Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Musical differences

Here's a strange thing. The Guru and I were having a spot of dinner the other night and a piece of music started up on the old cd player. It was a classical piece and as it started the Guru slowly got a wistful, faraway look in her eye and murmured natsukashi. At the same time my thoughts wandered off, stimulated by the music and slowly an amused smirk spread across my face. The music, I'm sure you're dying to know, was the bit from the old Hamlet cigar ads (the name escapes me just now, and the cd has been replaced on the shelf). I was thinking of the ads, specifically the one in the restaurant where I think the waiter knocks the chap's toupee off, much to the amusement of his younger date, whence the waiter gives him the cigar and strikes a match on the back of his head. So like most English people my connection with the song is wryly amusing.

Natsukashi, for those who don't know, doesn't really translate well into English but is a sort of wistful nostalgia, "that takes me back" sort of idea. The reason being, you see, is that the same piece of music is the one played at all Japanese graduation ceremonies, so as soon as a Japanese adult hears it, they are suddenly transported back to school/college/university and those halcyon days. I just smirked. This could, of course, prove embarrassing in the future when, at my childrens' very solemn kindergarten graduation ceremony, when I should be crying with pride or something, I will be happily smirking to myself thinking of Hamlet cigar adverts. Must learn self control.

But of course there are many more examples of this sort of wholly different cultural reaction to music. For example whilst we in the west are somewhat pissed and spluttering "I love you, yur my besht mate, no really" at new year to the tune of Auld Lang Syne (or whatever the spelling is), here in Japan it is known as the 'Firefly' and is played to tell you that the supermarket or department store you are in is about to close. Curiously, the image I have for Vaugh-Williams' new world symphony is the Hovis kid walking with his bike up a steep hill on his way home in Yorkshire or the Cotswolds, which is spooky as it is the music they play over tannoys at around 5pm in towns all over Japan (well in Kawaguchi at any rate) telling kids it is time to go home. Maybe it has a deep psychological resonance about returning to the bosom of ones family. Or something.

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