A Pastel Worldview

For those of you who noticed, I had put up a post about the computer science curriculum and how it could be changed. After receiving a good deal of input, I’ve decided to take it down for the time being. I want to get the optimal chance of making a difference, and there are some official avenues I should try before I just through my thoughts online. End of that for the time being.

It’s been a long week, but now it is finally at a close. And so is the weekend… Back to the grind. Whenever I get to the end of a stressful period, I listen to one particular song to remind myself that everything, all of the struggle and frustration, is worth the effort. I didn’t always have this song, and before I did I recall constantly scrolling through my music library trying to find a song that epitomizes happiness. My problem was that while I had songs that were happy in some way or another, each was tilted towards a particular other emotion. For example, “We are the Champions” (Queen) is a triumphant, victorious happy. But what happens when you’re just happy, not because you’ve won anything or succeeded at anything in particular? “Gives You Hell” (All American Rejects) is on the same end of the spectrum – happy in an I-beat-you, vengeful fashion. There are an endless array of love songs that fit the category such as “Rollercoaster” (Bleachers) and “Out Loud” (Dispatch), but these don’t seem to apply as often as I would like. Finally, there are songs that come very close by trying as hard as they can to put happiness to words, like “The Important Thing” (These United States) and “Good Life” (OneRepublic).

While nearly hitting the mark, I never find these songs to be quite satisfying in defining happiness for me. I finally found my happy song off of an album recommended to me by a high school friend who I hear has gotten into comedy these days. That album is Endless Fantasy by Anamanaguchi, and the song is Pastel Flags:

From the opening 2, 3, 4 beats of the song Pastel Flags is pushing you forward. The half-time feel continues through the first four measures while momentum builds, then breaks to the (original) double time tempo to finish out the chorus. The solo synth line lays down a catchy progression that is played upon by periodic interjections from the higher harmony, only for the two to join together at the end of the first chorus at 0:18. The chorus resolves itself simply but firmly at 0:24. There is a brief interlude before the solo comes back in at 0:37. The solo line continues through the verse and into the chorus, with “breath” breaks filled in by harmonies that act as back-up singers. The beat keeps rolling with emphasis on 2 and 4 throughout except for part of the bridge at 2:15 where emphasis falls on the and of 3 and the and of 4. The final power drive of the song begins at 2:30, with the percussion filling every down beat, solo line re-stating all of the prior themes, and harmonies playing along with and through the solo. The song ends with a repetition of the last measure a few times, as if to draw out the emotion for just a few more seconds.

So that’s the song in a very dense nutshell. Without words, however, it seems strange that Pastel Flags can instantly and reliably make me happy. Let’s start with the title – what are Pastel Flags? In my mind, Anamanaguchi is picturing a room of children tasked with drawing the flag of whatever country they like. Hundreds of greedy hands reach into a worn cardboard box and come out with fists full of crayons, markers, and pastels. Only the brightest and boldest colors are included, all others tossed back in the box or over a shoulder. Lines are drawn haphazardly; stripes are uneven and symbols are misshapen. Most importantly of all, nothing is fully colored; white space peaks though all over the flags. Finally, a name is illegibly scrawled at the bottom of the paper, and they’re off! Off to recess, to story time, or to wherever else they are bound next.

Put this image and the song’s musical elements together and you get a wonderfully innocent and optimistic worldview. The world is full of bright colors, boundless joy, and incredible people. There’s no time to slow life down when there’s so many amazing things to do. The harmony parts are those who live life along with you, pushing you forward to be the very best you can be. Our words and actions are our pastels, our instruments of creating change in life. Everything around us is a marvelous pastel drawing that we run through and shape along the way, with crayons, markers, and pastels in both hands.

Just like the flags, though, this worldview is incomplete. There are white spaces, untouched by frenzied coloring, that are left unspecified. Similarly, there is tragedy and sorrow in the world. It is naive to pretend otherwise. Pastel Flags, however, isn’t denying that these blights are present. A Pastel Flag is perfect and beautiful, even if there are spaces left out. It reminds me that every now and again it’s good to feel purely, fully, and idiotically happy.

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