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FROM THIS EPISODE

When Sam Parker went to Japan to celebrate his mother's 60th birthday, he brought along a handheld audio recorder. For the next few weeks, he recorded every sound that he could find, attempting to capture as many audio snapshots of Japan as possible.

Sam doesn't really take pictures. Without his glasses he's legally blind twice over. So, to remember and share his trip, he created five beautiful audio postcards.

On this episode, Sam Parker and Jeff Emtman discuss the merits of deep listening and whether it's possible for a sound to be truly ugly. Sam also shares three of his audio postcards.

You can download all of Sam's postcards at observance.bandcamp.com. This episode contains postcards 1, 3, and 2 (in that order). Here are the liner notes:

Postcard 1

  • My dad being a smart-ass on top of Mount Omuro, Izu Peninsula
  • Old-school drone at the Meiji Shrine gift shop
  • Crowds at the Osaka aquarium
  • Samurai re-enactment at Himeji Castle
  • A private onsen in the town of Ito
  • Mystery music coming from out of the woods at Yoyogi Park + my mom explaining directions for purifying yourself pre-shrine
  • Birdsong from Miyajima, one of the most serene places I have ever been to. You should go.

Postcard 3

  • A television playing an old Donald Duck cartoon in Shimokitazawa
  • Lunch-time rush hour at Shibuya station - each beep is a person going through the gate
  • A bucolic little tune being piped through speakers in a light-post
  • Lots of that going on in Tokyo, Osaka and Kumamoto. I’m PRETTY sure this is Kumamoto but it might be Tokyo, I can’t remember!
  • The performance artist Morimura Yasumasa re-enacting the final words of author Yukio Mishima - extremely intense to see in person. If you’re not familiar with Mishima, he’s worth learning about, even if you’re not interested in reading him.
  • Windchimes at Daisho-in temple, which was maybe the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my life, no hyperbole.

Postcard 2

  • An ATM transaction in Harajuku
  • Music in the lobby of a hostel in Miyajima
  • The best laugh I heard all trip, Narita airport.
  • An anti-militarization/nuclear warfare protest in Osaka. The current Prime Minister (Shinzo Abe) is a hawk and has authorized an expansion of US military bases in Okinawa - hypothetically to help protect Japanese interests in the South China sea, where China has been expanding its influence quite a bit. Abe has caused a lot of anger with this move for a lot of different reasons.
  • Okinawa is very different than the rest of the Japan and is kind of like Hawaii’s relation to the US--annexed as an occupied territory, with very distinct ethnic groups that have historically been treated like second-class citizens. I just heard that Abe’s party has given authorization for Japanese military forces to be deployed abroad, which has been illegal since post-WWII reconstruction. It’s pretty shocking. I definitely encourage you to read up on it, if you want.
  • While in Miyajima, I walked by a building and someone had left a portable CD player with a speaker on a staircase. It was playing this song on repeat. This was pretty typical of Miyajima - it is one of the most serene places I have ever been. There are also some wind chimes playing very low in certain places. Maybe you can hear them?

Sam and Jeff met in college while working at KUGS-fm, a student operated station in Bellingham, Washington. Sam taught Jeff how to listen closely.

Music: Sam and Jeff made all the music on this episode using a guitar and a synthesizer, respectively.

Photo courtesy of David Parker
Photo courtesy of David Parker

Photo courtesy of David Parker
Photo courtesy of David Parker

Photo courtesy of Juliana de Groot
Photo courtesy of Juliana de Groot

Photo courtesy of Juliana de Groot
Photo courtesy of Juliana de Groot

Photo courtesy of David Parker
Photo courtesy of David Parker

Photo courtesy of David Parker
Photo courtesy of David Parker

Producers:
Jeff Emtman
Bethany Denton

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