Monday, May 1, 2017
Aspects of Japanese Modern Musical Culture That I Find Appealing and Unappealing
In my last post, which was a review of Strawberry Illuminati's Hilton Fountains album, I discussed the aspects of the album that I found appealing and unappealing. I thought it might be a good idea to create a kind of expandable list of things that I find appealing and unappealing with regards to modern Japanese visual and musical culture, as I feel that the country has a lot of unique aspects that often go unexplored. I'll probably continually update this post in the future or do new posts about new elements as they come up, but for now, here's a few aspects of Japanese artistic culture in modern times that I either find appealing or unappealing.
This is a very important aspect for me, as it defines a lot of Japanese music that I listen to. This has a bit more to do with music theory than any actual or specific timbral or visual stimuli. I think that this love for chromaticism is very reminiscent of Joe Hisaishi's compositions and the Japanese minimalist movement as a whole. Lots of Japanese songs use either secondary dominants or passing tones to give them a very chromatic and satisfying flavor. Some great examples of this would be in Joe Hisaishi's work, the Storytellers theme in Getsu Fuuma Den, the ending theme of Arkista's Ring, and many, many other Japanese songs.
This is also an aspect that I find to be very appealing. Bossa Nova was a very popular genre of music in Japan during the 60s and 70s. Honestly, some of my favorite songs are Japanese Bossa Nova tunes. This popular influence can be noted in many Nintendo works, such as the wii music, Animal Crossing, and many other non-nintendo-exclusive works.
References to Traditional Japanese Visual Styles
I think that pre-western Japanese imagery is very distinctive and interesting, and I like references to such imagery in modern culture. Images such as temples and other elements of traditional Japanese imagery and color rules are very appealing to me. A lot of the imagery from LSD dream emulator definitely feels this way, along with, of course, Getsu Fuuma Den.
While its cousins, the tb-303 and tr-909 became staples of American techno music in the 90s, the tr-606 remained popular only in japan. Due to its cheapness, ease of use, and relative availability in japan, the 606 was used by many techno and electronic producers throughout the 90s and early 2000s. This manifested itself in very many experimental electronic albums and songs, branding the 606 a very well-known auditory image in modern Japanese musical culture. I simply don't like the way it sounds, however. Notable example are the Katamari Damacy soundtrack and literally almost very piece of Japanese experimental techno music.
High Attack, Acoustic Triangle Waves
To be honest, the reason that I don't like these is simply because they give me the creeps. The two most notable examples in my mind are the snow world the in Yume Nikki and the rainy day theme from Animal Crossing. These two pieces strike me as very eery and without much feeling, so maybe my dislike for this particular sound is associative given the fact that I usually like the sound of triangle waves.
Studio Ghibli Mimicry
This is another aspect that I don't really like about a lot of Japanese culture. While I don't think that this is a huge issue, I don't really like it when other productions either, try to create something similar to the imager of Studio Ghibli films, or try to offer something in its place that doesn't have the same grasp on imagery. I think that Breath of the Wild represents the Former and Makoto Shinkai's films the latter. I feel like the main aspect of Studio Ghibli's imagery is its intensive attention to detail, which I think clashes with the vastness and focus on variety in the new Zelda game.