The arrival of the Spring always feels like a miracle. Slumbering systems slowly awaken in the mothership of our body, and we sail outside to be kissed by the sun and embraced by the world. But this seasonal joy is always tinged with a hint of melancholy, for it is when the seasons turn that the passage of time becomes more apparent. With it comes a realisation of our impermanence, and a sadness for those who are no longer around to share this change with us (including our past selves).
The Japanese have a perfect name for this feeling: mono no aware, the pathos of things: “a sense of transience of all things in life. The sun, the dandelion, the cicada, the Hammer and all of us: we are all subject to the equations of James Clerk Maxwell, and we are all ephemeral patterns destined to eventually fade, whether in a second or an aeon”, in Ken Liu’s wonderful words.
Mono no aware is a bittersweet sensation. It intrudes in our moments of joy, a ghost whispering in our ear that this will too come to pass, while at the same time highlighting something we all share, hinting at a hidden harmony in the universe. We revel in it whenever it arrives. Today we will leave you with two gems of Nipponese balearica which act as beautiful mono no aware generators. Enjoy!
First Yoshio Suzuki, a peripatetic jazz multi-instrumentalist whose 1986 record Touch of Rain is pure marina cool threaded with exquisite wistfulness. Our Sunday Morning’s piano refrain harkens to that primeval moment in childhood when we discovered loss, and projects it over a bouncy pastel boogie, recognising wisely that in its absence, all our happy moments would be shallow.
Motohiko Hamase is a bassist and composer who we already featured in an article about nature-oriented japanese ambient. Today we wanted to tell you about his 1986 album Reminiscence, which unsurprisingly brims with mono no aware.
Its first track, Childhood, proustly summons that blissful sensation of possibility with which we approached reality as children, knowing that every room contained a treasure, every object a secret, and every situation could be the start of an adventure. We complete the mono no aware puzzle when we set that spirit alongside out present one, and realise what we have lost.
The front-page for this post os obviously decorated by Studio Ghibli whose whole filmography is, one could argue, a big paean to Mono no Aware.