Bibō no aozora

Probably the single greatest balm to the weird internal weariness I've been feeling for the first half of this year is the song "Bibō no aozora"by Ryuichi Sakamoto, performed by him and Taeko Ōnuki on 2010's Utau. I put it on in the morning, in a state of semi-consciousness; I put it on after lunch, when I need space to regroup, and I put it on in the evening, when Ghyll curls up on the sofa and (finally) decides to stop moving for the day. If when I die my head is split open For Science they will find the first five notes—Manazashi wo—written in the folds of my brain.

I think it's one of those songs that either speaks to you, or doesn't. I'm not particularly moved by the lyrics, either, about the end of a relationship on a clear blue day, which Sakamoto and co-writer Masao Urino apparently belaboured and which are characteristically purple.

The song was originally released, performed by Sakamoto himself, on 1995's Smoochy, as a sort of minor-key 90s pop/electronic/classical crossover-type thing, and which is interesting but doesn't quite click.

The following year, Sakamoto rearranged the song for piano, violin, and cello for 1996's 1996. This version of the song was later used in the soundtrack to the movie Babel (2006) and is (I think) the most popular version of the song, drawing widespread acclaim among classical/soundtrack enthusiasts. The YouTube comments section is full of people saying things like "This song and the entire Babel soundtrack defines my life for the past 15 years." I think this version layers on the drama a bit too much. Ōnuki's singing has a certain stoic quality that I much prefer to layered strings.

Sakamoto himself obviously liked the song because he included different variations on it on other records throughout the 2000s. I read somewhere at one point that he regularly included it on concert setlists, but now I can't find wherever it was that I read it.



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