A lovely consideration of our new video from Alex Gallacher at Folk Radio


Jonathan Day has shared a beautiful animated video by Panadda Saetsai & Nuchteera Siwadune for In a Garden of Stones taken from his latest album, Sakura. It features a red-crowned crane whose image has long been associated with Japan, where it is called tanchōzuru and is enshrined in their mythology. They mate for life and are said to live for 1000 years (they can be found in a courtship display on an older 1000 Yen note) and are associated with luck, longevity and fidelity.

These incredibly graceful birds live for around 60 years and stand between 4 and 5 feet tall with an impressive wingspan that measures from 6.5 to 8.5 feet. It’s no surprise that they also appear in historic Japanese artwork. One of the most well-known pieces is by Japanese ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige of the Edo period – they appear in one of his wood-block prints from the One Hundred Famous Views of Edo series.

Historically, these Red-Crowned Cranes were placed under significant threat and only 20 birds are said to have existed in Japan in 1924, but today, their numbers have recovered to around 1000. Their marshland habitat in Hokkaido is protected from cultivation, and the farmers feed the young birds to help them survive the winters.

A single crane graces the front cover of Jonathan Day’s Sakura album so that before you even open it, you are aware of the influence of Japanese culture as well as nature, which are woven through his music and songs; as Thomas Blake said in his Folk Radio review: “…his songs have always been rooted in place and in nature. He is constantly aware of that interconnectedness.”

Jonathan Day: ‘Sakura’ comes from two years spent living overwhelmingly alone in a mountain cabin in the remote Berwyn Mountains in mid-Wales. Surrounded by the life force and individuality of trees, stones, water and sky, and through conversations with raven, hare, minnow and songbirds, the work was written, performed and recorded in the evanescent sun, wind and rain, dappling the mountains.

Thomas BlakeDay’s new album seems directly influenced not only by the customs and religions of Japan (and East Asia in a wider geographical sense) but by its music too. The music of its people, and the music of its hills, and stones and rivers and rain: these things pervade the very structure of Sakura, albeit sometimes in the subtlest of ways.

This is most evident in the introductory opening track, A Garden Among The Stones, which forms a beautiful and meditative piece that begins with field recordings before Jon Kypros’ shakuhachi takes centre stage. The effect is one of instant stillness, of contemplation. Beginning the album like this is a brilliant way of centering the listener, of coaxing them away from daily life and rooting them not just in the act of listening but of being. It seems to be pitched somewhere between the classical Japanese music of Kohachiro Miyata and the great ambient works of Hiroshi Yoshimura. 

Wind is blowing in tall grass, the day is warm and bright…

Folk Radio UK 24’1’24