phonon_belt: (Default)
[personal profile] phonon_belt
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?

Alchemists thought that you had to go through a number of steps to create the magical philosopher's stone, which would allow you to turn boring old metals into gold and perhaps even achieve immortality. The steps in this process, itself called the Magnum Opus included nigredo (blackening), albedo (whitening), citrinitas (yellowing), and, finally, rubedo (reddening). Some alchemists apparently combined the yellowing stage with the reddening, leaving only three stages: nigredo, albedo, and rubedo.

If you feel so inclined, there's an entire world of scholarship on Jung's interpretation of these alchemical concepts as related to psychology. I'm definitely no expert, but my understanding is that nigredo is the painful realization that shadows exist in the unconscious and the despair that follows. It's the "dark night" of the soul. Albedo involves diving deeper into the unconscious and (for men) integrating the feminine anima and (for women) integrating the masculine animus within the mind. As this integration happens, the darkness of nigredo gives way to the purifying white light of albedo. (The stage of yellowing, citrinitas, would involve a dawn of sunlight and more awakening; it is also apparently associated with the archetype of the "old wise man," which is another interesting tangent.) The final stage, rubedo, then is when everything comes together and the individual achieves true wholeness of Self. The conscious and unconscious are integrated in a form that transcends time and space.

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


Date: 29 August 2011 19:24 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
What, no translation for "Opus"?

I kid of course, but I am glad you're doing translations for this album as it's the one I'm currently obsessed with :) I like all the ones you translated but "Opus" was one of the few songs that really blew my mind at first listen - keep in mind the only albums I had heard before then were "In a Model Room" and "Landsale"!