Nodame Cantabile

Posted on September 28, 2011


My love for classical music started really young (6? 7?) and, while dimmed at moments in my life, never abated. Till I entered secondary school I listened almost exclusively to classical music and oldies of the “Moooooon Riiiiiiver” ilk. In fact, one of my fondest childhood memories was the dress-up parties I had (in my mom’s clothes) (and make-up) (alone) during my bout of chicken pox when I was 11. For hours, I twirled like a deranged ballerina to the Nutcracker Suite, or the Swan, or one of many unidentifiable – by me, I mean, waltzes I had on cassette tape.

In secondary school I got swept up by tween culture, and the need to actually have friends, and left Bach for Backstreet Boys. A few years later radio-friendly “alternative” music (Green Day and blahs) hit the airwaves and I paddled enthusiastically into the Cool Kids stream.

But alone in my room after school, stubby limbs stretched out on my bed, I day-dreamed of my beautiful future adult life with Haydn and his peerless Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major. I dreamed of a big, light-filled, airy room with wooden floors, on which I would sit staring out of the floor-to-ceiling windows at gentle rain pattering over cobble-stoned streets and 15th century stone bridges – listening to the same track. Sometimes there would be someone – usually my crush of the moment, but even then rarely, because I did not want to sully my beautiful moment – but almost always, I was alone, happily and picturesquely pensive and full of noble melancholy.

Yes, yes. Nodame Cantabile. Of course I was coming to that! It’s one of the wonderfully unfathomable things about life that I would find myself, several (ahem) years later, in a city completely unlike the one I dreamed of, reconnected to classical music through a Japanese anime series that I started watching only because I got bored and had no booze buddy for the night.

So the storyline is… kinda meh, whatever. I’m more interested in the music, and there’s plenty. In Episode 1 (Lesson 1), Chiaki the suave brooding talented protagonist plays Beethoven’s piano concerto no. 5 in G major “Emperor”, and attempts to put his own spin on things. His piano instructor twacks him over the head and delivers this awesome line, “Don’t take it to the climax so soon and then finish it off, dumbass!” Yup, never a good idea.

Chiaki broods, but of course.

Later, he chances upon the girl-protagonist, Nodame, who is – you guessed it, not brooding, not suave but luckily talented, playing Beethoven “without errors”.

Nodame is a hot mess, but of course.

She’s also a giant slob. She played Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, commonly known as Pathetique. Chiaki had this to say: “She has big hands. And yet she’s playing difficult passages with ease.”

Anyway, Lesson 1 ends off with an amazing, glorious duet between Chiaki and Nodame, Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major.

This da shit

I couldn’t find the anime on youtube, so here’s the J-drama which seems kinda sucky. The music is still ill, I think, although I preferred the anime version.

I’m currently plowing my way through the next few episodes, but I guess my point is that this is a wonderful fusion of pop and non-pop. What a great idea to use an anime to educate people about classical music. In a world of changed tastes – who knew the Industrial Revolution would have come to music as well – it’s awesome that the newly-minted haves lend a hand to the havenots who have faded into obscurity primarily, I think, because music moguls have aggressively promoted a dulled palate and pale, shallow homogeneity. It’s heartening to know that pop culture can bring me back to the romantic parquet-floored loft of my teen dreams.