Monthly Archives: January 2014

111: Outwatch

Verb: outwatch – 1. To watch more than someone else; 2. To maintain a vigil beyond the end.

A new year comes. I am still unsure if I should turn my pen towards composing. Entertaining that prospect seems like an insult to all the great composers who trained ceaselessly for perfect their craft. But I cannot resist the urge; I can’t ever completely wipe away the urge, not even when faced with my own petrifying mediocrity.

But my resolve to work is unbroken. I will work harder. I will be smarter; I will be better. My world is a stage and while I’m no main character, by golly I’ll give him / her a run for the money.

There can be no more slip-ups.

I make a prediction and more than one wish: The Wind Rises should win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. I had a glance at the competition and selfishly, personally conjecture that its chances are good. I dare not make guesses about the score, which I (without the ghost of any data) cannot judge, even superficially. It goes without saying that my wish is that The Wind Rises should win the Academy Award.

The other wish pertains to the worthy successor to Joe Hisaishi’s de facto position as in-house composer for Studio Ghibli films. A cursory glance at any Studio Ghibli line-up reveals an inordinate number of Hisaishi thumbs in Ghibli (especially Miyazaki) pies. I’m reasonable sure the runner-up is Yuji Nomi, who was called to score Whisper of the Heart and its sequel The Cat Returns. He has done a few other scattered works for Ghibli shorts that you can piece together from the Wikipedia articles (with some help from his biography on his website).

I was not a big fan of the score for Whisper of the Heart, but I was completely blown away by The Cat Returns. That was the score that reaffirmed my love for the music of the cinema, as well as the work that cemented me as a steadfast fan of Nomi. I was reasonably fond of the scores for Nichijou and Say I Love You, though by my reckoning, unfortunately neither of them quite approach the polished beauty of his work for The Cat Returns.

Hisaishi is nowhere near retirement: John Williams is almost twenty years older than him and going strong. Surely Joe can go on another decade or two without trouble. My only gripe with that is that Hisaishi has become the household name in anime scoring. Scarcely eight years older than Nomi, there can’t be much of a “succession;” if Hisaishi abdicated the throne, it would hardly be appropriate to hand the position off to someone as old as he. Being of the same generation, Nomi and Hisaishi are doomed to jostle with each other to the very end.

A cursory glance at Nomi’s works saddens me; his output isn’t nearly as extensive as Hisaishi’s. This, then, leads to my wish: I hope very much to see Nomi in many, many more works. I look forward to seeing more of his composing.

“Behind one door is the path you seek; behind the other, a tiger … with a gun” (John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, Series 1 Episode 1).


EDIT: 27 January 2014. I went for the 150C audition anyway, regardless of my nonmajor status. Professor Davies got out the “big” piano for this one (125 Morrison has a whole hidden backstage closet where sleeps a hulking eight-foot Steinway & Sons grand piano) with the help of another person (an Asian woman, presumably another professor there to judge me). We chatted a little, reaffirming my ineligibility to actually enter 150C, among other things. I described my audition repertoire briefly: it consisted of the second movement from Rachmaninoff’s fourth piano concerto and a second piece that was not very definite (I suggested my arrangement of “The Merry-go-round of Life,” but Professor Davies said that he would have to consider it as I played through.)

I warmed up briefly with the Bach fugue I played so long ago (thank you, Mrs. Norton; you did say it would come in handy for opening exercises) and some scales as supplements. Professor Davies and the unknowable judge had seated themselves where they could see my hands. They invited me to begin at my leisure. I took a deep breath, made sure I could reach the sustain pedal, and dove in.

I’ve only ever once given a performance where I look back and say, “I think that was as good as it gets.” Today I drowned myself again in subpar, about-average playing. Something went wrong with my articulation with the first few bars, and I really botched the fast scales in the agitated section. I also made one (probably unnoticeable) mistake in the chordal passage.

On the other hand, some configuration of my nerves led to tunnel vision, which in turn led to highly focused playing that actually felt genuine. I was satisfied (to a minimum) with the result.

Professor Davies deflected my suggestion of “The Merry-go-round of Life,” showing some interest instead in the Bach I had played as an exercise. I inhaled a little deeper and played that for him too (he stopped me in the middle where I had previously halted myself for warm-up). I’m surprised I still remember that fugue so well. After the Bach, he asked for some Beethoven, in which I also obliged him. The other judge, seated behind Professor Davies, pulled some faces after the Beethoven; my impression was that she was doing the Obama “Not Bad” face, but I wasn’t sure.

The verdict: Professor Davies said that I was at least adequate for the 150C class. He suggested I seek out the undergraduate adviser to see if I could at least state an intent to major in music to this end.