"The traditional Christmas carol favorites are decked out in all their glory.
This is a running arpeggio of holiday enchantment. " - The San Francisco Chronicle (sfgate.com), 11/22/2011
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Today was a beautiful fall day! Walking my dog amidst swirling red Maple leaves, the crunch of dried leaves underfoot, I was reminded of the video for my song, Shimoda. We filmed it in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Japanese Gardens, also on a breathtaking autumn day.
I’d like to share the Shimoda video with you and, in celebration of fall – my favorite season – I am offering a free download of the song to my fans!
Here is a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p1mAeZEw88
Here is a little about the inspiration behind the music:
Shimoda is a port city at the tip of Japan’s Izu Peninsula. It is also the setting of a tragic legend – the story of a geisha named Okichi.
Born in 1841, Okichi was the daughter of ship’s carpenter. Her status as a geisha was a boon to the family’s meager fortune. Despite this, her father gave his consent for her to marry for love – to another carpenter named Tsurumatsu.
The ill-fated Okichi, however, caught the eye of Townsend Harris, the first US Consul General to Japan, who spotted her leaving a bathhouse. Negotiations between the countries were not going well and local politicians determined the girl should become Harris’s mistress in the hopes of gaining his goodwill. After much pressure, she agreed.
Okichi lived with Harris as his concubine for five years. After Harris left Japan, the people of Shimoda – Tsurumatsu included – shunned her, calling her “Tojin” (“Barbarian.”)
She turned to drink and struggled to make a living, first by running a salon and, later, managing an inn called the “Anchoki-Ro.” (The building still stands in downtown Shimoda – it is now a sushi shop.)
Okichi ended her life by drowning herself in the sea, a symbol of sacrifice and lost love.
Yet her story has endured. Okichi, it is said, was the inspiration behind Giacomo Puccini’s magnificent opera Madame Butterfly. Her life was also depicted in The Barbarian and the Geisha, a 1958 film starring John Wayne as Townsend Harris.
I, too, was captivated by Okichi and found myself dwelling on the legend when I began composing a piece in pentatonic scale, using only the piano’s black keys. Through it, I sought to capture the beauty of Shimoda as well as the poignancy of Okichi’s story.
I was incredibly fortunate to have that exquisite fall day in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Japanese Gardens as the setting for the Shimoda video. The images we captured there conjure up the unique beauty of Japan while the song takes you on Okichi’s emotional journey.
I hope it carries you away for a few minutes of serenity!