November 19, 2009
Posted by ander025 at November 19, 2009 4:47 PM
One can not call an Alfee fan obsessed without bringing on a huge backlash of ridicule. But you actually can’t call them obsessed because unlike an actual obsessed person, the fans never really seek to posses the rock stars. The buying and collecting of memorabilia to the Japanese fan, is like excepting a gift, given to them by the rock starts themselves, as a way to acknowledge their support. Your average American would call it delusional, and sign them all up for the psych ward, but American fans aren’t set so far apart either, but there are some very major differences. American fan girls aren’t so inclined to share their idols with other girls, while Japanese fan girls can be so inclined, but heaven forbid the fellow fan try and raise their status above their own. It is highly frowned on, and other fans take it, that this one fan sees themselves as more worthy of the idols attentions then they are.
If anyone watches Japanese anime, you can see many examples of this fandom in the animes. It is exaggerated to a point, but non the less true, of actual attitudes. One good example comes from Naruto, (which is fairly popular), where Sasuke, one of the leading characters is constantly hounded by an all female fan group, all with one goal in mind. But like I said some of this is exaggerated.
Concerts are the ultimate must, for any fan, the best way to see and be close to the idols they adore. Its also the only way to get any cloths with the Alfee name, (or any other rock star for that matter). But not everyone is lucky enough to get in and see the band, due to high competition for tickets, and few concerts per year, many fans are left outside the auditoriums, attempting to get tickets from fellow fans, not scalpers (dafu-ya). Getting tickets from a scalper interferes with the direct exchange from band to fan (I just realized that rhymes). The band themselves strongly discourage going to scalpers, and the fans pretty much agree.
Good grief I feel like I just repeated everything like a parrot. “Polly wants a cracker, My opinion is, fans in general are a weird bunch, and would rather stay out of the fray. Though I have to say I do know a few people who could give some of these fans a run for their money, but as long as none of them tells me I’m a bad person because I don’t share their love of a band or one start in particular, I’m willing to live and let live.
‘Finally, I Reach To Africa’ Ryuichi Sakamoto and Sounding Japan(ese)
In this article, Currid starts by talking about other literature on the subject of world beat, and how flawed it is. To me, it seems kind of silly to start an academic paper with a generic criticism of standing research on the topic you're covering in that paper. If no one else has made the points that you're making, it will already be obvious, and you don't need to help readers see how smart you are.
Anyway, his main point on the first page is that literature on "world beat" has described the genre as metaphorical of international relations, using formal recorded music as a representation. However, these ideas fail to question whether the music itself changes the relationships between location and prejudices; that is to say, the cultural and political ideas that each culture has about the other.
Instead, the literature focuses mostly on the "stars" who make the music (I hope so, if that's their intended topic!) and does not say much about the stars' own role in international relations. It could be argued (though he doesn't, preferring to say that his rivals don't argue it) that the music plays its own part in international relations, rather than just being a metaphor for it.
Other literature speaks of money and fairness in the production of world beat music. Also, most of the literature focuses on the interaction between African and Western (European and American) recording artists.
He finishes his slam by saying that a "productive" approach (apparently all preceding literature has produced nothing of value) would be to look at the ways the goals and development of world beat music differ from location to location. Finally he takes some responsibility on himself by proclaiming that he will be the one to examine that difference... by talking about a single artist. It's not Euro-centric, so it must be good!
This week, I decided to write about the Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). After listening to their music in class, I got curious about them and so, decided to do some additional research. Formed in 1978, this Japanese pop band was well known for their “techno-pop style” (575). In addition, their music incorporates the oriental melodies that differentiate them from all other pop bands. The band members included Takahashi Yukihiro, Hosono, Sakamoto Ryuichi, and later on their world tour Yano Akiko, and Watanabe Katsumi joined the group. According to Wikipedia, “making abundant use of new synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and digital recording technology as it became available, as well as utilizing cyber-ish lyrics sung in English, their popularity and influence extended beyond Japan.” Of course, the “YMO was one of the first to use them as an instrument in making pop music, or techno-pop, rather than to produce a specialized kind of music” (576). When we watched their live performances in class, I noticed that the synthesizer was always in back handling all the buttons. To add to that, there were a lot of instruments on stage which leads me to asking the question of how did they ever get used to being around so many wires. In curiosity, did anything bad ever happen during a performance? I also noticed the limited lyrics in their songs with the enhancement of synthesizing their voices to sound like robots. Personally, I think that the interesting aspect of YMO is their use of music style. The idea of combining electronic and musical instruments stirred the music industry, bringing them huge popularity at both home nation and foreign nations. While watching the performances on Youtube in class, I found their style of music appealing because it’s not all hardcore electronic music and rock-n-roll, but it’s a combination of classical and electronic music remixed together. I also like the fact that YMO also plugs in the oriental melodies into some of their music which I think makes it sound really exotic and Asian. The melodies really flow together. Plus, just watching them all play consistently is quite amazing. Overall, I think the YMO is an interesting band. At first, I thought the music sounded weird but after hearing a couple of the songs, it got to me. The YMO introduce Japan to a new kind of music that sparked the popularity of electronic pop music, and therefore had also inspired many other bands to take on a music style similar to it.
I wasn’t really sure what the purpose of Carolyn Stevens’ “Buying Intimacy” was. She states that she is arguing that collecting fan goods somehow puts power in the hands of the fans, but I didn’t read that she wrote anymore along the lines of this argument and the rest of her essay is about the purchasing of fan goods, which is not a rare occurrence. I remember my first concert ever and the lines to buy CDs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. My friends specifically brought money for that purpose--not for food or anything. Fan clubs are also not unheard of--aforementioned friends were also a part of a fan club and they received special privileges like getting to go backstage for a meet and greet with the band after a concert. However, the author’s perspectives on such fan merchandise seems ridiculous. Although I’m sure many fans do feel like they can “gain proximity through accumulation of objects,” she makes it seem like the fans exist for the band instead of the band existing for the fans. I suppose it all depends on perception…because, after all, what is a celebrity without his/her followers?
I did find something interesting in her footnotes--number 8 refers to an interview where a fan told her that an Alfee band members foray into a chat room disguised as a fan felt like a violation of [the fans’] privacy. I don’t think such behavior (on the artists’ part) is unheard of in American culture. It seems like fans of US celebrities would relish any contact with their idols. If a rumor had been spread that so and so celebrity was supposedly in such and such chat room or event masked as a fan, instead of feeling as if their privacy had been invaded, it would’ve been more along the lines of, “OMG, I was in the same room as [blank]!” or “I could’ve been talking to [him]!” etcetera.
However, perceptions of the celebrity by fans (and non-fans) may change depending on the actions of said celebrity during his/her masquerade. I’ll take an example from personal experience: I used to have a dislike for John Mayer--I didn’t find anything special in his music and didn’t think much of his personality. But then my friend told me a story of when he supposedly donned a mascot suit and went around before his concert mocking and bad-mouthing himself among fans. That kind of courage (because I’m sure any one of those fans could’ve been die-hard enough to beat him down) and sense of humor earned him my respect.
There’s a saying: the more you know, the less you understand. Though many times, this renders true, in Carolyn S Steven’s “Buying Intimacy” article, it renders false. As an article concerning itself with the fandom aspect of stardom, it was a personally nostalgic read. As artists are turned into a commodity, there is another side of the story that often sees fans wanting to, not only obtain collectibles of their idols, but wanting to imagine being emotional, intimately, close to them. Through knowledge of their idols, fans are able to bridge the measurable emotional distance “through the accumulation and distribution of material objects and information” (Stevens 73). Many times, fans are brainwashed to collect every collectible that their idols release. And often it’s thought of as a mere profit making tactic. But this article’s focus on the Alfee’s fans went beyond this. It wasn’t so much for the collectible as a material object that seeks profit, but as a collectible that emotionally brought them closer to their idols. “Material objects symbolize and convey and emotion-charged relationship” (Stevens 61).
Though the word “obsessed” suggests a slightly unhealthy and negative connotation, there is always a gray middle ground that reaches to bridge both the good and bad side of the story. The article says that the fans felt intimately closer to their idols through the power of knowledge. Even though this may have been so, the stars and the fans lived in very different worlds. “The Alfee themselves, though colluding with their fans to sustain an image of mutual closeness, live in a world entirely separate from even their most faithful fans” (Stevens 74).
Jumping completely off course, but sampling music has always been a method that I questioned. I mean, yes, everything we do or make comes with history. Take a collage, for example. The artist may use pictures cut out from magazines, letters of various fonts, drawings from previous artists, etc … But my point is that these material was not created originally by the artist. Instead, it was put together to create a bigger picture. Thus, we use resources to create something completely “original”. I don’t know the laws with copyrights, but it seems that sampling music is becoming more and more popular now a days. But to sample a song without giving credit or obtaining the copyrights to do so, as I would assume, would be problematic. Sometimes, it’s “wrong” to use such samples to create your own original, but to what extent would it not be ok? Another example would be writing papers and using outside sources to incorporate into their own. I jumped to wondering this topic as soon as I heard Sakamoto Ryuichi’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. This piano piece is amazing, but the moment I heard it, I immediately thought of the soundtrack from the Korean movie “A Millionaire’s First Love”. His other songs, including The Last Emperor, also resembled soundtracks from it. To be exact, the fifth soundtrack of the original soundtrack resembles that of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and The Last Emporer. I’m going off a tangent now, but, I couldn’t ignore these similarities.
I think everyone is somewhat familiar with the notion of fandom. A very current example would be the excitement and anticipation that is surrounding the release of the movie ‘New Moon’ of the ‘Twilight’ saga. Teenage girls in particular, my own sister included, are crazy for ‘Twilight’ stuff- whether it be life size cardboard cutouts of Edward and Jacob to behind the scenes clips found on youtube. Like the ‘Twilight’ franchise, many recording artists are also considered to be their own brand. So, for fans, buying into that brand by buying merchandise can be seen as a way of showing support for their favorite artist. For some fans even, as the article states, “through the accumulation and distribution of material objects and information” (Stevens, 73), fans can become intimate and express their feelings of outright affection- so the “material objects symbolize and convey an emotionally charged relationship” (Stevens, 61). Alfee fans show this quality, and after observing my sister and her friends, I think ‘Twilight’ fans do too.
I think that it’s true that knowledge acts as a way to feel closer to an idol. By figuring out what my favorite star likes and dislikes, it humanizes them and I can say things like, “so and so from this group likes the same ice cream as me! Wow!” I think this is partly why celebrity tabloids and articles like, “get so and so’s fashion sense” are so popular. By having this so called inside look at the lives of our favorite idols, that seem so larger than life, we either bring ourselves to their level or bring them down to ours. I also think this also has everything to do with the quote: “ Alfee themselves, though colluding with their fans to sustain an image of mutual closeness, live in a world entirely separate from even their most faithful fans” (Stevens 74). The reality is, is that stars are on a totally different level all together, despite what they think and what we think. Normal people don’t have thousands, or even millions, of people they don’t know watching their every move and practically worshipping them. So that’s why I think it’s not entirely true the buying merchandise and gaining knowledge gives a true sense of intimacy- it’s more like a false sense of intimacy.
After today’s lecture, I really cannot stop myself from talking about the Yellow Magic Orchestra and Sakamoto Ryuichi. On Tuesday’s lecture, we listened to the YMO’s Tong Poo, La Femme Chinoise, computer games and so on. I’m so amazed by the music. Before this, I can never think that techno-pop can be so nice. The idea of mixing the western music technology and oriental elements together is creative; I think that’s a very important reason that YMO can be so successful in both Japanese and American music market. Exoticism, especially the oriental elements are very attractive to western people due to its mystery. Also, the pentatonic tune which is usually used in Chinese and Japanese style music is a very different taste to people in the USA, because western music often uses the diatonic tune, which can express very dramatic change in emotions and themes. The Pentatonic tune is appropriate to express the oriental spirit, especially the Chinese spirit. Use pentatonic tune differently can illustrate different emotion, such as delight in Tong Pong, and melancholy in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. For local Japanese people, western technology music was a newly raised music style. As Japanese music seems to keep tracking the progress of western music, this new style can attract a lot of fans. In conclusion, YMO is a big success in music history because its advantage of having ability to attract both Japanese and Americans by mixing western and oriental elements.
We must mention Sakamoto Ryuichi, when we are talking about YMO. He is so talented that his music shocks me deep in heart! It is kind of difficult to describe my feeling when I am listening to Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and the Last Emperor. What I can tell is that my heart is trembling every time I play his music. The dominant theme of these two pieces seems to be able to touch the softest part of my heart. It is really incredible that Sakamoto can perfectly show the spirit of oriental music only using western instruments. His oriental music included a lot of ancient Chinese music elements. From my perspective, even Chinese musicians can hardly compose such great Chinese style music. Sakamoto has a pair of amazing hands, which can not only play strong and intense techno-style music, but also the extremely tender oriental music. I always concern about these two extremes to be one cultural symbol of Japanese. There is a very famous book the Chrysanthemum and the Sword written by Ruth Benedict. It talks about the patterns of Japanese culture. The tenderness and fury, just as the chrysanthemum and the sword, are two opposite things, but they co-exist. I think it’s very interesting and the food for meditation.
At last, I want to say that finally there’s someone talking about anime, Naruto and Sasuke! I’m so glad to see that. By the way, I agree that Japanese girls, at least in the anime are often crazy about the same idol. If you watched Slam Dunk, you would pay attention to the crazy girl fans of Rukawa Kaede.
“Buy Intimacy” by Carolyn Stevens was pretty interesting in that it details how fans do have an effect on the artist whether the artists wishes it so or not. For instance, she talks about how the reciprocity of performance and attendance works, for artists and fans respectively, into a cycle of solvency (Stevens 70). The more venues the artists perform at, the more money they can make for further performances, the more they need to perform, perhaps even to the point that their music suffers. So even if the artist does not cater to the fans’ wishes with regard to music content or style, the fans can still manage to “take over” the artist’s music (Stevens 73). As one artist in Stevens’ article points out, there exists an intangible transfer of ownership between artist and fan. “A song that had special meaning to [the artist] when he composed, recorded, or first performed it is appropriated and reinterpreted by fans who then make it part of their emotional lives” (Stevens 73).
Another aspect that drew my attention, and perhaps admiration, is the acknowledgement of fan differentiation of available products. It is not merely that something is a product in the likeness of or in connection with a certain artist, but that it serves to commemorate the event, or place in time. Most fans are particular about what types of items or collectibles they buy. I have heard from a friend, in reference to writers, that discrimination is the essence of a true fan. One does not just buy anything and everything associated with the artist (in the previous case writer), but only that which is significant or an excellent representation of his work. This is in converse to corporate control or demand whereby an artist produces merely for the sake of a contract or some other obligatory reason. What often results is a work by the artist but one which is not representative of his/her capabilities or preferences.
The last item that I took note of was a cultural one. I had not known before that it is customary for fans to give alcohol as gifts. It was remarked by a fan in Steven’s article that “the motivation behind giving alcohol to the members at a concert was to communicate ‘O-tsukare sama! Ippai demo!’ [A job well done! Have one on us!]” (71). That the practice is so widespread as to become a social convention, I am surprised that this is the first I’ve heard of it. Through my own experience reading manga and the like, I often hear about fan-gifts related to items the artist has specifically asked for or intimated a fondness for. I had just assumed the same applied across mediums.
By Eric Michelson
I very much liked yellow magic orchestra. They had a very good tune to them. The importance of yellow magic orchestra was no one signing but on wordless music, not that there wasn’t singing. The keyboardist of yellow magic orchestra went on to do the music for many games, and to be rather successful, in his own right. the music video that we watched today Kaiso by the yellow magic orchestra was probably one of the best things that I have every seen in my life. thus for the rest of this position paper I will be singing the praises of this song and the video associated with it.
The video openes with with a cute looking Japanese girl in a super close up of her face and in the back ground there are two males moveing around in time with the music. The cute looking Japanese girl looks around and bends her head in ways that might be associated with stretching, and she smiles at the camera every so often. Somehow this very strange scene isn’t strange at all and gives the viewer a sense of comfort and ease.
Then the video moves on to the same cute looking Japanese girl in a medium shot moveing around spinning as someone with a microphone tells her what to do. At this point the film should remind everyone of the morning workouts that workers in Japanese factories do every morning, yet when the film breaks it cuts to pictures of people in chinese. This way be making a reference to people being doing what they are told unquestioningly. It is unknown.
The video inspires people to get up and do some working out. How do I know this you ask? Because it sinpires me to get up and workout. The music is a very catchy tone that inspires movement. This would be good jogging music or dancing music.
As the video progresses we get into the middle and it shows the man with the mega phone in a medium shot moveing around talking into the mega phone and after he says something it makes a strange noise that had to have been done by a machine, but really the best is when it shows a shot of the sky with the man adjusting his hair. This is singlely the best part of the video and possible one of the best filmed things in the last 30 years.
I find it interesting how much control The Alfee (and from what I understand, most Japanese artists) have over the production and sale of their promotional merchandise. I know that The Alfee are unusual in that they operate several different companies and are almost completely in control of all aspects of their production.
The fact that band merchandise is only available at concerts or direct sale from the management company seems strange to me. Here in the US you can find just about anything you could want in any number of stores. People have used "Twilight" as an example and to that I would add "Harry Potter", although the later fandom is winding down a little as the fans continue to mature. I will say that it is still very much alive and well in the right circles... My point is for years you couldn't go into a Target, Borders, or Barnes & Noble with out running across "Harry Potter" inspired candy, Ice Mice, Blood Pops, Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Botts, etc. What percentage of those profits went to WB or JK Rowling? Not nearly as much as The Alfee receives, I'd wager.
There are certainly benefits to having third parties distribute your merchandise, such as more exposure. However, to the fans of bands such as The Alfee I suppose the "rarity" of these items makes them all the more special. Furthermore, a larger percentage of the profits go directly to the band thus strengthening the sense of closeness between fans and their idols.
This position paper is on the article “Not-so-big in Japan: Western pop music in the Japanese market” by Guy De Launey. I found this article very interesting because I was surprised to learn that Western music was not very popular in Japan and did have much influence. Whenever I think about Western music in Japan, I think of it having a big influence and selling a lot of albums but I was very surprised to find out that at the time of this article, the early 90s, that Western music held less than a quarter of the music market in Japan. I guess this means that Japan is finally starting to move out on its own in something instead of concentrating only on the stuff of other countries. Another thing that was surprising to hear is not only that Western music does not have much of a portion of the Japanese music industry but it seems to be very difficult for it to even get exposure in the country to try to raise those numbers. That way that Western music is spread through other countries relies a lot on the use of the radio, but in Japan it is different. The AM stations are usually talk radios or play more traditional music and there are not that many FM stations. Even though the FM stations play a majority of Western music, it is not heard much by the Japanese population because not many people listen to the radio in Japan. In the article a survey was quoted which showed that most people in Japan listened to CDs most and the reason why it works so well in other countries is because they have ‘drive time’ hours where as in Japan, most people commute to work by bus or train. I found it surprising that one of the ways that music is spread through out Japan is in the use of magazines because in America, it isn’t that common for a lot of people to read magazines but in Japan, a lot of people read on the bus or train on their way to work in the morning and on their way home at night. Overall, this article surprised me a lot because I was fairly sure that Western music was very popular in Japan and a lot of Japanese people listened to it but apparently they don’t.
A few of the articles we've read have focused on the fan aspect of popular culture, specifically music, and I've read other articles on the fan base of other popular media. In reading all of these, it makes it seem as though Japan has the potential to get much more focus and even obsessed over whichever niche of pop culture they have chosen. I know that Frith talked about fans in his article “Performing Rites” and focused more on the elitist feeling that hardcore fans find themselves expressing when newcomers begin to participate or when critics badmouth their chosen artist or hobby when, in the fans' eyes, they have no practical experience in being a fan.
I think that this aspect of fandom can be seen anywhere popular media presents itself to the masses, but the other articles we've read make it seem as if the Japanese fans take the appreciation a step further, delving into obsession more often than not. And according to Stevens, not all of this obsession stems from clever marketing, like one might assume. “...my argument here about the 'obsessions' of The Alfee fans is that they are empowered rather than manipulated by their 'capital accumulation' of artifacts and information.” Which is not to say this is the case for all fans in ever aspect of popular culture. Take the article we read on record collecting as an example; those fans were consuming at a ridiculous rate and it seemed like that was the basis of their fandom, the buying and more importantly, the collecting of records.
I've also read an article in an International magazine that comes out of Japan about gashapon collectors and how obsessive they can become with their hobby. Gashapon, or gachapon, for those who don't know, is the term used for Japanese capsule-toy vending machines. (The name is based off the sound the machine makes: the 'gacha-gacha' of turning the little lever and the 'pon!' of the capsule landing.) This article was entirely focused on collectors' obsession for the little toys and that often times they needed to be even more dedicated that others because it wasn't always guaranteed you'd get the toy you wanted, though on the other side of things, gashapon is a lot cheaper than, say, records. All in all, I feel like not only do the Japanese take their fandom more seriously than perhaps others people do, but that the popular culture/media they produce has the same effect on other nations when it crosses borders. Take anime for example, or video games that Japan produces, both of which have a ridiculously large and dedicated fan base.
I took a little time to look into more of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s work, particularly looking at “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” and considering the ideas of “world music” Currid was trying to get across. First off, the music is absolutely beautiful when Sakamoto plays it on piano with orchestral accompaniment. Upon hearing the soundtrack version from the film, it sounds much more “exotic,” or rather, asian/Japanese because of the instrument being used to play it (I’m not sure my ear for instruments is good enough to distinguish here, but it sounds like the soundtrack version is not played on piano, but on some sort of toned percussion instrument like a xylophone? I’m not sure what to call it). As the reading for this week addressed Sakamoto in discussion of world music and exoticism, I tried to consider these things when listening to his music and determining where the sounds come from and how we interpret them. I’ll admit it is difficult for me to wrap my head around Currid’s argument, but considering the different performances of the song “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” I think I’m starting to get a bit better of a grasp on determining sounds; the soundtrack version fulfills what I think of as “exotic” because of the instrument sounds exotic, and yet the live performance version of the same song (with what sounds like the same “Japanesey” pentatonic scale) does not sound nearly as exotic on the piano. Currid gave me material to help define a problem I have been considering a lot in learning about Japanese pop culture and music; after reading many of the responses and listening to presentations in class, and even considering my own responses, I find the vast majority of our class (ie Americans studying Japan) find so much of the pop culture to be “knock-offs” of western culture; we typically define Japanese pop culture and music in terms of how they relate to Western forms and ultimately define them as largely mimicry. While there is some truth to this statement (ie Japanese military bands intentionally mimicking western marches to impress visiting western powers) Japanese pop culture can not be boiled down to this. The homogenizing effect of western thought is obviously influential in changing how native music is expressed, but native culture, even in Japan, will not disappear unless the people disappear. “World music” is perhaps a way of getting around the homogenizing effect aforementioned as it encourages both common ground in music and exoticism, or as Currid notes, “multiple ways of organizing temporality, geography, and identity” and “euphoric embracing of difference in itself refigurein that very difference into a kind of equivalence (pg98)
From the beginning, Yellow Magic Orchestra already had the potential to become the next big phenomenon. Takahashi Yukihiro of Sadistic Mika Band fame and the guy with the PhD in music composition came together along with a bassist named Hosono Haruomi, Yellow Magic Orchestra was born. Their music was something out of the unordinary because heavy electronic sounds were used in their music. What I thought was interesting was how the band toured the world FIRST before actually performing in Japan as they were composed entirely of Japanese artists. But anyways, their success overseas was what launched them into fame. Their first self-titled album Yellow Magic Orchestra was a major hit.
Their music wasn’t just a bunch of electronic sounds meshed together but it had an oriental tune to it. Their first song in their first album called “firecracker” had this “Asian” tone to it. My personal favorite, Tong Foo, has a lot of electronic sounds in it but it also has the oriental theme as I’ve said before. I like it since it sounds a lot like a song I’ve heard before from a video game and I really enjoyed the trumpet like parts of the song.
Speaking of video games, one of their songs called Computer Games was really interesting. I’ve also seen a lot of their songs use video games as part of their music videos. Computer games gives off a nostalgic feeling since a lot of sounds were reused in the age of primitive video games. The “telephone” sounds reminded me of Mr. Game and Watch of Nintendo fame. And the airplane sounds reminded me of the “bomb” sound effect in the game Raiden.
Sakamoto Ryuuichi was relatively unknown until after Yellow Magic Orchestra made its debut. He went on a solo career composing music for movies and inspiring novice music composers. The only music that I’ve heard of besides his YMO performances were in the movie, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. Sakamoto even acted in their as one of the major characters. His theme for the movie has a solemn tone to it yet it also has this playful feeling in some parts of the song. This theme has been covered many times, most recently by Utada Hikaru. In her own take of it, it was remade into a pop and hip hop song.
*Sakamoto and Yellow Magic Orchestra has also influenced the game music industry. A game music composer named Sakimoto Hitoshi who has composed for the legendary Final Fantasy games and many other major game titles as well was inspired by YMO’s work.
Upon reading “Buying Intimacy: Proximity and Exchange at a Japanese Rock Concert” by Carolyn S. Stevens, I was again intrigued by the obsession of The Alfee by the fans. Previously, we've read about the obsession of Mori Shinichi by middle-aged women in “Letters from the Heart” by Christine R. Yano. There were many parallel behaviors by both sets of fans.
First, in both articles, both fans accumulated band products. They buy products that are stamped with the band's approval. In both articles, the reason seemed to be that the fans wanted to become closer to the object of their adoration. Perhaps this truly is the case, even though I personally don't understand this kind of reasoning. The reason that I believe that the fans support their bands is the bands can continue producing more music. Indeed, if the bands couldn't collect enough money to continue on with their tours and production of music, then the fans would lose the pleasure of listening to music that the band could produce in the future. I believe that this is the base reason that motivates fans into buying these products: for their own happiness. They are happy that they can contribute to the cause of the band.
Secondly, in both articles, both sets of fans sent letters and gifts to their bands. Now, this is something I can't even begin to understand. Perhaps it's because I've never been obsessed with a band, but it seems to me that it is a worthless act, since the band will not be writing back and you'll have no knowledge that your act was even acknowledged. But now that I've written that last sentence, it seems much like a prayer. Maybe band fandom is like faith? With this perspective, I can almost comprehend the fans actions.
However, there are also differences in the bands. Mori Shinichi purposely appealed to middle-aged women by acts of weakness and lyrics of songs like Ofukuro-san. But with The Alfee, there is no such narrow appeal. Instead, the appeal is more general, mainly aimed at the young and female. There could have been some method that The Alfee employed to appeal to young girls, but it wasn't mentioned in the article.
All in all, even reading the two different articles that dealt with fandom, I still couldn't understand their feelings or thoughts. Even though there are band that I do like very much, I wouldn't go as far as these fans have gone.
First off, I found Currid’s essay somewhat difficult to follow. His vocabulary was a bit lofty, and consequently, it was hard for me to really absorb his ideas. It’s hard for me to believe that there wasn’t a simpler way to convey his ideas. Instead, Currid chose to inject his essay with ostentatious language, and to be honest, it was hard for me to formulate my own opinion.
I found the next article by Stevens to be much more accessible. I wrote my Essay 2 paper on intimacy in Japanese fandom, so I found many of the points Stevens brought up to be very interesting and supportive of findings from my own research. Rather than reiterate the points of my paper, I thought I would instead touch on the additional arguments Stevens makes. For instance, Stevens illustrates the efforts fans go through to obtain rare merchandise and materials. Not only do they put a lot of effort, they also obtain a high number of things to add to their collection. Doing so supposedly makes them feel closer to the artist, and in a sense, “validates” a relationship with the artist that others might not have. This feeling of exclusivity no doubt drives fans to buy more things, which creates a stronger feeling of exclusivity. It’s like a cycle that only comes to an end when either exclusivity stops becoming important or the fan stops buying merchandise. Another thought that came to mind in reading Stevens article was why did buying things come to be associated with intimacy? Stevens and others have provided plenty of arguments as to how this relationship has been maintained over the years, but how did it start? Was there something perhaps innate in people that made them associate objects with promoting relationships? Or was this association something initially developed by record companies and manufacturers? In my opinion, I think that the relationship did stem from people who used objects to commemorate special events. In time, however, record companies and fan clubs probably started to promote the idea the more objects you possess, the more inclusive the fan’s relationship with the star is.
Lastly, as with Stevens’ article, I found De Launey’s article interesting as well. Prior to reading it, I didn’t think that Western music in Japan was ever trailing domestic bands. From my personal experience living overseas for the first half of my life, it seemed like Western music always dominated the charts over domestic music. I would think that this would be the same in Japan especially since Western influence was so great during or after the wars. However, after reading De Launey’s article, I can see why the decline in Western pop music occurred. First, it seems that the market was saturated with Western pop (e.g., an 80% share of the market), and with the ebb and flow of most things, it seems natural that this trend would decline. It seems especially plausible as a greater variety of music produced by local Japanese bands became available. Next, De Launey makes a point that at the time Western pop music began to decline, there was a new generation of music listeners. These listeners did not grow up “idolizing” the West and seeing it as something Japan was trailing. Their attitudes, therefore, were more inclined toward seeking music that appealed to them than just seeking Western music. In this case, the music that appealed to them (and was more exposed) was that of Japanese artists.
It is very interesting how a musical phenominon works. A group can be legendary when they were big among their fans, only to die away and be forgotten, only to preserved in the memories of their biggest fans, that borderline obessive behavior. Then there is the other side of the coin, where new fans are made by discovering the legend long after the band has broken up or retired. Such is the case with Yellow Magic Orchestra. I had never heard of this band until last week, but I feel like this is the kind of music that I listened to as a kid. First off, it is clear that this bad held a high status, both in Japan and the United States. Songs such as their self titled album, Public Pressure and Technodelic topped the charts from 1978 to 1983. The famous Takahashi Yukihiro from the Sadistic Mika Band joined Hosono and the later famous Sakamoto Ryuichi, Yano Akiko and Watanabe Katsumi to form a band of guitar, bass, drums, and my personal favorite, keyborads and synthesizers. Listening to their works with prerecorded sounds from basic videogames was at first cute and amusing, but the more I heard it, the more I was filled with nostalgia. By using elements of Pong, Pac-Man and Space Invaders, I could hear sounds from future games in the indusrty. A few examples mentioned in class were Zelda and Sonic. True, I recognized these sounds, but I found that the embracing of "Yellow Stereotypes" in their music even more familiar. One particular song, playing what they assumed was asian music to American audiences. This music sounded like it came right out of Pocky and Rocky. It is amusing that they stuck so long with the stereotypical approach to music. Some may say that this is selling out, but I see it as a way of poking fun of westerners, paryoding the prevailing idea that no one can tell the difference between them. Its nice to find a band with a mix of genres (pop and anti-pop), fill audiences with nostalgia and make you think all at the same time.
I do agree with the author of Not-so-big in Japan in that the common conception is that people think Japan gloms onto Western culture, and I liked his “magpie” analogy. To some extent, I think this lends to his argument that people shouldn’t rely on this kind of thinking and be surprised when Japan doesn’t actually prefer Western music as much as conception would make it appear. However, some of his logic seemed fuzzy to me. While it is true that the record industry relies heavily on “superstars,” I think De Launey’s expectations are to the opposite extreme of those he’s criticizing. By his logic, which is based on sales amounts and is rather coarse when considering the effect of cultural values, because Japan is the second largest music producer there should be a reflection of this in the American market. Of course, most Americans don’t listen to Japanese music, and for many reasons that can be hypothesized, most of which are cultural. So while the most obvious argument for his point is “Japanese people just prefer Japanese music”, he belabors this a little, in my opinion. As a cultural scholar, I think he approaches the matter under the conception that most people aren’t preferential towards their own culture. While he discusses the importance of television and other mediums and the effect created by not having a western music presence on television, he doesn’t really link this to causality. While it is interesting that Western music is not as prevalent as it used to be on Japanese television, he doesn’t give a reason for this, and the reason seems more interesting. The effect is that De Launey says “Western music is less popular than it used to be because it is less popular.” One idea that I would like to see explored is how the production of Japanese covers of English songs was affected by more Japanese bands singing in Japanese instead of English. We discussed how some artists went against the idea of singing in Japanese because English was the language that started rock. To me, this seems like it should be the biggest influence on how many covers of English songs were done and perhaps how many were sold.
Yellow Magic Orchestra probably has one of the most interesting sounds (thus far) because they utilize a lot of new technologies available to them. Of the many song that we listened to in class, one of them sounded like a trip down memory lane with all the video game sounds. I can also hear/ see how the techno era will come into existence with it’s repetitive loops and futuristic sound. I do think that the success if YMO is somewhat due to the fact that three of the four members were famous, and had previous relationships in other bands as well as fame.
Also in the article for this week (De Laney) I have always had the assumption that western (Americanized) music would always do well overseas. My understanding of the music is that if you can make it in America (musically speaking), then you really should have no trouble in with the rest of the world (that however does not work the same way for movie actors/ actresses). So with my ideology it is somewhat odd, and fascinating to see that the Japanese people are trying to find “their” own tastes and preferences for music instead of having another country tell them what to like.
I can agree with the author is saying about the television, lyrics, and karaoke. I don't usually watch a lot of TV, but I have watched some Japanese cable programming and I can see how it would be hard for an American artist to give up there rights so they have a chance at making it big, and only if it is in Japan. Along with that is the translation problem. Where Japanese people tend to emphasize more on the lyrics, and attach a strong emotional tie with the content. With that being said, the karaoke obviously would only help boost sales with the audience thinking it is there obligation to make the artist big by spreading their words (again going back to that artist/ fan intimacy).
The article “Buying Intimacy” brought up some very interesting views that I had not thought of or known of before. I was surprised and not surprised at the same time by the opening sentence of the article which stated that contemporary Japanese youth culture is characterized by “obsessions with goods and information.” I had known from my own personal experience with my Japanese friends that they are avid collectors. However that is not unlike any other culture that I know of. The one thing that struck me was the in depth reason and intent behind the collecting. In the article it specifically mentions the devoted Alfee fans. If you thought that the young girls in America were obsessed with Hanna Montana or the Jonas Brothers, think again. Their obsession seems from an outside perspective to be purely desire based. These children want to become these pop stars best friend, better yet they want to be the pop star. Again, from an outside perspective it seems that to the kids, buying the pillows and other numerous items with these stars faces on the items is for show and for aesthetic value. I don't mean this to be true for all young children or even any fan, but for me personally, when I was young I bought the NSYNC poster so I could show my friends and look at the cute boys in the picture, not because I felt that by buying the item, I would gain this emotional connection with the band.
The Alfee fans buy the bands merchandise with intent to strengthen their emotional and personal connection with the band. These items are coveted. Not only do the fans buy merchandise but they go a step further and consume non-material objects, such as joining websites about the band, and newsletters. The fans feel that by consuming these non-material items that are information based, they can again strengthen their connection to the band through their knowledge.
In my opinion this aspect of collection is one that is a little over the top, but I very much respect the people who do collect in this manner. I respect them because buy buying an item from a store, not only do they leave with a material item which is not their focus, but they have gotten that much closer to truly knowing and connecting with the band members.
So far in the class the article “Buying intimacy” by Carolyn Stevens is the one that has jumped out at me the most. When I was living in Japan for my first two years of college I experienced this type of band fandom first hand in the exact same way that she describes it in her article. Most of my friends in Japan were fans of the musical genre Visual K which is more underground than what Stevens talks about but at the core fandom is the same. Much of it has to do with the accumulation of merchandise. Many of my friends would bring magazines, picture books, mobile phone charms, pencils, anything one could think of all bearing a specific band insignia or something in relation to the band. I completely agree with Stevens statement that this type of marketing or consumerism is based in the idea that the fans wish to create an intimate relationship with the band through their collections of goods. It seems to me as a way of putting something tangible to something that is more ethereal like the music or the personalities of the band members. The merchandise is a way of taking a part of the concert and or experience of listening and putting it to something more physical that can be carried or shown off.
I also found it interesting that there are unwritten rules as to how a fan should behave. People who take fandom too far to the point of being stalkers are shunned by the fan community. In other words there is a right way to be a fan and a wrong way. I found this to be different than what I feel to be the American version of fandom. In Japan the fans who write letters or send gifts do so with complete understanding that the band will not reply. I feel that in America there is a sort of expectation that a letter should be responded to and that it is the bands duty to involve the fans. Much like how going “backstage” is a common honor in the United states but in Japan its almost unheard of even Stevens was not able to gain full access to the band.
This type of restricted intimacy with the band through mails and presents leaves the actual personalities of the band members up to one’s own imagination. The fans create among themselves the real lives of these idols and from that they feel closer to the band members.
I have the 20th anniversary alfee angel sword electric guitar, only 20 were made for worldwide distribution... how much would this b worth if sold?