained balanced for a long time, but now increased demand from countries like India and China has shattered that balance. Toss in a few nasty situations in world politics, and you have oil prices shooting through the roof. Unfortunately, that affects not only transportation but a huge number of different industries including food production.

The result? Higher food prices.

Naturally, people deal with high fuel prices by looking for alternative fuels. Conveniently, this fits right in with the environment agenda, which would also like to see sulfur and carbon-producing fossil fuels relegated to the "extinct technology" file. One of the most popular alternatives is biodiesel, which looks incredibly good on paper. However, as a crop-based product, its production is only possible if there is also a proportional decrease in food crop production.

The result? Higher food prices.

Now Japan is facing something even more ironic. Not so long ago the government started a health-related hate campaign against milk. All kinds of studies were publicized showing how evil milk really is and discouraging people from drinking it. The campaign was given a lot of media coverage, and the milk-bashing crusade consequently got lots of attention.

The result? People stopped drinking milk.

Not surprisingly, a LOT of dairy farmers have been driven out of business. However, milk demand has remained surprisingly constant as a result of existing commercial contracts. That means a much more limited milk supply is going to produce more or less the same amount of drinkable milk as before. The same is true of cheese. So where is the falling supply being felt?

Answer: butter.

There is no butter to be found in ANY supermarkets anywhere. You can get it at the gift shops of ranches, but in general stores around the country there is simply NO butter. We're told that it may be weeks before shipments arrive. Households aren't really affected so much, since margarine is a realistic option, but bakeries are facing a crisis. They're being told they might have to wait over a month to get any butter at all.

I guess, for the time being, this is margarine country. I wonder if it'll really affect the bread that much.

Endangered species?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The First Attempt

I've finally done it! I've completed my first song using my new all-digital studio setup!

If you've been keeping up with this blog and/or my Minstrel's Muse site, you know that I bought a Roland Sonic Cell and Edirol (Cakewalk) SONAR 7 Studio Edition a few months ago as my birthday present to myself this year. I fiddled with them a bit while completing my Blog Blunder album to try to get to know them, but I still relied on my 8-track recorder, studio effectors, and stereo CD burner to produce the final product. This time I did it all straight to the computer and made the audio file straight from the computer with nothing in between!

It certainly took long enough. It was quite some doing just getting the first track done, since there were so many settings I had to get right first. Once I got past that first hurdle (and read the tutorials carefully) things got much easier. There were only a few screwups, none of them seriously affecting the outcome, but learning as I go is the whole reason I'm doing this now! Besides, I'm still only just barely scratching the surface as far as what this gear can do!

Anyway, my first new product on the new setup is a song called "Perspective". Listen and tell me what you think! (Yes, I know it's a bit rough, but hey...this was intended to be an experiment and a lesson, a first step if you will, rather than a serious project. I'll get funky once I have it all down. Maybe then I can finish those arrangements for Jeff...)

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