Carole and Tuesday

Watanabe and the power of music

I love music. That is probably evident by the number of times I write about it to relate to my personal life or the world at large. Songwriters have the capability to catch a slice of life, capture that within 3 minutes and transfer that emotion to the listener. And while music is deeply personal, there are songs that receive praise for capturing a moment that we as human beings can identify with. With the holiday season coming closer All I want for Christmas is one example that springs to mind, putting emphasis on being together with a person you love.  But it’s not just music that can transfer emotions. Other media are just as capable of doing it, just in their own way.

Shinichiro Watanabe and Cowboy Bebop

Shinichiro Watanabe is a big name in the realm of anime. Director of the arguably most famous, highly praised series Cowboy Bebop. I love Bebop: the setting, the characters and the episodes plots. It is a complete audiovisual spectacle that is exactly as long as it should be. What I love about high quality shows is that moment when the soundtrack detaches itself from the imagery and you keep listening to it long, long after you watched the show for the last time. And while it sometimes brings back memories of specific moments or episodes, but more often than not it is what it is: just enjoying yourself listening to good music.

I don’t know how I first got to watch Bebop, but the pleasure I had watching it I will carry with me forever. To the point that I don’t need to rewatch the episodes to step into that (nostalgic) feeling but do so anyway.

My fondness of Bebop led me to Samurai Champloo, another of Watanabe’s projects. It did not disappoint. Again the clean cut action, likable characters and excellent soundtrack gave me a series that I will recommend to anyone without hesitation.

I know it is sometimes hard to step into something new, especially in the world of sequels we live in. Because you don’t know what you will get when you start watching, and sometimes previews or trailers don’t help either.

This preview is not representative of the complete product

Netflix tries to have it’s users watch films and series via suggestions. I don’t have insight into its inner workings, but I gather it is similar to youtube. All with the goal of keeping the subscriber subscribed. So when it kept recommending me the show Carole and Tuesday I checked the preview and wasn’t really interested. Simply because it did not tick the correct boxes for me at the time. ‘Two girls trying to make their mark in the music business’, is not something that peaks my interest. Especially because I saw something about a music contest in the episode description. 

When I eventually gave in to the system and started looking at the ratings of this show I discovered that it was directed by Watanabe and animated by Studio Bones. Two big names in anime collaborating on a project. Who was I not to try it for at least two or three episodes?

Watch and listen

The first episode starts with the two titular characters and their current situation. Nothing really special there, except it takes place on Mars. This is the moment Watanabe ticks a box for me: Sci-Fi setting. Though the animation style takes some getting used to it is fluent and serves the out of this world setting. Another box ticked.

Second episode. Carole and Tuesday have started their journey together and somewhere around the 14th minute mark end up in the memorial hall. They start to play their first song and it this is the moment the show grabs me. I don’t know what happened, perhaps it was the culmination of the events to that moment. But I kept watching, episode after episode. I was invested in these characters and their journey, laughing and crying with their successes and failures until there were no more episodes to watch.

Wait how many?

I rewatched a few episodes for this blog and the music still gets me. Most of the music hits home. It turned this show from something mildly interesting into a must watch. 

Granted, not all songs are my cup of tea. But there is enough variation in style to serve the character it belongs to. From Angela’s power pop songs to Ertegun’s DJ compositions. All are different and are definitely not made by the same person. The music team which served as a backbone for this production lists at least 28 people. The list includes names like Steve Aoki, Andy Platts (Young Gun Silver Fox & Mamas Gun) and Tim Rice-Oxley (Keane). And these are just the ones I am familiar with. 

How much influence they had on the overall music production I do not know. But it is clear Watanabe’s history as music video director has given him the necessary connections to realize this beautiful beast.

A love for music

This show breathes a love for music and the music industry. From the characters it portrays; the way music is made and the downsides the subsequent fame brings.* 

Now I always found it cool that Watanabe had episode titles of his previous shows refer to cultural phenomena, films or be literal song titles. In Carole and Tuesday all episodes are song titles, which in some part also relate to the plot.

And this is just one of the cherries on the cake. Carole and Tuesday was a wholesome viewing experience in 2020. A beautiful slice of life show with a deep rooted love for music. One that I believe I share with the creators of the show. 

But before you grill me, not everything is as good as I make it out to be. It is not a perfect show by a long shot.  But it scores high at what it sets out to do, and transfer a wide variety of emotions along the way. The main cast is well written and the show produced my favourite character of the year: DJ Ertegun. 

Closing thoughts

There is so much more I actually wanted to say about Carole and Tuesday, critique it in a more proper way. My options to do this would be a series of blogs or a video describing also my dislikes of the show. And although I am greatly intrigued by the second thought, I want to keep focus on my other writing for now. Perhaps if I return to the show in the future.

To end I would like to point out the optimistic note the show ends with. Music is personal. Music can help you cope with problems. And music is something that can bring people together. This is the message the show tries to convey to the viewer, and it also ends with that specific message. So I recommend watching and sharing it with your loved ones. Perhaps you will, like me, carry a piece of the music of Carole and Tuesday with you. 

* One thing that struck me is that there is always something with money in Watanabe’s shows. It is a bit present in the first 12 episodes but never on the forefront as it was with Bebop or Champloo.

To Shiver the Sky is the album we need in 2020 and here’s why

My kickstarter rewards for To Shiver the Sky arrived so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to talk about Christopher Tin’s new album and why I think it could not have been released at a better time.

To Shiver the Sky the album

To Shiver the Sky is the third studio album of composer Christopher Tin. It was the highest funded classical Kickstarter ever in 2018, a title worthy of holding given the anticipation of a new studio album about man’s dream to fly, with the epic opening of Civilisation VI, Sogno di Volare (the dream of flight) as its opening song.

Note that the last time Christopher Tin composed the opening for a Civ game (Baba Yetu) this song was the first Video Game soundtrack that won a Grammy and the subsequent album, Calling all Dawns also received one for best classical crossover album. So anticipations were high.

Kickstarters end

The album was officially released on August 21 2020 and I daresay that it is exactly what we need this year. Amongst other disasters we are facing a global pandemic that is causing difficulties for all of us. Difficulties that are, in my opinion, questioning on a fundamental level what we are doing with our lives and our planet. And though we might have the luxury of modern technologies which make distant interaction easier we are restricted in the way we handle social interactions because of physical distancing.

“So what has this to do with the recently released To Shiver the Sky?” I hear you ask. Well, just about everything.

Track Overview

If you are not familiar with the album I have made a short overview below of the tracks, their narrative sources and what I think the music relates to on an emotional level.

If you have listened to the album with an open mind and heart I think the column to the right speaks for it self. But music is deeply personal so it is totally fine if you do not agree with me.

If you have not listened to the album it I highly encourage you to do so. Block an hour and listen with an open heart, and do not be afraid to feel something. If you want to get a quick overview of the thematic I also posted the album trailer below.

Again: I have listed the track and their sources here so you can see where the inspiration for these came from. In the column to the right you’ll find what I think it relates to on an emotional level after listening the past weeks. So chances are I might revise or refine some in the future.

Track/Movement-TitleBased onRelates to
1 Sogno Di VolareLeonardo Da Vinci’s writings on flightPeople’s (unspoken) wishes to achieve something in their lives
2 The Heavenly KingdomHildegard von Bingen: SciviasAspiration to reach the divine, the heavenly skies
3 Daedelus and IcarusOvid: MetamorphosesTo execute on your bold plan but with the warning not to over extend yourself
4 The FallDante Alighierei: Divine ComedyWhen we fall to our lowest and somehow find the courage to pick ourselves up again
5 AstronomyNicolaus Copernicus: De revolutionibius Orbium CoelestiumWhat it feels like to reach new hights and be astonished by the (new) possibilities
6 To the StarsJules Verne: De la Terre a la LuneCreating/achieving with the tools at hand
7 Oh The HumanityFerdinand von Zeppelin speechesIf corruption or an external power takes your dream to a low point, will you follow it again
8 CourageAmelia Earhart: CourageHave faith that we can achieve what we set out to do
9 Become Death
Bhagavad Gita, quoted by Robert Oppenheimer
The landscape we are able to create and destroy via our technology
10 The Power of SpiritYuri Gargarin quotesResilience of us humans to carry on
11 We Choose to go to the MoonJohn F. Kennedy: Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space EffortTo speak your heart’s wish aloud to gather others behind your cause

My thoughts on it now

As mentioned before these are difficult times for many of us. And while it may take a while to find the new norm, I think this album encapsulates a few of the basic questions and emotions people are struggling with a bit more then usual.

If I were to pick one of the tracks which represents our species right now I would pick The Power of Spirit. While we are facing one of the largest health crises of our short existence amazing things have also happened this year. The two vessels that have been launched to Mars may be the most contradicting thing we will remember about 2020. And to me that is a heartwarming thought. In a year full of metaphorical darkness we still were able to execute on our power to achieve our dreams.

To me, the dream of flight is an allegory of our deepest wishes to be important to someone else. And while we may not know who this person will be, we can not give up. I will not give up. Because it is clear to me that I have a part to play. Be it via my little soapbox here or via my book when it is finished, I do not know. But I choose to aim for the stars. When I have to land on the moon with no option to travel further I know that I have come a long way with my dream of flight and that I have shivered the sky.