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The Song That Changed Your Life

Nausicaa Requiem by Isaac Yuen

This story is on the shortlist for The Song That Changed Your Life challenge. 

Video source: Youtube.

I was five, maybe six. It was my first experience in the theatre, I think. My aunt took my cousin and I to see an environmental film about a princess who loved insects - I do not recall the name of it in Chinese. What I do remember was the ending of the film: An act of sacrifice borne by the protagonist to ensure peace between humans and nature. I should say that I recalled this scene by proxy, because it was accompanied by a piece of music that had, unbeknownst to me at the time, embedded itself deep into the fabric of my being. The haunting melody had the ethereal voice of a child: Innocent, evocative, resonant.

The song was a revelation: I was deeply rocked for the first time in my short life. Combined with the scene, the tune revealed beauty within tragedy and introduced me to the poignant moment. For days afterwards, I recalled trying desperately to hold onto the feeling, to remember it always. I made a concerted effort to hum the song to retain its power and potency. But I was five, maybe six. There were other things to do and feel and be. The music died and the scene faded, slipping into the recesses of the mind and plastered over by more topical memories of growing up: Immigrating to Canada, playing in the garden, sleeping through biology class, working out in the field. 

But once in a while, in the space between ends and beginnings, when I had the opportunity to pause and simply be, a note or two would escape the dark country of the subconscious into daylight. In the shower, on the road, at the boundary of wakefulness and sleep: The voice of a child would softly call. Then the song and the scene and the tears would come, following a subterranean river of emotion that was always near the surface. 

Reunion came serendipitously one night during the airing of a special tribute to filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. As I rewatched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind for the first time in over two decades, I reflected upon the soul-stirring power of film and music to shape one’s identity. Composer Joe Hisaishi’s Nausicaa Requiem had brought such enduring joy and meaning to a child’s life that it sparked his lifelong passion for nature and the environment. For that, I was forever grateful.

Isaac Yuen is from Coquitlam, BC..




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