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Hello! It's been a while. My new job doesn't leave much time for translating, but I am still listening to Mr. Hirasawa, so all is well.

A while back someone asked about the song "Opus" and I finally got around to taking a stab at it.

As I discussed here, the theme for the Philosopher's Propeller album is alchemy and the process known as the magnum opus or the "great work." The song is titled "Opus" in English, but the Japanese word in the title can also simply be translated as "work," so it all fits together.

While much of the rest of the album fits with alchemy, this song to me seems more imbued with the atmosphere of things from the Hermetic tradition and the ideas of Aleister Crowley. (Just skim the descriptions of the magnum opus here and see if you agree.) The use of the word "The Fool" (the first card in a tarot deck) in the song title also hints towards this occult/spiritual meaning rather than the purely alchemical idea. Crowley was influential in modern tarot deck creation and study, in particular through the Thoth Tarot painted by Lady Frieda Harris. If you take a look at "The Fool" card in a Thoth deck and then consider the crazy imagery of this song, you might start seeing connections...are those feathers? And a lion? What?

At any rate, this is a mellow yet intriguingly beautiful song--a song of innocence and curiosity and perfect power, maybe. What do you think?

平沢進 -「作業(愚者の薔薇園)」
Japanese lyrics )
Romaji lyrics )


Hirasawa Susumu - "Opus (The Fool's Rose Garden)"
My attempted English translation )
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Despite the title, this song is NOT about the legendary Bigfoot. (Though Mr. Hirasawa said in the Music Industrial Wastes: P-Model Side book that he doesn't mind at all if you think the album is about a Yeti.)

It's hard to say what this song is actually about, though. (I think I'll eventually translate a description of the album Big Body that I found helpful.) The overall concept seems to be about the interconnectedness of humans and technology, so in that context, a lot of the words in this song (like "stack") relate to computer programming.

My personal image of the song is actually that a computer component or program is singing to the computer user. The computer or program is shuffling data around as fast as possible, adding things to the stack (which is like a stock of data) and making things happen without actually engaging in any physical movement. It rests when there's no operation to carry out. And it can hear the user's commands, though maybe the user is a mythical being, something people think exists and no one can prove--kinda like Bigfoot. ;)


P-Model - "Big Foot"
Japanese lyrics )
Romaji lyrics )

P-Model - "Big Foot"
My rough translation )
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"Waste Cabaret" is a song from 1999 (I think), but it feels incredibly relevant to the current state of the world: political movements, harsh military action, terrorism, unemployment, wasted lives, and terrible entertainment. Or at least that's what I think of with this song. XD

I sort of feel like this song would not have been out of place on the later Kaku_P Vistoron album.

This song is hard to translate because a lot of lines feel incomplete (verbs are missing entirely, etc.). To make the sentences work, though, I sometimes had to put in verb that isn't in the original. Also, the "ha!" that the singer interjects in every verse breaks up the lines in a weird way and almost seems to be a form of censorship or at least a sign that whatever's happening is unspeakable. I did my best to incorporate the feeling, but suggestions are always welcome, of course.

P-Model - "Waste Cabaret"
Japanese lyrics )
Romaji lyrics )

P-Model - "Waste Cabaret"
My attempted English translation )

Translation notes: Read more... )
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"Song of the Force" (or "Song of Power," perhaps) is another one of my favorites. It seems to be a song about folksongs, and the rhythm and sound effects are fantastic at evoking that magical, spiritual feeling of a night out in the open, when you hear animals and feel how insignificant you are.

Which brings me to a big translation problem. Usually I translation Hirasawa's lyrics from the first-person "I" point of view, even though most of the time he never uses a pronoun other than kimi/ "you." Not stating the subject of a verb works fine in Japanese, but not in English. Among other things, this song mentions acting as a flock (or herd, or group), which sounds awkward if it's from a single person's point of view. So this time (after much debate) I went with "we" throughout the entire song. I think this works with the idea of how communal folksongs typically are.

As always, I leave it to your interpretation.

平沢進 -「力の唄」
Japanese lyrics )
Romaji lyrics )


Hirasawa Susumu - "Song of the Force"
My very awkward English translation )

Translation Notes:Read more... )
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As discussed here, rubedo (or "reddening") is the final step for creating the philosopher's stone in alchemy. In terms of spiritual/mental growth, though, it is the culmination of the process of self-realization and leads to the appearance of the Self archetype, which Jung apparently described as "the total, timeless man . . . who stands for the mutual integration of conscious and unconscious." The process of rubedo has also been described as follows:
Once the inner light has been discovered, it must be made into the only reality in our consciousness. After having descended into the unconscious [in nigredo and albedo] . . . we found the Light. [...] [O]ur conscious, or attention, must completely penetrate our unconscious, or soul, or everything that lies hidden in ourselves.


Perhaps that's why this song is one big command to "see" or become conscious of something?

平沢進 -「ルベド(赤化)」
Japanese lyrics. )
Romaji lyrics. )

Hirasawa Susumu - "Rubedo (Reddening)"
My English translation )

Translation Notes:Read more... )
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The melody of "Philosopher's Propeller-2" is almost identical to that in the instrumental track "Albedo" on the same album. Both songs have what sounds like the chanting of some kind of sutra in the background, though it sounds more like a group of many people in "Albedo" and more like one single monk in "Philosopher's Propeller-2." (No idea what's actually being chanted, though.)

To go back to the alchemical background to this album, albedo (or "whitening") would be the second stage on the way to creating the philosopher's stone or (on a psychological level) transforming the self into something resembling enlightenment. Albedo is a stage where the individual comes to terms with the male and female aspects of their unconscious, and gets rid of "inflated ego and unneeded conceptualizations." (That might be part of the reason "Albedo" has no lyrics--they're unneeded. "Philosopher's Propeller-2" also has rather sparse lyrics and mentions getting rid of "today" and the past it's connected to.)

As this page notes, in albedo:
[A] white light appears. [...] The alchemist has discovered within himself the source from which his life comes forth. The fountain of life from which the water of life flows forth giving eternal youth. The source is one: male and female are united.


But enough. Let's look at the lyrics!

平沢進 -「賢者のプロペラ-2」
Japanese lyrics )
Romaji lyrics )


Hirasawa Susumu - "Philosopher's Propeller-2"
My inelegant English translation )

Translation Notes: Read more... )
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As I mentioned here, nigredo is the first step for creating the philosopher's stone--a source of enlightenment, basically--in alchemy, but the concept has been applied to spiritual/psychological development as well.

To quote from this random website:
Psychologically, nigredo is a process of directing oneself to find self-knowledge. A problem is given full attention and reduced to its core. This is not done so much in an intellectual way, but especially by feeling the emotions. By really going into . . . it, one causes . . . the decomposition of that in which one had been stuck. The confrontation with the inner reality is often painful, and can lead to depression. But once in the depth of the darkness, with the discovery of the seed of the problem . . . the white light is born (= albedo, whiteness, the next phase). A state of rest arises.


Now, on to the song!

平沢進 - 「ニグレド(黒化)」
Japanese lyrics )
Romaji lyrics )

Hirasawa Susumu - "Nigredo (Blackening)"
My English translation )


Translation Notes:Read more... )

- Interestingly enough, these lyrics have a lot in common with the lyrics of "In the Square," a much earlier song.
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If you look at the album Philospher's Propeller, you'll see that tracks 2 through 4 are named "Rubedo," "Nigredo," and "Albedo." Another track later on the album is called "Opus." A quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for the term "rubedo" will tell you that these terms are connected to alchemy and (Mr. Hirasawa's favorite) Jungian philosophy. I've even seen Philospher's Propeller marketed as "Hirasawan alchemy."

But what does this actually mean? Read more... )

So, despite the order of the tracks on the album, perhaps we should try listening to the songs in this order: "Nigredo" then "Albedo" and then "Rubedo." "Albedo" is an instrumental track, but the same melody is presented with lyrics as the final song on the album: "Philosopher's Propeller-2." So, in alchemical order, the tracks might actually be "Nigredo" - "Philosopher's Propeller-2" - "Rubedo."

I'm going to translate all three of these songs to see if the lyrics brings us anywhere interesting in this strange world of alchemy and psychology. :)

Links to the lyrics translations:
- Nigredo
- Philosopher's Propeller-2
- Rubedo
- Opus
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"Siam Lights" is from Mr. Hirasawa's second post-Thailand solo album, Siren. Siam being an old name for Thailand and (apparently) a neighborhood in Bangkok, it's clearly drawn from Mr. Hirasawa's experiences in Thailand. The song reappeared on the tribute album Switched-on Lotus, which makes me think it has some personal significance to him. The sound alone is beautiful, but the lyrics are filled with an almost terrible longing and when his voice soars in the refrain, it's heartbreaking. I simply love these sorts of gentle, powerful songs he makes every now and again.

This is my own vague weird interpretation... )

平沢進 -「SIAM LIGHTS」
Japanese lyrics )

Hirasawa Susumu - "Siam Lights"
Romaji lyrics )

My disappointingly awkward translation )

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