Curious Little Smile

March 11, 2008 8:32 AM

About twice a year I'm charged with the task of making music for a Japanese design house's fashion shows. One of this season's pieces, for Tokyo Fashion Week, needed to be "airy and pretty and happy", which is not exactly a vein of musical expression that I normally fall into naturally, but, hey, gotta give the bossman what he wants, right? Anyway, this instrumental piece (5:42) is what I came up with.

posted by flapjax at midnite (20 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

airy and pretty and happy pleased your bossman, no doubt. well named mr flapjax. loved it.
posted by de at 9:59 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Very different to the stuff you normally do, flapjax. This is quite nice and it makes me wonder why you don't resort to notes more often (aside from the ones from singing).
Me and a friend once did the music for a fashion show in Mexico, and coincidentally enough we did an extended version (with a lot of samples) of Hmmm, the one song I've posted here in Japanese. That time the producers were not entirely happy because they wanted something electronic with one distinct and repetitive bass drum that could "guide" the models as they were walking through the cat-walk. Which of course makes me wonder how the models will interact with your music (though I get the feeling that they might be more open to stuff like this in Japan). Is there going to be video anywhere where I can see the show with your music?
posted by micayetoca at 10:00 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, you got your Penguin Cafe Orchestra in my Stereolab! And I'm on a lot of Xanax!
posted by not_on_display at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I like the way the twinklebells appear in the middle. It hits like a nice cool rain in a dry landscape.
posted by not_on_display at 10:33 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

mica writes: why you don't resort to notes more often (aside from the ones from singing)

Well, I do include some countermelodies here and there in some of my songs, but it's true, the song stuff is mostly characterized by vocal line, drone and rhythm. That stark approach has been a conscious decision, though, as I've wanted to strip things down to those basic elements in order to, well, make some sort of statement, I guess. I've wanted to focus on rhythm and sonic texture, and to sort of get away from this notion of melodic ornamentation and harmonic shift that has been so prevalent in Western music, in particular. I want people to hear, really hear the rhythmic parts and percussion, and the melodic/harmonic function that percussion instruments often play in my songs. I want those elements to take the front seat, right up there with the vocals/words. Still, I can see where there's room for working more countermelodies into my songs, and I reckon my next round of song recording might find me exploring that a little more.

And yeah, music for fashion shows: I think it's pretty much the norm for fashion show producers to want something very driving and rhythmic. For one thing, as you said, it helps the models. It sets a tempo and a pace for them, even if they don't necessarily hew strictly to the beat: it propels the show, keeps everybody moving, and creates excitement. These events rely heavily on a kind of excitement, and the music plays a huge role in that. Most of the stuff I do for these shows also falls much more into the category of driving rhythm. Punchy kick drums, faster tempos, etc. This currently posted piece (as well as this older one, for an earlier show I did) is the exception to the rule. And indeed, there may well be a little more flexibility and willingness to experiment with different musical vibes here in Japan than elsewhere. That's one of the good things about Japan (as I've found over the years here): less rigid and predictable thinking about music and it's uses. One example is music for TV commercials, which is wildly varied and often very surprising.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:53 PM on March 11, 2008

Oh, and mica, you asked about video. I think there will probably be something online at some point after the show (which is on this coming Friday). If there's anything, I'll post a link here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:55 PM on March 11, 2008

I've wanted to strip things down to those basic elements in order to, well, make some sort of statement, I guess.

Well, you've certainly achieved that. Your songs are definitely identifiable from the first few seconds and they often offer interesting textures. They also have that organic feel that using mostly "acoustic" instruments gives.

And yeah, Japan sounds very interesting that way, and it does sound like the one country where they would try something like this. I'm sure the results will be very interesting. That time, after they told us off for not including an electronic beat (tun tun tun tun tun tun) I couldn't help but thinking that they were missing out on a million of different things they could do with music, without losing any of the aspects they considered so essential. Oh well. Good luck with the show, and congrats for this piece.
posted by micayetoca at 6:32 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Flapjax, as much as I love this compostion, I find your comments about it, the fashion thing and your personal style and means equally great and fascinating. I think I've always understood your particular "thing", but to hear you spell it out is pretty cool.

I'm also hoping to be able to see vid of this. It will probably be new to the models as opposed to the typical sound, but I can imagine them getting the tranquility and expressing it as they move. Excellent, man. Thanks.

Oh, and Oi, micayetoca!
posted by snsranch at 7:25 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


in an airy and pretty and happy way
posted by Rock Steady at 9:22 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have missed Music.Mefi for the past few days ... but am really glad I listened to this. It's really fun mood music... really nice work.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:40 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nice. Do I sense a little bit of African influence in this?
posted by spiderskull at 8:01 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do I sense a little bit of African influence in this?

African music has been a huge influence on me, maybe bigger than just about anything else, really. However, I certainly wasn't thinking about African music of any sort while making this. The sections of the piece where the melodic interplay parts drop out and the percussion parts kick in strike me as much more Burmese, southeast Asian, in their rhythmic character and sonic personality.

I think a piece like Undefined, posted earlier to MeFiMu, is more overtly African in terms of its rhythmic character.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:01 AM on March 15, 2008

micayetoca and snsranch: There has indeed been a video posted, of the show in its entirety, so anyone interested can see the models/clothes and hear all the music I did for the show: as you'll hear, most of it is quite different from "Curious Little Smile", which appears at the end of the show in a version shortened by one minute (a last minute decision by the company which had me editing the piece only the day before the show) and with the addition of some vocal parts, courtesy of my wife.

The video is here.

NOTE: The first minute or so of the clip is sort of dark, with 2 wall-projected videos slowly becoming visible. These projections, shown live at this year's show, are comprised of footage taken at the close of last year's show. Then when the first live model appears, the music returns to last year's closing theme again, for about 3 minutes, and then launches into this year's music.

Just to tie this all together, that theme which closed last year's show and opened this year's show is also posted here at MeFiMu: Half Remembrance.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:17 PM on March 15, 2008

flapjax, that is absolutely mindblowing. Muchas felicidades, mate, the music sounds amazing and the scene with the models walking in those crazy outfits is fantastic. It's way better and more interesting than the one I did in Mexico. What a cool thing. Thank you very much for posting the video (and linking to Half Remembrance, I still can't believe I missed it the first time around).
posted by micayetoca at 8:56 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mica, you're so welcome! Glad you dug it!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:58 PM on March 15, 2008

This is fantastic! Makes me very happy.
posted by ratla at 6:18 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Beautiful. Just when you think it's going in a saccharine direction, it fakes you out a little.
posted by umbú at 12:39 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know, I'm being a pest, but that page with the vid ain't working for me. I did some searching around but I'm not sure that your's was the Gothic Lolita show. what was the name of your particular show so I can haz more cheezburgers, little beauties and music?
posted by snsranch at 7:17 PM on March 17, 2008

that page with the vid ain't working for me

Hmm, just checked it again, and it's there for me (running Safari, on a Mac). Are you getting the little TV set graphic that the video is shown in? Be aware that the first minute or so is really dark, almost no image. (See my above comment for an explanation of that).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:22 PM on March 17, 2008

Apparently フラッシュ9 を要求する, means, requires flash 9. No wonder they sent 80 ninjas here to capture you for the sake of Japanese fashion. That was some really great work and shows your all-encompassing nature as a musician/composer. I'm glad I got to see it. Thanks!
posted by snsranch at 5:01 PM on March 18, 2008

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