By John R. Barner
Around the time I had set for myself to start recording music for the first story idea, I happened to be reading a book called Kūhaku & Other Accounts from Japan, edited by Bruce Rutledge. In the book, I was introduced to Aokigahara, a dense forest at the base of Mount Fuji that was a popular spot in Japan for suicides. Within a few days, I saw a link for a short film produced for Vice magazine in 2011 that followed Azusa Hayano, a geologist researching formations around Mount Fuji, who regularly ventured into the forest and often returned having either successfully counseled or recovered the bodies of any of the 50 to 100 persons who travel to Aokigahara each year to end their lives.
What I was reading and watching was both profoundly moving and disturbing, and I took my inspiration from it and the music came together in a short span of time. The final mixing sessions also corresponded to the birth of my son, which added to the already dizzying flurry of activity. As I continued, I was mindful that the topic of suicide is a tender one, for myself and countless others. In no way did I want to cheapen or glorify the subject matter. I read more, researched, and tried to compose the music in a thoughtful and respectful manner. In this I was and remain deeply indebted to the thought of Simon Critchley, the philosopher and ethicist who said that suicide “introduces the possibility of an encounter with some aspect of experience…not reducible to the self” (from his Very Little…Almost Nothing, Routledge: 1997, p. 74).
In a way, that remains my hope for not only my fictional character that “haunts” these five pieces of music, or, rather, goes from living to ghost in the space of them, but also for those actual troubled persons that inhabit the very real woods of Aokigahara.
Kūhaku & Other Accounts from Japan: http://www.amazon.com/Kuhaku-Other-Accounts-Japan-Rutledge/dp/0974199508
“Suicide Forest in Japan,” a Vice film: https://youtu.be/4FDSdg09df8
Simon Critchley’s “Suicide – A Defense” given as one of the Durham Castle Lecture Series, Durham University, in December of 2014: https://youtu.be/SO5bBtO26Cw