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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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"Philosopher's Propeller-1" is a great opening song for the Philosopher's Propeller CD. It's rousing yet whimsical. It's full of techno elements but has that bit of folk music blended in alongside some almost operatic falsetto. And it has lyrics that don't really make much sense to me but that are somehow beautiful. :P

In other words, it has a bit of everything that makes me love Mr. Hirasawa's music. ;)

If you haven't seen it already, the music video for this song is also pretty amazing.

And in case you're wondering about my tags) "Philosopher's Propeller-3" is the Solar Ray remix of "Philosopher's Propeller-1." Same lyrics for both.

平沢進 -「賢者のプロペラ-1」
Japanese lyrics )
Romaji lyrics )

Hirasawa Susumu - "Philosopher's Propeller-1"
My somewhat fast and loose English translation )
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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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