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I wrote a review of this for amazon, I'm posting it here:
I've seen a few other episodes of this series and so far the quality and content of all are excellent. Like the other episodes, the producer does a very good job of providing examples of how cultural idiosyncrasies influence the music.
This DVD first covers a Japanese boy-band pop sensation complete with interviews with Japanese girls about why they like the group. It's a pop music style called Lollypops. My conjecture is that since this video was current in the 1980's, Western bubblegum pop music of the 60's had a bit of a lag before it took off in Japan. The DVD then covers some non-musical pop Japanese culture, making the viewer aware that flashing lights and gambling games are a way of life in Japanese cities.
Titled "high-brow porn" on the outside of the DVD box, the next topic covered got this DVD some bad reviews on Amazon. As a previous reviewer mentioned, it's probably not a good video for classroom use because of it. With a scene title like that it obviously should be previewed by a parent, but I believe most would find it acceptable for home-use. When the video was made in the '80's it was apparently popular, as this scene depicts, to have Vegas-like shows where the singers will start out with very traditional, classical-like music and then the tops come off and pop-influences are added. To me, this relatively brief bit of nudity in the video went a long way to point out that Japanese adults on a night out to see some eye-candy will also get a hefty dose of traditional music. For a program attempting to show cultural/musical interplays this is an important observation, the DVD would not have been complete without it.
The next scene was very interesting to me. There was apparently some research done in the '80's that found that Japanese people listen to Japanese traditional music with their left-brain while Westerners listen with their right-brains. The researchers conclude that Westerners will never be able to understand Japanese music because of this. I understand this particular research has since been disputed, but I wouldn't be surprised if once people get past the need for political-correctness that there isn't some element of truth to it. It seems obvious to me that anyone born into a particular culture will have a head start to understanding that culture's music.
Next is a little foray into Zen and archery. In this scene some time is given to the Japanese aesthetic of the balance between sound and silence. This is a very important concept in Japanese music and some attention needed to be given to it. I'd consider this to be the weakest part of the DVD, but given the time constraints and complexity of the subject I don't see how it could have been explained any better.
In the next scene, titled "Electronic Innovations", it is no fault of the producers but what was innovative in the 1980's in electronic music is now amazingly outdated. However, getting past that, I found the music of the particular Japanese electronic musicians featured drawing me in, it was very well-composed. One of the musician's also had an advanced perspective on the left-brain/right-brain Japanese/Westerner study, suggesting that it was racist and that what was important was experience.
The next two scenes are less esoteric, demonstrating how important music was for having fun in Japanese culture. Ranging from old-time music hall music to karaoke alone in a taxi cab to going work, these scenes serve to point out how pervasive pop music has been in Japanese culture.
It may be because I am a student of the Japanese bamboo flute known as shakuhachi, but I have to think that even for non-students, the last 5 minutes of this DVD are exceptionally good. The end of the disk is a scene where the highly revered shakuhachi master Watazumi Doso talks about his philosophy a little, tells an anecdote about how he tried to describe his concept of one sound to John Cage and other Western composers, and then demonstrates to the viewers what he played to get them to understand. Not that I fully understand the concept of one sound now, but the scene is a very enlightening, "ah-ha!" kind of experience, and an extremely artistic ending to the video that almost by itself qualifies this DVD for 5 stars.
The video is on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Sukiyaki-Chips-Ja … amp;sr=8-1
It's a nice vignette with Watazumi, but I heard there are other films of him as well. Does anybody know about that? That one song is not enough.