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Tokyo Soundtracks: Controlling the Noise in Underground Clubs

Tokyo is one of the largest cities the world, with around 30 million people living in the metropolitan area. It’s also the most densely populated city on Earth. Tokyo is crowded, and it took me a few weeks to get used to it. Or, perhaps more accurately, it took me a few weeks to accept that going anywhere means being constantly surrounded by people, especially on the trains. It’s not exactly pleasant, particularly during rush hour or last train when station workers push people into train cars with a slab of cardboard.

Commuters jammed in on a Keihin Tōhoku Line train at rush hour, a shot I snapped on my mp3 player.

A cardboard-wielding station worker, waiting for the right moment to shove people into the cars for last train.

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Thursday, October 30th, 2014 Audio, Thoughts, Video No Comments

SO STOKED: Iceland Airwaves

It’s one of the largest festivals in Iceland with more than 800 shows happening over a five-day period all across Reykjavík. Most artists are from Iceland, but there are also folks coming in from as far as New Zealand, and as close as the UK.

This year Airwaves’ 7,000 tickets sold out by mid-October. Since it’s a showcase festival—premiering up-and-coming local and international acts, similar to SXSW in Austin, Texas—there are a large number of industry and media folks coming as well. It’s not just a festival for rising talent, though—The Flaming Lips, Caribou, The War on Drugs, Ásgeir and Jungle are also on the line-up. I got an industry pass along with other festival directors, music producers, label owners, media personalities, and managers. I’ll post a re-cap after the festival with a write-up about shows, pictures from the photo pit and videos of performances and adventures around the festival. Suffice to say, I will not be sleeping for five days.
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Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 Audio, Thoughts, Video No Comments

Preparation and FAQ

As I await my departure for Accra in November, I thought I could answer some of the most common questions I receive, rundown some of my preparation and detail what I hope to do. I am lucky to live in the Bay Area, home to many organizations built for the preservation of the arts and arts education. I have spent the last months meeting with teachers, employees and heads of music programs of all kinds. It has been a fantastic time to learn, gather resources, make contacts and gain insight into the world I hope to join.

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Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 Thoughts, Video 3 Comments

GRASSROOTS: Change

The second Grassroots event in September was a success. My backyard was outfitted with a large tent, artwork, lights, a dual speaker and mixer setup, an “art wall” that people could draw/write on and candles to set the mood.

It was beautiful to see people I’ve never met before working together with people who have become close friends to build the event. I was full of gratitude. I put together a 30-second teaser of the event to help you get a feel for the environment:

The atmosphere of the event was full of openness and authenticity, which is what Saga Fest is all about. It was a beautiful gathering. It got me excited to see what an even larger community can build at Saga Fest in May.
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Thursday, October 16th, 2014 Thoughts, Video 1 Comment

Listening and Imagining

Most people in the Western world have some idea about Japan, even if these ideas are largely imagined. It’s where people are stuffed into trains with the same intensity you use to desperately jam yet another outfit into an already over-packed suitcase, but it’s also the place where an endless horizon of mountains stoically rise above the clouds. It’s home to a vibrant youth culture where fashionistas stomp around the streets of Tokyo in combat boots, a Lolita-esque dresses, fake eyelashes and purple pigtails, but where you can also see a woman rushing to catch the train while making sure she doesn’t trip over the elegant folds of her kimono. Home to both samurai and to Pikachu, Japan can easily be imagined as a land of contradiction: a place where visions of an ancient past and a futuristic dream world coexist in the present.

Fashion in Harajuku, one of the best spots in Tokyo to get a glimpse of youth culture and Tokyo’s incomparable street fashion.

Nothing, and no one, but mountains as far as the eye can see. The Hachimantai Mountains, on the border of Akita, Aomori, and Iwate prefectures in northern Japan.

These contradictory, nearly competing histories are rather interestingly bound together by a singular notion of Japanese identity. In other words, the past, present, and future of Japanese society may be drastically different from one another, but they are linked by a general idea of “Japaneseness,” and perhaps what it means to be Japanese in contemporary Japan. But if these are all imagined ideas, in what way do they gain meaning, and how are these identities negotiated?

This blog explores the relationship between imagination and music. I believe that the deep connection shared by music and society is one of the most important avenues for people to imagine, and identify who they are. Music is a sonic imagining, a soundtrack that reveals a society’s collective unconscious, to borrow an idea from Carl Jung. From each society’s unique conception of beautiful music to the way that people listen to music, and to the way that music challenges listeners, music is capable of being historical, present, and progressive all at the same time. There is music from multiple eras floating around any society at all times, with each genre holding meaning to whoever listens.
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Friday, September 26th, 2014 Audio, Thoughts, Video No Comments

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