I already mentioned music being big part of my life. I’ve been playing classical piano for a long time by now. About two years ago I “discovered” jazz, but not until this year have I started doing something with it. I started writing little pieces on Google+ and Twitter about particular songs. I started playing around with unconventional rhythms (11/8 is my favourite). All in all, I grew as a musician in a way I haven’t felt since discovering Bach.
Something I would have never imagined my entire life is how much I would listen to Touhou Jazz. I know jazz is relatively popular in Japan, but its influence is felt even in this scene. To me, Touhou music used to mean electronic beeps and buzzes, a lot of piano covers and orchestral interpretations. Then I discovered Swing Holic. And then I couldn’t stop listening.
For those who don’t know, a short explanation on Touhou. Touhou is a bullet hell game made by one person, ZUN. He does all the programming, art design and music composing. Don’t ask me why, but this game is immensely popular in Japan. It has even spawned its very own convention. An amazing number of doujin works are still being made, including but not limited to illustrations, music and even some animation. To be frank, up until the 10th Touhou game, his musical compositions weren’t all that impressive. He started shining from the 11th game on, but by that time Touhou songs had already been covered and remixed countless times.
Perhaps ironically, that same unimpressive music is what allows for a lot of freedom in remixing. ZUN’s earlier music is focused on solo melodies. This both delivers very recognizable tunes and makes the music easily adaptable to other styles. I’ve already mentioned orchestras and jazz, electronic is also big in Touhou music. There are some acoustic gems in this area. Of course, there’s never a lack of piano arranges (though I can’t recommend the majority of them).
I’m not a big fan of classical arranges, so most of my time is spent listening to jazz arranges. There’s a lot of amazing talent to be found in these circles and you have to wonder whether or not these are professional musicians. Unfortunately, the language barrier poses a big problem. I know for a fact that a lot of them are very active on twitter, but with my decent but slow skills in reading Japanese, I can only go so far before exhausting myself.
My favourite circle by far is Swing Holic. The first jazz circle I discovered, the best one so far. Their variety, skill, cleverness keep on surprising me album after album. Just when you think nothing can surprise you, they pull out something new. A big part of that is probably because I’m not all too familiar with the jazz genre yet. However, I’ve gotten confirmation from a certified expert that they’re, at the very least, worthy of clamour to the heavens.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned I started doing more. I feel it’s not enough. I think I can do more. When I listen to Swing Holic, I feel inspired. Maybe I’ll put together my own jazz piano arrange. I’ll have to get better at playing jazz, though. That’s something I’ll think about in 2012.