I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Isao Tomita -- Clair De Lune (Suite Bergamasque, No. 3)

I had heard of the original "Ocean's Eleven" with the Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and at least 8 more ring-a-ding-ding guys but never caught it in its entirety. The reason I've held back is that I've read that it was basically Hollywood's Gang of Coolness just slumming it in front of the camera. On the other hand, I am a huge fan of the 2001 remake with George Clooney (Danny Ocean), Brad Pitt (Rusty), Matt Damon (Linus) and at least 8 more ring-a-ding-ding guys. The charisma that just overflowed from the screen was more than enough for a lot of us viewers to root for a gang of incorrigible criminals stealing from another shady type in Andy Garcia (Terry Benedict).

One of my favourite parts in the entire movie was the scene in which the big reveal of the heist was done and the humiliated Benedict not only lost a ton of money but also his girlfriend as played by a really dour Julia Roberts. The soundtrack for this updated "Ocean's Eleven" was pretty eclectic with a contribution of jazz to fit the old Las Vegas scene, but it was the scene and accompanying music which immediately came after Terry's comeuppance that hit me like a double-tap. And this was basically the epilogue for the epic heist.

Danny Ocean's ragtag team simply walked...not marched proudly...out of their hideout after pulling off the crime of at least a decade as if they had just finished a factory shift which made them look even cooler. And it was the music that followed them that I would later find out was the 3rd movement of "Suite bergamasque" titled "Clair De Lune" by Claude Debussy that just affected the heck out of me. I had only heard of Debussy through a reference in the Pet Shop Boys hit "Left To My Own Devices" and knew very faintly that he was in classical music. But to hear this version by the Philadelphia Orchestra after all of the cool jazz and other offbeat was a sweet denouement which likely expressed the well-earned fatigue and triumph and awed wonder that most of the Eleven were feeling at the fountain. Danny was taking one for the team by getting himself arrested and seeing him sheepish and satisfied as he got into the back of the police car while the oboe was playing a quiet section in "Clair De Lune" was a perfect matchup. I'm not a huge classical music fan but if I were to choose a favourite piece from the genre, this would be it.

All of that "Ocean's Eleven" prelude to talk about a Japanese artist whose work I don't even possess. I came close, though. It was just after returning from my very inspiring trip to Japan in 1981 that I got fully into music on both sides of the Pacific. I started becoming a fairly frequent visitor to the Sam The Record Man branch in my old shopping mall, and ended up purchasing my first pop single in the form of Chaz Jankel's "Ai no Corrida" there (I have my own story about that). But strangely enough, as I was flipping through the many LPs which were in the bins, I came across a few albums with the one word of "TOMITA" at the top in a futuristic logo. Just looking at the front and back of those albums, I could figure out that Isao Tomita(冨田勲)was into some of this newfangled electronic music. And at the time, I had a pretty bad case of Yellow Magic Orchestra on the brain. Also the early 80s were not an easy time for me to get access to a lot of Japanese music outside of the weekly broadcasts of "Sounds of Japan". However for whatever reason, I ended up not buying any of Tomita's albums. Perhaps I was a bit intimidated by some of the weirdness on the covers.

However cue ahead a few decades and we now have the benefit of YouTube to find out about music. And I could finally listen to this fellow Isao Tomita who so inspired a young Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)that he would follow his own music career. In fact, I was able to listen to my beloved "Clair De Lune" through the spacy Moog synthesizers of Tomita and there was something very ethereal about the listening experience. And I think perhaps imbibing some alcohol could assist in that experience, too. :)

Tomita's "Clair De Lune" was a track on his 1974 landmark album "Snowflakes Are Dancing" which was nominated for 4 Grammy Awards in 1975. The album was basically a tribute to Debussy. And as synthy-sweet his "Clair De Lune" was back then, I have to admit that I will always be attached to the version for "Ocean's Eleven".

One interesting thing I found out about "Snowflakes Are Dancing" is that excerpts from one of its other tracks, "Reverie" was used for the nightly signoffs for Fuji-TV back in the late 1970s. Usually it would be the Japanese national anthem of "Kimigayo"(君が代)that would end a broadcasting day but having something as electronically progressive as a Tomita tune was quite the idea back then. However, if I had actually been listening and watching this as a kid in those days, I would have been majorly freaked out.

P.S. May 8 2016:  Isao Tomita passed away at the age of 84 on May 5 from heart failure.

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