Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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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A Picture-Card Show hr586

I was absorbed in one kind of play when I was about seven years old. It was paper play called ‘kamishibai’ in Japan. It’s a picture-card show in which a performer tells a story while showing a picture that corresponds to it. A performer impersonates the characters to say their lines and flips a picture to the next one when the scene changes. It’s a sort of street performance that is hardly seen these days. But when I was little, an old picture-card showman came to the small park near my house every two weeks or so. He would walk around my neighborhood while ringing a bell to let children know the show was coming. When I heard the bell, I would spring toward the park clenching small change in my hand. The show was free, but the performer sold cheap snacks and candies before the show. His theater was his bicycle. On the back of the bicycle, a big wooden box was fixed that contained both the pictures and candies. Once the show started, the box transformed into the picture holder. By tacit agreement, children who had bought candies stood in the front and those who hadn’t stood on their toes in the back to get a view. Although the story itself didn’t interest me so much, I loved the experience that I saw a live performance while eating delicious snacks. It was a luxury to me. Probably because I liked it too much, I asked my parents and got a picture-card show play set. The play set was available at a bookstore and came with a sono-sheet. A sono-sheet was a very thin flexible vinyl record on which the story, the lines of the characters and the sound effects all that corresponded to the picture cards were recorded. The instruction for the timing to flip the pictures was also recorded. The story and the pictures were from a popular TV animation program for kids. Unlike the picture-card show at the park, with this play set, I was a performer. Since there was a vinyl to be played along with it, I could sit in front of the picture holder and watch it as a lone audience while listening to the record. Only, I wasn’t interested in being the audience. I’d rather stood behind the picture holder and flipped the pictures according to the instruction played on the record. The characters’ lines were printed on the back of each picture and I read them along with the record. The number of the picture cards were over twenty and I practiced flipping each one of them in the perfect timing and reading the lines with emotions by imitating the voice actors on the record. That was my favorite play of my childhood and I spent a lot of time and energy every day. The funny part was, I didn’t need any audience. I practiced intently not to show the play but to perform perfectly. And I performed exclusively for myself. This play couldn’t be accomplished without the record player that sat in the guestroom of my house. I would sneak in there to play with the set because I couldn’t concentrate on my performance if someone heard or saw it. In case my younger sister asked me to play it to her, I drove her away. Not to be bothered by anyone, I didn’t even turn on the light of the room. I would play the show along with the record alone in the dark, and relish satisfaction and joy when I thought the performance went perfectly. Recalling my favorite childhood play now, it awfully looks similar to the way I engage in my work of music. I guess I make my songs strenuously for perfection not for audience’s reception. I always thought I pursued people’s attention and stardom, but it wasn’t true as long as I remembered how I felt happy in my childhood. That explains why my songs don’t ever sell. I perform to no audience. It seems that’s the way I liked, and the way I’m destined for…

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