Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

The New Song Completed, Again hr598

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…

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The New Song Completed hr597

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…

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An Earthly Paradise hr596

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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A 1000-Year Life Expectancy hr594

I’ve heard some scientists and science-fiction writers say the average life expectancy of humans will get even longer fast and we could soon live up to 1000 years old. If it’s true, it’s a huge game changer. Supposing I live until 1000 years old, the shape of my life will be entirely different as of today. First of all, the pace of living will get slower. I won’t have to hasten anything since I’ve still got more than 900 years left. I won’t fuss over the quick completion of my new song for which I’ve been deep into mastering. When I complete it without hurry, I will move on to another song and take plentiful time to finish it again. Even such a slow worker like me can stock ample songs in over 900 years. With that duration of time and the number of songs, the odds can be better that one of my songs could be found by some chance and be a smash hit, which will make me a celebrity and lead me to Monaco to live in. Secondly, I will be freed from fear of aging. I seriously resist getting old, sometimes quite hysterically. Of course no one likes to see their skin sagging and all wrinkled. But when I see my deteriorating looks, I feel a deadline for making my dreams come true. Getting older means getting closer to the deadline for whatever we haven’t yet achieved. The sense that we might not make it is dreadful if we have something to accomplish. Now that the deadline is well over 900 years away, how peaceful I can feel for the moment! I don’t have to pronounce my dreams dead just yet. The day could come when I see people all around the world listen to and hum my songs. If I moved in Monaco at the age of 300, I could live there for almost 700 years. In the course of 1000 years, it could become a common practice that a human body is replaced by a cyborg. Aging could be extinct. I could be a ballerina as I dreamed of when I was a child. Or, I would be the president of the united world when I’m 500 years old. As a simpler alternative, I could win the lottery before I die, since the odds turn good with the innumerable lotto strips I will get in over 900 years. That could give me a come-from-behind fortune. By making a smart investment of it, I could end my life as a team owner of Formula One. It seems anything is possible once I have 1000 years. This rapture is weirdly familiar to me. My grandfather. He had the habit of saying he would live until 100 years old when I was little. Back then, not so many people lived so long and everyone of my family used to scoff at him. Although he couldn’t reach 100 but died at 96 years old, it was close enough to his fantasy goal. In that respect, I could go as far as 900. But I noticed a long life expectancy is not necessarily all good. Life requires money. I’ve made ends meet with bare life so far in my life. As anything is possible, it’s also possible this state continues as long as I live. 1000 years of financial worries? It definitely sounds like a living hell…

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Illusions of Completion hr592

My work for the new song is drawing to a close and it’s in the mastering process now. I usually make the master track and leave it for a few days before the final check. The interval is essential for me because it gets me out of the zone, calms me down and gives me ears to listen objectively. Since this particular new song of mine required difficult mastering, I had trouble with finding the solution. It took much longer than I had expected to make the master track. I finally got to make one and tried to forget all about it for a few days. After the interval, I got so tense and excited that couldn’t sleep the night before the final check. What made me sleepless was the thought that on the very next day, I would finally end this painfully prolonged mastering and could see the song completed. I knew I needed a good night’s sleep for a good physical condition to make good judgement, but that pressure for all good kept me awake all the more. I listened to the master track the next day carefully and objectively, and found one slight flaw. I was disappointed that it wasn’t the day. I had to correct it and hold the completion over. I repeated the process of mastering, taking an interval, having difficulty sleeping, and making the final check. Then on the day I believed this would be the day of completion, I noticed one minor kink. I redid the process all over again. At the moment, I’m in this loop and can’t get out of it. I’m literally stuck in the mud of mastering. I make it a custom to open champagne when a song is completed, which doesn’t happen often because I’m a slow worker. Completing a song is so infrequent that I celebrate with Moet Chandon. It’s my favorite but too expensive for me to drink except for New Year’s Eve. This time, I put it in the fridge months ago when I thought this song was completed at any moment. And it’s been there unopened for months, as I’m deeply caught in the mastering mire. Every time I open the fridge, I see Moet chilled so long and almost frozen up, blaming my prolonged work. I keep declaring to my partner that today is the last day for this song, and retracting it at the end of the day. He doesn’t say anything but I feel his disappointment and anxiousness. As I’ve taken back my words of the completion so many times, I fear that he might see me as a useless liar who is just lingering slow work. I can take as much time as I like in theory since the deadline doesn’t exist for the song. Even so, I’ve already spent five years working just on this song and it’s too long for a slow worker like me. That notion puts a lot of pressure on me to complete fast. It seems to me as if both Moet’s and my partner’s patience is running out. Workdays have dragged on and on, and it has begun to eat me mentally. These days, when I finish my day’s work and tell my partner that the song hasn’t been completed again, I sense that he throws me a cold glance implying, “I thought so.” The other night, I had a dream in which I cried for joy because the song’s mastering went perfectly and it sounded flawless. The other day, when I failed to finish the song for umpteenth time, I was so irritated that I took it out on my partner and had a nasty dinnertime. In this anguish, winter ended and spring has come. I’ve been correcting small parts that I’m not satisfied with, which hinders completion. The thing is, those parts are too small to be called flaws or even kinks. I’m certain nobody would notice when he or she listens to it. Then what am I doing? What am I chasing? I may have lost a definition for completion. What is completion, after all? I’ve asked basic questions to myself and the answer is the same. I just want what I’m entirely satisfied with. If I called anything other than that completion, it would be a lie. I would actually become a useless liar and be done for. I would rather be bogged down in this mud of searching for my perfection than that. So I go on, starting another loop yet again, while I keep crying completion to my partner, to myself, and to Moet Chandon…

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