Carpe Diem Special: KUROFUNE

The need to tell other about “our babies” at Carpe Diem Records became stronger this January, after the Nymphidia release. While working together with Jonas on the Carpe Diem catalogue 2011, we realized that, by and by, Carpe Diem productions have become exactly what they were always supposed to be: little, unique pieces of jewelry, precious snapshots of unforgettable moments, each showing beauty in another way, using different colours, shapes and shadows, never repeating themselves, always alive.

KUROFUNE is fair, elegant, cold, sleek like Japanese porcelain, true in its nakedness and frugality like haiku, seemingly distant, graceful and subtle, like the fresh trace left in wet grass by a silk shoe.

I remembered listening to the first edit of the KUROFUNE recording one year ago, a few days after Jonas recorded the musicians (Chiyomi Yamada, Toyohiko Satoh and David van Oojen) in a Medieval church near Bremen. Chiyomi Yamada’s light-feathered Soprano, singing unknown (to me, at least) Japanese next to famous European lute songs, was almost an unreasonable demand to my European ears: what an unusual freedom in that voice, running untroubled through “our” well-known songs using unknown ways and knowing no borders or limitations, like a cold, fresh, silvery water of a mountain spring.
“So Japanese” I thought, but then again, what do I know?

These days, the whole world is watching Japan with concern and compassion. How bad it feels to see such distress. And in such cases, who cares about different kinds of mourning? In cases of extreme emergency, all “cultural” differences lose their power, no matter how decorative they used to be in our light-hearted every-day-life.

KUROFUNE made me think about that, while listening to the second edit. We decided to change the order of the songs, mixing Japanese and European together. We tried to act instinctively, following the emotion –  that we considered to be most important in this out-of-the-ordinary context. Had we followed some musicology reasons instead, separating the songs by age or worse, by geographical zone, we would have surely destroyed KUROFUNE and killed its story.

KUROFUNE was inspired by the story of the Tenshō boys (16th C.), who travelled eight long years by sea to Europe and back home. They became aquainted with European culture (and its music) and learned to play European instruments. They must have heard European songs with Japanese ears and maybe they felt a bit like I did, when I first heard KUROFUNE. And just as I did, they must have fallen in love with that strange, unusual, foreign Beauty they heard.

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