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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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Blog : Hidemi's Rambling

A Long Journey hr600

November 18, 2017

I have been estranged from my friends for a long time. There are only three people with whom I keep in touch by a Christmas card once a year. They are my kindergarten teacher and two high school teachers. I feel a lifelong obligation to those three for each reason. I came across one of the two high school teachers when I was a senior. She had just graduated from a university and started teaching at my school as a new teacher. She taught Japanese classics and I was one of her first students. The Japanese classics class consisted of a mere dozen students who selected the subject to prepare for the entrance examination of a university or a college. As the class was unusually small and the new teacher was young and friendly, it soon became like a big family. It was as if we had a weekly family gathering that happened to have a specific topic of Japanese classics, rather than a school class. In my dismal and miserable high school life, the class was a chink of light. It was the only place at school where I could breathe and came to life. I took the initiative in having fun. Mostly my target was the new teacher. I pulled various pranks on her at every class, such as all students hid in the cupboards and she walked in the empty classroom, perplexed. On a perfect sunny day, I suggested having the class outside and she taught us in the schoolyard like a picnic. I tried what hadn’t been done at my school before and she just cracked up every time. It seemed I was really good at making her laugh. The whole class eventually laughed all the time, and the old strict teacher who had her class next room often came in to tell us to shut up. She sometimes called my teacher out to the hallway and reprimanded her. Nevertheless, my teacher never hushed us, and continued laughing at my jokes and having fun together. She helped me with those bright hours in my dark last year of high school and I’m thankful for that forever. She quit and moved to the other school when I graduated. We have exchanged New Year cards or Christmas cards ever since. While I write simple season’s greetings on them, she somehow knows and writes what I want to hear most. For instance, toward the end of the year in which I’d had a hard time and felt discouraged, her Christmas card said ‘Hang in there! Things are turning better!’ and made me wonder how she could ever know. We somewhat have a lot in common with the way of living, too. In those years, most Japanese women got married and quit working when they did. While I work and stay single, she also continued teaching at school and didn’t change her last name to her husband’s when she got married as the Japanese tradition goes. Without seeing her in decades, I’ve felt strange bond with her. Last year, my parents moved and their new address startled me. By pure coincidence, it’s weirdly close to the teacher’s. I mentioned about it on the Christmas card to her and then things developed quickly. During my latest trip for a visit to my parents’, we had a chance to meet each other for the first time since I was a teenager. The hotel I stayed in on the trip was located in Osaka because I flew in this time instead of using a train. From Osaka to the station we would meet though, it was a two-hour train ride with several transfers. It would be a long trip but we would bridge a decades’ gap in two hours. I thought of the gap, and suddenly came to myself. Shouldn’t a reunion with one’s former teacher be an opportunity to show some achievement for gratitude? I had forgotten about it because the process to this meeting had strangely gone smoothly as if it had been happening automatically out of my will. I had tried and worked hard all those years, but achieved nothing, no money, no fame. I recalled I had said to her that I would become a musician when I last spoke to her. During the course of life, I did. But that’s it. I haven’t gotten anything to show to her. I wondered if our reunion might be an embarrassment where a teacher would see her student’s unfruitful result of many years…

Challenge and Disappointment hr599

October 21, 2017

A lottery promotion is occasionally held at 7-Eleven stores in Japan. A customer draws a card from a box by every six dollars purchase. If a winning card is drawn, the customer can get merchandise that the card shows for free. The prize merchandise varies in what is sold at about one dollar, such as an ice cream, a snack, and a soft drink. In my experience, one in every three cards is a winning card, which is a low-risk-low-returns lottery. As a greedy person, though, I face heavy pressure to draw despite the cheap prize. When the cashier holds out the draw box in front of me at the counter, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, concentrate and pray for a wining card just to get a one-dollar prize. I push my hand in through a hole of the box and my hand rummages and searches for the right card by touch in the box until the cashier gives me a dubious look. Right before the cashier decides to ask me what is going on, I pull my hand out of the box with a card. If I win, I repress hard an urge to jump and scream, and instead put a weird grin that stretches across my face. If I lose, I desperately bear not to drop to my knees, and instead simply droop over the counter. I know the cashier is wondering what is a big deal, but I can’t afford to keep my composure. For the rest of the day, I’m tortured by disappointment and remorse. I ponder about why I drew a blank and the meaning of that. Was it because I had done something wrong before I drew the lottery, or was it a sign telling me something hereafter? Since the matter is too trivial, the answer usually can’t be found. A small lottery causes such a commotion in me, regardless. Although I really hate this pitiful struggle, I’m willing to wage a fight at 7-Eleven whenever it carries the lottery promotion. At the store, I put goods into the basket doing a sum in my head to get the total amounted to six dollars that qualifies for the drawing. To challenge the lottery, I even get something I don’t need and play into the hands of 7-Eleven. This unwise challenge of mine somewhat resembles my career as a musician. It is the source of my trials and tribulations, and yet I can’t stop. The difference between the two is that I’ve won several times at 7-Eleven while I’ve never won as a musician. But my challenge continues all the same…

 

The New Song Completed, Again hr598

September 16, 2017

After a one-year-long struggle with mastering, I completed my new song and got to open Moet Chandon. I took a long summer vacation for the first time since I became a musician. Then I got down to post production, starting with mastering the instrumental track of the new song. The instrumental track isn’t important, it’s a kind of an incidental that is prepared just in case. I was going to take it easy and get it over quickly. That approach of mine led casual settings for the effects and their readings. I tried an experimental setting that I had never applied on the master track since I knew it would go overboard. While it was easy to imagine that the resultant track would be bad, I just did it for some sort of fun. The most difficult part of mastering is to boost volume. To get the song to its adequate volume, I spent an unbelievable amount of time sending the master track into the effects repeatedly by which the volume got bigger little by little. But as for this instrumental track, the volume got magically big on the first try of my experimental setting. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the track’s fat audio wave. In a case like this, I knew too well that its sound would be crushed and terrible. I listened to the track and I couldn’t believe my ears either. The new instrumental track sounded better than the finished master track. I tried to grasp what was going on. The only explanation I could find was that this was the instrumental track without main vocals. The track with main vocals can be another matter altogether because vocals tend to complicate effects’ settings. The settings that work for the instrumental track don’t necessarily work for the one with vocals. The problem here was though, that I was assaulted by an urge to try these settings on the master track. I battled with the urge by asking to myself: Haven’t I declared the song’s completion? Am I redoing all over again? What if I bog down into that notorious endless mastering loop again? Am I really willing to repeat that struggle? Do I prolong this project even more? Although I did my best and tried the limits of my abilities for the new song, I couldn’t deny that there were some aspects I had to give in. It sounded slightly different from what I really wanted, but I couldn’t find the way no matter how many times I tried. What if these new settings were the solution? If I wanted the song to be perfect, wouldn’t it be worth a try? The urge prevailed. I redid the mastering with the settings that happened to be found for the instrumental track. It worked. On one try, the song turned into exactly what I had been searching for. I had no other way than replacing the version I had completed with a one-year-long struggle with this new version completed in a few minutes. I felt rather chilled than happy. I experienced the inexplicable. The very thing I had struggled to get over one year was found totally accidentally, ridiculously easily. It was as if the date for the song’s completion had been fixed long since. The song has been completed surely this time, but I had already finished Moet and had nothing to celebrate with. I was too embarrassed to tell my partner who works as the producer this course of events. I didn’t have the nerve to tell someone who had waited for the song with enormous patience during the one-year-long mastering that I changed the master track to the one I just finished in a matter of minutes. I hesitated but eventually confessed. Sometimes, taking time doesn’t mean the best result. I still feel that someone else was mastering the song in place of me while I was taking a summer vacation as a reward for having done my best for one year. Music can be after all what is given, not what one makes…

 

The New Song Completed hr597

August 12, 2017

At long last, my new song is finally complete. It took about five years to finish it, which seemed too long, but my previous song took more. That previous song of mine was my everything. I had always craved just one song that I could think I was born to write, that represented myself, my life. The song was exactly what I had been after. Since I put everything I had into the song, I was almost going to retire when I finished it. I said all things I had wanted to say to the world and summoned up all skills I had to the maximum in the song. I thought I had nothing left in me. But once I tried to retire, I found myself at a loss. Nothing except for music interested me. I also realized I couldn’t do anything well other than music. I decided to continue writing songs and singing, by way of retirement. I set about my new song with an easy mindset intending to make light work of it because I considered my chief song done. However, it didn’t go that way. As I went on, I couldn’t help working seriously. My easy attitude toward the new song quickly vanished. The more I worked on the song, the deeper I was in it. The concept of retirement was simply pushed away. I even revised the words and the song became profound. I was as focused and eagerly desired perfection as for the previous song. As a result, it took five years while at first I had meant to finish it in a week. I put everything I had again in the end, and I was filled with rapture that I didn’t feel in my everyday life when the new song was completed. The feeling lingered for several days and I didn’t feel like doing anything. It was like all energy was drained out of me and I was absent-minded all the time. It seemed I lost my concentration as a whole. I knocked off a glass and wasted my drink that I never do, though I’m clumsy and a regular dropper. Even my bowels were loose. The completion of a song doesn’t necessarily mean all the work is over. I need to make a backup of all data, store them, convert to several different formats, release publicly, arrange distribution, and so on. Although those mountainous tasks of post production await me, I still have a thick head and haven’t gotten down to it for a few weeks now. I noticed that I was less anxious to release and promote my new song than before. I used to get down to post production right after a new song was completed so as to make it public quickly. But I don’t have zest for it as I did before. It’s probably because I don’t expect the world so much any more and my trust in human beings has decreased over the years. I’ve learned that songs in which I do my best and with which I’m satisfied completely don’t have to do with the market. My previous song proved it. The song was fruition in which I got a real sense of fulfillment. Yet, it was totally disregarded by this world. I get used to seeing my songs ignored and my expectations failed. Big sales or admiration are no longer such a big deal to me. I just wish my new song would reach someone and help her or him in some way when it’s released a few months later. I hope my songs are heard by those who need them, and play an important role in their lives. I believe it will happen, somehow…

 

An Earthly Paradise hr596

July 14, 2017

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…

 

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Got fried #oysters, pasta #salad and #cod #roe at a grocery store. #lunch Got fried #oysters, pasta #salad and #cod #roe at a grocery store. #lunch
#Cafe time at a family #restaurant. #Pear #jelly and iced #coffee. #Cafe time at a family #restaurant. #Pear #jelly and iced #coffee.
Got some #Chinese takeout at half price. Sweet and sour #pork, mabo eggplant, sauted #beef and peppers. #chinesefood Got some #Chinese takeout at half price. Sweet and sour #pork, mabo eggplant, sauted #beef and peppers. #chinesefood
Out of my apartment window, there is a beautiful #December. #trees #sky Out of my apartment window, there is a beautiful #December. #trees #sky
A #pork ginger bowl at a #Japanese #restaurant in the train station. $8 including #miso soup and Japanese pickles. #lunch A #pork ginger bowl at a #Japanese #restaurant in the train station. $8 including #miso soup and Japanese pickles. #lunch
The #snow season kicks off in earnest in my town. It's snowing now! #trees The #snow season kicks off in earnest in my town. It's snowing now! #trees

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