All posts by Christopher

I'm a visiting professor at Bowdoin College. I teach, write, and discuss Japanese popular culture, language, literature and other topics on East Asia.

Yoko Kanno – I’m Incredulous Again

I am taking a break from reading about Meiji era Christian intellectual Uchimura Kanzo, and am now writing about a fantastic modern composer who writes in just about any style you can think of. I just couldn’t help myself, I had to add this – Yoko Kanno is amazing.

She is amazing because she can mimic the music of a period, expand upon it, and then make it her own. The piece I am listening to right now is called Memory of Fanelia from the Shojo-style Anime called Vision of Escaflowne. I’ve watched only a few episodes so I am not the most familiar with the content, but oh, the soundtrack!

You all know that I love Anime and lecture about it and use it as a topic for classes that I teach at a university here in town. Outside of Anime, I have never heard any of Yoko Kanno’s music, so there is no other context to discuss outside of soundtracks.

This particular piece is wonderful because it could have been written by Frederick Delius or Peter Warlock-it is that good! It is an entirely string orchestral piece. It has great sweeping movements, solo parts with harp and pizzicato strings underlaying the main themes of the A movements, restating the theme with full orchestral marcato chording in the A’, and when she moves into B it becomes so much more lyrical like Warlock’s Serenade, with a rounded out swell, question and answer, and short descent down the circle of 5ths in the C to move back into A after she so deftly modulated away from it. Heck, at this point, she creates a mood reminiscent of Vaughan Williams’ Brook Green Suite and ends up with an end that feels just like Delius’ Air and Dance.

I am amazed at how she pulls this off; completely believable and totally sweet. I forgot how much I love this piece.

Back to another kindred spirit now, Uchimura Kanzo. I love him as much as Soseki, and that’s a tall order.

Glasmalerei

As I have been learning more about stained glass, I have encountered some great history, and some excellent images. The first one I’d like to mention is Johan “Jan” Thorn-Prikker (1868-1932). He was a Dutch artist in the Art Nouveau style who moved to Cologne, Germany in 1904 after being expelled from art school for being an upstart. He became very well known for being a religious artist, influenced by other Catholic symbolists, and isfamous for paintings and stained-glass. His painting, “The Bride,” has a wonderful sense of mysticism and symbology that I find very moving. This work is amazing on a symbolic level, similar to Rouault’s Fauvism.koln_st_georg_fenster_thorn_pricker.jpg