There’s something magical that takes place within the span of a few minutes of a live performance. The expression and passion put into one’s craft somehow manages to reach out to an audience and sinks deep into the soul. From the perspective of someone observing artistry in real time, the experience itself is fleeting; time slips away and suddenly, the performance stops, but in the same amount of time, the memory slips away into a place we hold dearly for the rest of our lives.
In Sakimichi no Apollon, we are treated to such a moment, perhaps a defining one, in the life of an awkward, introverted Kaoru Nishimi, as he takes in a drum solo that eventually captures his soul. Initially repulsed by the piercing noise, the rhythm and raw power of the performance gradually seeps into him, and it opens him up to a world that his less-than-ideal life at home could never provide. Even more striking is the person on the other end of the performance, truant and delinquent Sentaro Kawabuchi, who embodies the spirit of 1960’s jazz music in Japan.
The connection between Kaoru and Sentaro is founded on this single performance, and say what you will about the originality of a story of two polar opposites, the moment that set the relationship between these two characters into motion took place in the basement of Welcome Records. A drummer did the only thing he knew to do, and a pianist would never forget.
What makes this moment so genuine in the eyes of the audience is that the individuals involved with the creation of this scene knew exactly what it meant to capture that moment within a frame, both visually and audio-wise. Every angle was cut perfectly, and the sound of the performance was all that was present. The audience saw everything from Kaoru’s view, and his memory becomes our own.
But to some, myself included, we already have our memory, our one moment where the music played, and everything else just stopped mattering. We already have that memory that we hold dear to our hearts even though we’ve since moved on from those carefree phases in our lives. But the ability to keep them is something that leaves us so grateful for having them, that we either desperately cling onto them for ourselves in fear of eventually forgetting, or we share them with others, so that we pass on the same gesture that was done to us long ago.
For you, my dear readers, it would be a pleasure for me to do the latter. The next section was written in its entirety, without edit, within the span of listening to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, 1st movement. It is a song that was performed to me by my high school sweetheart, who had captured my heart with a single performance. I encourage you to read along with the music itself, which is embedded below.
That C minor chord at the beginning of Pathetique is a sound that I will remember forever. It rang sharply into my ears as my girlfriend of barely three or four months began her performance. While I still remember the piece and her performance of it very fondly, I had somehow lost track of how it came about, over time. She sat down at the bench, and I sat cozily off to her side on a velvet chair that was owned by her father. And by this I mean owned, the way one owns his own moustache. He would sit there and listen to her play her entire lifetime, and I was lucky enough to sit there for one song.
It was slow, and fast, and everything at once. She was expressive, and I often leaned in to get a view of her face. She had closed her eyes in some sections, and I wondered to myself whether or not she was trying to be expressive, or trying to show off, especially during the fast passages. I felt an aura coming from her, as if she were commanding the energy of the entire room, and bringing it out in a flurry of notes, scattering them in every single direction. It was wild, chaotic, but intense and carefully built up and relaxed as the score instructed.
One moment had her eyes crossing mine in the middle of the piece, when the music would simply stop out of nowhere, and repeat the slow c-minor introduction. She would glance up, and then glance back. I was no longer aware of myself. I surrendered myself to the colours of the notes that played. I could have closed my eyes, and the room would not have changed its appearance. My ears became the window into this world that only existed in sound, and I was next to a goddess of its creation. She controlled me in every single way, and thinking back, I wonder now if that was something truly special, or simply a siren song. I would have to organize my feelings and my reactions to what had happened. When she had finished those final chord shots, I sank into my chair and made sure my sweat had not stained the material.
It’s such a weird exercise to try and reach into your memories and just write about them. It’s almost like re-tracing the steps you took whenever you get lost and try to find your way back home. Sharing those steps with others is like giving directions to them. You give a general description of how to reach a certain place, but the journey that they eventually take there is never the same as the one that you took yourself.
Which is why I read over this little writing experiment and smirk fondly at the prospect that whatever keys I had punched resulted in this description that doesn’t come remotely close to what I actually felt and what I actually saw and what I actually heard. It’s so hard to describe the experience of music, but it’s pretty damn amazing how different people’s experiences are. I shared mine to the best of my ability, and even if it ends up being a complete lie because I actually don’t remember anything at all, and I’m just being delusional, it’s still something I shared with people.
I think that’s the magic that came with Apollon’s first episode. That one moment that was shared between Kaoru and Sentaro felt so genuine, but had this been an actual thing that happened between a person named Kaoru and a person named Sentaro, and had this all happened way back in the 1960’s inJapan, it probably would not have been the exact representation of it.
A memory is a mountain, and time erodes the grandest of them, but there they still remain, and they are still a wonder to behold. I feel for Kaoru when he experienced that for the first time in his life, and his mountain of a memory will remain with him for as long as he knows. It makes me wonder what that mountain will be in his old age, should he choose to share it with people.
Should he choose to blog about it.