Noise Intercepted Collaborators

Paul Alemparte - Teacher


Osaka, Japan

Why do I want to participate?

I am obsessive, both the healthy and unhealthy versions,  when it comes to noise and its many forms. Feedback, the panning of a fan, the gurgle of pipes, the deafening echo of students in concrete halls. Living in Japan with little to no understanding of the language, noise has become a language, an aural map, a way of orienting myself. I am curious to further examine what role it plays in shaping my life as a teacher in this foreign land.    



A Series of Harvest MoonsFeatured&Noise Challenge #4: The Soundtrack

April 17th, 2013 (8:20 a.m. – 8:29 p.m.)

1st listen (8:20 a.m.), 2nd listen (8:37 a.m.), 3rd listen (8:42 a.m.), 4th listen (8:46 a.m.), 5th listen (8:57 a.m.), 6th listen (10:12 a.m.), 7th listen (10:18 a.m.), 8th listen (10:23 a.m.), 9th listen (10:28 a.m.), 10th listen (10:33a.m.) 11th listen (10:38 a.m.) 12th listen (1:02 p.m.), 13th listen (1:07 p.m.), 14th listen, (1:12 p.m.), 15th listen (1:16 p.m.), 16th listen (1:21 p.m.), 17th listen (1:27 p.m.), 18th listen (1:32 p.m.), 19th listen (2:33p.m.), 20th listen (2:40 p.m.), 21st listen (2:46 p.m.), 22nd listen (2:52 p.m.), 23rd listen (2:59 p.m.), 24th listen (3:06 p.m.), 25th listen (3:11 p.m.), 26th listen (3:16 p.m.), 27th listen (3:21 p.m.), 28th listen (3:26 p.m.), 29th listen (3: 31 p.m.), 30th listen (4:26 p.m.), 31st listen (4:31p.m.), 32nd listen (4:36 p.m.), 33rd listen (4:42p.m.), 34th listen (4:50), 35th listen (4:56 p.m.), 36th listen (6:02 p.m.), 37th listen (6:07), 38th listen (6:12 p.m.),39th listen (6:17 p.m.), 40th listen (6:22 p.m.), 41st listen (6:27 p.m.), 42nd listen (6:30), 43rd listen (6:35 p.m.), 44th listen (6:40 p.m.), 45th listen(6:45 p.m.), 46th (6:50), 47th listen (6:55 p.m.), 48th (7:00 p.m.), 49th listen (7:05 p.m.), 50th listen (8:24 p.m.)


1st Listen (8:20 a.m)

Dressed, fed, and my survival kit is packed: headphones, laptop, good coffee (as good as I can get in Moriguchi), and whipping cream. Not a coffee culture. Off to school I go. I say school, because its definitely not work.

I pop in my headphones, and I’m reminded where my chronological Neil Young binging ended. Half way through Harvest Moon, the sweet sadness of the title track begins. I place the cardboard and plastic garbage by the curb, as its the third Wednesday of the month . Plastics only on the 1st and 4th Wednesday, of course. An instruction a day, keeps anarchy at bay. I unlock my bike, doing the best I can to accommodate the salary-men sleep walkers who don’t do the same for me. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line (Look straight. Don’t fuss. Don’t stick out. Look tired. Be tired. Work long. Don’t work hard. Don’t stick out. Colour inside the lines. Inside the lines!) And off I go. I pass the grocery store as Neil starts to sing, “because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again”. It’s the moment I realize this is the only song I will listen to today.

The song found me. Like all the art I love, it doesn’t explain itself. It just reveals itself. In that moment of exhibition, I get flashes from early high school. Long hair, long face. My brand of misery loved company, and the company I kept came in the form of a Panasonic Shockwave disc man. I could have never guessed that 15 years later I would be living in the city where that same source of joy was manufactured, minutes from where I now write this.

As the song plays on, I remember being in the kitchen with my mom listening to this album, remembering how sounds sounded in that kitchen, embarrassed by her slow dancing in a way only moms know how. I recall listening to the song, and somehow being reminded of heartbreak and heartache I hadn’t yet experienced.

I remember Harvest Moon having this reputation of being an easy listening album. Dental office pablum. At the time though, I just loved it. A guilty pleasure, so deemed by the pressures of friends who didn’t love it. Being older now, I’ve learnt how to give in to my inclinations, appreciating the things I like with justification for that appreciation falling by the wayside. Along with those people who required them.

Gore Vidal said, it doesn’t matter what people think of you; It matters what you think of them. This has been my mantra since being back in Osaka. It’s certainly my mantra this morning as I sing along loudly and proudly, passing the salary men and their replacements who now take the shape of high school students.

Overwhelmed by the ghost I will become once I arrive at school, the looks of confusion I still get after being in this same city for two years, the song now takes on new meaning. I pedal faster swerving between potholes, sewer grates and entitled pedestrians. I imagine being back in Canada, this song playing on the wind. No need for headphones. Just a self-propelled boy on the open road.

I pull into the school gates. “Goodo morningu!”. That rare moment when a student greets me before I do. “Good morning”, I say. “How are you?”, I ask. “Good morning!”, he answers back. Some people are stuck on good morning. Me, I’ve already had my coffee.

9th listen (10:28 a.m.)

Warm, grey day. The students aren’t as annoying today. I feel like they’re giving me a chance today. Not dismissive. Not racist. One class down, and three to go. The song has me on the verge of tears. I want to cry as an act of defiance. I want these robots to see what it looks like to be honest, to give in. To be emotional, beyond the two words they use to describe every seeming experience. To see if they would ask me, “What’s wrong?” “Are you OK?”. “Do you want to talk?”. They can’t see me. I am a ghost. There’s no greater loneliness than being surrounded by people, and being invisible. A leper. An alien. The other. Different. God forbid. Different.

And yet, these thoughts don’t prevent the song from seeping in. The interplay of guitars, melodious and glorious noise. A miracle of steel, and wood, and flesh. The repetitive “ffffffff-shhh” of the broom on the studio floor. Hook-laden music, just the way I like it. A well-crafted song goes a long way. I wish I could write such a seemingly simple song.

12th listen (1:02 p.m.)

The song has become an escape from the side effects of this experience. I press play, and it calms me down.

Minutes ago, I was standing at the back of the class. I am an invited guest, relegated to ornament. A trinket from a far away land. Unable to understand a word of the English lesson because none of it is in English. I am not asked to help. The teacher butchers the phonics lesson as sweat runs down his fat, bland face. He wipes his brow with his hand towel, an act which announces the approaching summer: lung-sticking humidity, rivers of sweat in places one shouldn’t need to sweat. The impact and the implications of these observations are cushioned as once again the song seeps in. The weight, the pressure, the anger, the frustration, washed away. No one in this room, in this school, in this city, save the few other ornaments that adorn classrooms across this city, have ever heard this song. It’s mine. I would like to share it with them, but they’re too busy.

26th listen (3:16)

At 2:30, with the last period of the day behind me, I was free to ride home, basking in the now visible sun,  to make my lunch. Neil sings and plays as I clean the morning dishes, and fry up some fish in a lemon, butter, and curry sauce for lunch. And suddenly, the song changes from  escape, to soundtrack. Still humming along, still harmonizing at the sweet bits, I find my appreciation for the song has changed again. When life becomes bright again, both metaphorically and meteorologically, noises certainly do change. It’s back to school to eat my lunch, and find my place inside the concrete bunker.

36th listen (6:02)

Third coffee fuel, and satisfyingly fed, I make my way home again. I lose the race to the express train, as it rumbles and shakes the space above me. The sun is still out and it is a glorious spring day. The other side of the coin. The pendulum has swung back.

Things feel different save the constant of the one song that has kept me company all day. I don’t know how many more times my thoughts towards this song will change, or in what way they will change. It occurred to me at some point during the day: is it my experience of the day that has shaped my experiencing this song, or is it the song that has shaped the day and the things I’ve felt? Todays don’t happen in a vacuum.

I experienced a powerful earthquake, my first ever, which lasted about 10 seconds this past Saturday. That was a long, terrifying, ten seconds. I imagined a lower case “i” when talking about myself after this experience. These things make you ask, how am I spending my time? Is this where I want to be? This song has tied this all to a longing to be back in Canada. The wide open space, the familiarity of the landscape, the colours that extend beyond the monochrome of a crowded satellite city. Because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again.

50th listen, (8:42 p.m.)

It’s the morning after my twelve hour experience of listening to one song. I was humming it as I fell asleep and it was the first thing out of my mouth this morning. Like a compulsion, I had to sing it. Yesterday feels like a dream. A song made me feel like I dreamt a day.

At 8:42 last night, I listened to Harvest Moon for the last time. A psychologically satisfying, and accidental, 50 times. It was a perfect experience: the sky was clear, the moon was bright, and the night felt as it should. I rode my bike the long way home before meeting a friend.

There’s no great realization. There’s no “what does it all mean?”. Not every experience requires a summation. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I just can’t really say why. Todays don’t happen in a vacuum.

A Big Thing From A SmallNoise Challenge #2: The Little Things

*WARNING* Turn your speakers/headphones down before starting this piece. Thanks!

Feedback is a musician’s nemesis. Uncontrolled, it packs a deafening, even nauseating, punch. If used with intention however, it can be a beautiful and powerful instrument. This is my attempt to contain, and create with this oft-overlooked noise.