I thought it would be nice to introduce two live versions of the Nobuyuki Mizuoka original melody “Sirius” — performed solo by the composer himself — since each has its individual style. As I’ve noted before, this musician seems intrinsically unable to play any song the same way twice. And that’s a key aspect of Mizuoka’s music-making: it is a cosmically creative force, unbridled, abundant and free.
You’ll notice in both videos the several kinds of Cereus genus cactus plants — a family of some 33 flowering species that are native to South America. Among the most captivating images are those of the night-blooming variety. Such exotic flowers serve well as filler segments, I think, since they and the title of this melody sound alike.
Clearly unalike are these two live recordings that were performed at separate venues. You’ll hear the first “Sirius” version played on an upright piano in a smaller room and the second version played on a baby grand in a larger room — which is why the two videos also differ in their image progressions. Both do embark from and arrive at the same points, though, reflecting the central themes expressed in the music and my interpretations surrounding them.
Speaking of themes and interpretations, there is no doubt in my mind that this clever composer had purposefully titled his original song to convey — among a number of connotations — his serious intent to challenge and advance his artistic gifts. His loyal fans will always support him on that, I’m sure.
4.17.2012 | Okubo Dolce Vita Café, Tokyo
This performance is, I believe, the very first instrumental of “Sirius” I’d ever heard. I was surprised to recognize it among the non-stop string of Mizuoka melodies the pianist was playing from memory at his lunchtime gig that day. There’d been just the vocal version of the song making the rounds at the time, and that one had gained a great deal of notice. Played as an instrumental melody on this afternoon, “Sirius” flowed forth just as nuanced and full-bodied as ever, wordlessly expressing itself once more.
Fond are my memories of the Café Dolce Vita. Near the piano was a mishmash of ready-to-go box speakers, microphones, music stands and cables, along with a fully assembled Gretsch drum kit. The café aimed to host amateur bands in the evening, and its room acoustics were pretty good. At lunchtime, having secured the maestro’s permission, I could set my Zoom recorder on any available surface to try for the best result.
I found the lunches at the Café Dolce Vita to be delicious and reasonably priced as well. The menu was based on an assortment of retort-pouch curries and pastas, served with a small fresh salad plus a cappuccino and dessert. Whenever I was there around noon, the place was nearly empty, being quite a long walk from Shin-Okubo Station. Such a lucky scenario (for me, not the owner) reduced the intrusion of pesky background noises to some clicks or clacks from the kitchen, and a clank or three from my own fork and plate…. 🍝 😅
During those Dolce Vita afternoon outings, I was given the chance to hone my ability to record live music and to silently eat my lunch.🍴👌 But there was little hope of practicing my Nihongo (Japanese language) — unless I grabbed a cab from Shinjuku Station to that location, which would entail something of a chat with the driver. 🚕
9.17.2013 | Ikebukuro Dope Lounge, Tokyo
The name “Dope Lounge” was naturally intriguing to me as a native English speaker. I’d followed a simple map to get there the first time, and the Manager happened to be standing at the entrance when I did. We exchanged the customary evening Konban wa’s — then I thought to try asking what the “dope” of Dope Lounge might be…. 🤔❓
“Ehhhhh tohhhhh….” he breathed through a tight grin as he took to squinting at a street lamp. After a suitably polite pause, I commenced to confide that this word “dope” could actually be said concerning Anything On Earth That Is Truly Fantastic (Subarashii) Or Beautiful (Utsukushii) Or Unique (Yoo-nee-koo da)~! And from that point forward, the Dope Lounge Manager was in the know about the true history of the name of his business establishment — A Thing Of Pride Indeed! 😎👏
I enjoyed this place for its fruit-juice cocktails in a tulip glass and the savory salmon roe on rice. Seated against a wall at the front, I could place my Zoom recorder on the farthest right edge of my table. That setup worked well for the most part, although here and there in this video you’re likely to hear a little of the activity at the bar.
The Dope Lounge Manager and his staff were very nice folks. They even seemed to be curious about new media options: on more than one occasion, they had allowed me to use their DVD player, sound system and wall-mounted flat-screen TV to show them my own music videos! It was by no means a packed house at those times, but I really appreciate that they were so dope about it. 😘🍀
With a fun hobby like this, I’ve been pretty lucky to go out on multiple musical meal missions that have taught me quite a lot. It might mean traveling tens of kilometers across town and back, but gigs like these were well worth the roundtrip fare.👌🎶
The unique melodies of Composer-Pianist Nobuyuki Mizuoka are routinely featured in the background music of the TV-Asahi Channel’s 秘湯ロマン (“Hitou Roman”— Hidden Hot Spring Romance) program in Japan. “Hitou Roman” was profiled in Yahoo News Japan in October 2018, the program’s 20th Anniversary Year: https://tinyurl.com/yb6xpa52