First things first...explaining the Japanese stuff: When I was a teenager, I began to notice a feeling I would almost always get toward the middle of August... it was a sad/sweet feeling that coincided with the signs of the summer winding down. In the deep South where I grew up, the quality of the sunlight would slowly change. Grasshoppers would begin their skritchy calls, and some leaves would begin to fall from the dryness of that time of the year. Since I lived in the country, the feed corn my grandfather planted would be almost dry and ready to harvest. The cornstalks would rattle softly in the breeze. There would be days when, even though the temperature was still in the 90s, when the wind would blow you would know that summer would end soon, and the wheel of the year was turning to autumn, then winter.
Today was one of those days. When I went outside to get the papers this morning, the feeling was so thick you could cut it with a knife, and it only grew stronger as the day progressed.
The Japanese have a name for that feeling - mono no aware. Loosely translated, it means "a sensitivity to things". In the West, it could mean "nostalgia".
Mono no aware is a concept coined by Japanese literary and linguistic scholar Motoori Norinaga in the eighteenth century to describe the essence of Japanese culture, and it remains the central artistic imperative in Japan to this day. The phrase is derived from the word aware, which in Heian Japan meant sensitivity or sadness, and the word mono, meaning things, and describes beauty as an awareness of the transience of all things, and a gentle sadness at their passing. It can also be translated as the “ah-ness” of things, life and love.
It's not really sad, as such - well, maybe it is, a little. But in a good way. Poignant would probably be a better word in English. I tend to like the feeling, because for me, it is always attached to approaching autumn, and I like autumn (my favorite season), along with the quiet contemplation of winter.
Thus endeth the philosophy lesson. But don't head for the exits! Please follow me past the Orange Danish for things that will be more fun...
After my bout with mono no aware this morning, I was definitely in nostalgia mode. And what should happen but I check into the Great Orange Satan and find a diary with a link to a musical (!) selection that I had only heard on a radio show that was a great part of my musical life as a teenager. And that was Beaker Street...
If you were within earshot of the AM radio station KAAY out of Little Rock, Arkansas, in the late 60s and early 70s, you know what I am talking about. This was prior to the advent of widespread FM radio - and at night the mega-watt clear-channel AM stations ruled.
The early 60s had Wolfman Jack on XERF-AM at Ciudad Acuña in Mexico, running 250,000 watts. Martians could probably hear him. FCC restrictions in the US held our little stations to less wattage, but KAAY, at night running 50,000 watts, could be heard all over the central US - and, under the right conditions, sometimes as far south as Cuba and north into Canada.
"Clyde Clifford" started Beaker Street, with the prototype album-oriented rock playlist (of basically anything goes experimental and avant garde rock) that would later migrate to underground FM stations across the country. But at that point, Beaker Street was all we in the boondocks could manage, and it was wonderful. (Always brought to you in part by The Little Barn, full of lots of wonderful stuff...)
I had a little Philco transistor radio with one of those hard plastic single earphones, but that was enough. Monday through Saturday night I waited impatiently for 11PM, when the show came on, and often went to sleep with "Clyde's" laid-back voice in my head. I would go through a nine-volt battery every night.
And King Crimson...
Okay... enough linkys for now. Maybe more later.
That's part of the soundtrack of my early life, all made possible by Clyde Clifford, et.al., and KAAY-1090...
Thank you for some wonderful music that helped a geeky (liberal) kid get through life in the backwoods of Mississippi in the 60s. You guys helped shape my worldview in a most progressive direction.