Random Fun 2 – Eyes Wide Open

Those who had visited my Youtube Channel featuring videos I had taken from Japan might have come across a video called “Eyes Wide Open“. This was a video I made as a trailer to my youtube channel, and features a compilation of videos I took during my trip. The song used in the video was composed entirely by myself under the alias of a virtual band “Contradicting Illusions“. I want to share my experiences and thoughts that went into the making of both the video and the song, which will hopefully help guide you to find your own inspiration for creativity.

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The virtual band logo I created back in 2005

REVIVAL OF CONTRADICTING ILLUSIONS

I had been writing music since 2004 using Guitar Pro, and gradually got better and better at it over the years. Since starting my second year of university in 2008 however, the opportunities I had to sit down and spend some hours composing new music had significantly decreased. In the meantime, I had started using the Vocaloid software (particularly the Hatsune Miku voice bank) to add vocals to my older compositions. During this time, my creativity ran completely dry, and I found it hard to compose anything new that I actually liked.

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My tools for creativity – guitar pro and Hatsune Miku’s Vocaloid voice bank

One of my goals of the 2012 trip to Japan was to get inspiration to compose new songs. I had a few ideas after visiting the Peace Museums in Nagasaki and Hiroshima (regarding war and its aftermath), and the Room of Living Dolls ride at Hep Five in Osaka (one based on horrors of life). The latter idea had grown into the “House of Living Dolls” project which is close to completion. However, I had wanted to write a song that reflects the feeling of traveling, but no matter what I did I couldn’t compose something I like.

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My virtual band’s current avatar on Google+ and Youtube, inspired by the Room of Living Doll attraction at Osaka Hep Five

FINDING INSPIRATION

For over a year since returning from my trip to Japan in 2012, I was very busy with my postgraduate research, attending local and international conferences, and conducting experimental work. During this time, I found very little inspiration to write songs. The only new song I managed to write was Empty Spaces, which I only got inspiration for by walking through a near empty carpark to my car at university (amazing the strangest ways to get inspiration for things). The rest I had published were modifications of past songs I’ve written. It wasn’t until my 2013 trip to Japan with my family did I manage to come up with something new. I think it was because I had just been there just over a year ago, and I didn’t do anything new as I was just showing my family around places I had already been. I also did not get up to anything stupid like I did with Brownie and J.C. The thrill and excitement from the year before was missing. It was only when I returned from my family trip and started comparing photos between the 2012 and 2013 trips did I realize the feelings and emotion that was missing, and immediately came up with lyrical ideas for Eyes Wide Open.

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You can even tell the difference in feeling and mood from the outcomes of my photos
(2012 on left, 2013 on right)

TRANSLATING EXPERIENCES TO WORDS

For most of the songs I had written up to this point, I usually started off with composing the backing tracks then fitting lyrics to match the mood and theme of the song. In this case however, I had trouble coming up with the basic music melody, so I started off with the lyrics instead. I must admit it is one of the sappiest songs I had written (and I’ve written plenty of sappy crap), but it is the most meaningful to me. The verses were by far the easiest part. The first verse was based on how excited we were to be traveling despite how absolutely tired we were majority of the time, and also our experiences in Sapporo and Otaru.

It’s time, my body wants to sleep
But my mind is awake, the excitement runs deep
The cold winter mornings, the streets covered in snow
The feeling of loneliness in this city of old

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The next verse was based on our eagerness to see as much of Japan as possible, which often lead to plenty of train rides to places that we had no idea what to expect. This was something I did not do on my family trip, as I cut down the amount of traveling to take an easier approach to the trip. We often looked forward to the next stop on our journey, no matter how much we missed the place we just left.

I pack my bags, I’m leaving this town
The train ride destination unknown
I feel I want to see something new
Goodbye to the world I have known

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The final verse was based on some of our experiences in Kyushu and Chugoku. It also reflected the nervousness of traveling knowing that one wrong move could end up getting us lost, injured, or even behind bars…not that we did anything that dodgy! I also reflected upon how much this trip helped me recover from anxiety issues, which I was diagnosed with a few months leading to our trip.

I sit by the sea watching the sunset
Hoping I don’t end up in a place of regret
I let the emotions succumb to the atmosphere
Let it wash away the worries of yesterday

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The toughest part was coming up with a chorus to tie it all together. In the end, what the trip did the most for me was changed the way I viewed the world. I gained a lot of experience from planning this trip, interacting with people I’ve never met, and finding myself in places I would never have dreamt I would go. In short, the trip helped me open my eyes to view the world differently.To cap it off, I was glad I went with my close friends Brownie and J.C., as the trip would not have been as fun without them!

Hey, now you’ve opened my eyes
Forever I will see the world in a brand new light
Just come with me
Forwards along this road of our own

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ITS ALL IN THE MELODY

Possibly the hardest part of writing this song was finding the key melody to match the lyrics and general feel of the song I was after. After having a think about it, I wanted something upbeat, yet ends with a bitter sweet sorrow once the melody ends. It would relate to us feeling excitement whenever we arrive at a new area, enjoying ourselves, then saying goodbye as we move on to the next place. I ended up drawing some inspiration from the theme to Chariots of Fire, which I was reminded about during the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. I also decided to use the koto soundbank available on Guitar Pro to give it a slight Japanese feel to the song.

UntitledThis was the main melody I settled for in the end

The next part was composing the tracks for the backing instruments. I wanted the backing tracks to slowly build up with time to reflect the experiences we gained with each new area we went to, before fading away at the end signalling the end of our trip. I intentionally made the song quite repetitive as I found that the tune was quite catchy and pleasant to listen to, and that once the song ended, I found myself left with a satisfied feeling, yet with some eagerness to listen to it again. It more or less matched our feeling when our trip ended. We were happy and amazed with what we managed to accomplish and knew it was time for the trip to end, yet felt like we wanted to go and do everything all over again.

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You can see just how the number of instruments builds up over time

Now, I am usually pretty horrible when it comes to writing guitar solos, but I felt that this song deserved one. I did not have a clear idea what I wanted from the solo, and I came up with several iterations. I ended up going with one that starts of pretty slow with plenty of long notes, before speeding up and playing higher notes with plenty of bends, hammer ons, and sliding. Pretty happy with the end result in the end, as I felt it did manage to capture the feeling of the built up and release of excitement very well.

UntitledMy finished attempt at a solo for the song!

THE VISUAL MEMORIES

The final part of the process was making the accompanying video to the song. I used a compilation of videos I had taken during the trip with my camcorder. The model I had was the HDR-PJ50 from Sony. The specs for it can be found on here. In addition to being a great camcorder, it was also able to take great photos in areas with bright light and in the daytime (not so well for night time). Majority of the photos on my blog were taken using this camcorder. The camcorder was also quite small and light, which made it quite easy to bring around.

HDR-PJ50This is an example of the same trusty model I used while in Japan

I went through my video collection, and selected one video for each main attraction/city/area we went to. I then selected about 4 seconds from each video which I could use, trim out the parts I did not want, then combined it all together on Windows Movie Maker. I tried to select videos that matches the lyrics where possible. It was very difficult and time consuming, but fun all the same.

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Be sure to check out my TaiaInJapan Youtube Channel to watch some of the videos I took during this trip!

EYES WIDE OPEN

After all the frustration of starting to lose my creativity in song writing, I realized just how much my trip to Japan has inspired me to pick it back up again. Since writing Eyes Wide Open, I had managed to write another 8 songs (some of which were clearly inspired by the Japan trip), with another one currently in the works to finish off my House of Living Dolls project. Sometimes all that is needed to reignite the flame of inspiration is to look at a few photographs, some old diary entries, or recall awesome memories. The trip to Japan has definitely opened my eyes to the world.

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