TOKION SONG BOOK #5:Cassandra Jenkins’s “Hard Drive” depicts a world that coexists in recognition of diversity.

Japan still has a lot of challenges regarding vaccination. On the other hand, America is gradually returning to its pre-COVID19 daily life by removing its mask. How will we face the social issues highlighted by Pandemic? Every country in the world is approaching a phase.Brooklyn-based SSW Cassandra Jenkins became accustomed to music from an early age with the parents of folk musicians. And while she worked as an editorial assistant, she began to face music in earnest as a player. She was shocked by the sudden death of David Berman of Purple Mountains, who joined as a support member. Her “An Overview on Phenomenal Nature”, which depicts her accepting her sense of loss and sometimes recovering while interacting with others and sometimes herself, is arousing a lot of sympathy.

Seeking a connection with nature and looking at its importance

Around the beginning of April, the warm season came and I wanted to go out to the table. A year after the pandemic, vaccinations have finally begun and behavioral restrictions have been relaxed a bit, but the chances of going out have been significantly reduced compared to before the corona epidemic.Perhaps because of such daily life, I have come in predisposed to seek nature more than before. As I stayed in home, I felt that the passage of time was paralyzed, and I became more eager to get in touch with the flow of the seasons while looking at the flowers and vegetation.It seems that I’m not the only one who feels like this, and there are movements to deepen relationship with nature in various parts of society.

One of them is an article entitled “The Social Life of Forests” published in The New York Times Magazine on December 6th last year.Canadian scholar Suzanne Simard, who studies the ecology of forests, continued to publish the discourse that each tree in the forest lives in support of each other, regardless of type.Her theory finally been recognized in recent years and is now attracting attention.

When Ms.Simard first published the research, it was so groundbreaking that it was unpopular with other researchers.They stated that trees exist individually, and that there can be no network formation of trees that she advocates, let alone mutual aid between different species of trees, and her theory is It was ridiculed as “very girlish”.

When I first saw the PV of “Hard Drive” recorded in “An Overview on Phenomenal Nature” with a nature motif by American singer-songwriter Cassandra Jenkins, it was called “girlish” in this article. The phrase came to my mind.The song “Hard Drive” in “An Overview on Phenomenal Nature” with a nature motif by American singer-songwriter Cassandra Jenkins. When I first saw the PV, the phrase “girlish” came to my mind.

Looking at the recent music scene in general, there are works with the theme of nature.

Typical examples are “folklore” released by Taylor Swift during the lockdown with a strong desire to create, and “evermore” following it. “Hard Drive” also projects the identity of a woman, focusing on the importance of connecting with nature.As Mr. Simard’s “Network in the Forest” discourse was labeled “girlish” and later recognized as a result of her research, Jenkins escaped from a male-dominated society and faced nature. So, dynamic expressions such as regaining oneself are attracting attention.Jenkins’ approach can be seen in the next opening part of the song.

So these are real things that happened
Where you can apply these, these, um, important concepts
And understand that
When we lose our connection to nature
We lose our spirit, our humanity, our sense of self

The narration of the introductory part of the song introduces the interaction between the narrator woman “I” and the female security guard she encountered. After being taught by the female security guard the indispensable relationship between humans and nature, she then goes into a song and develops into a male-female relationship in the lyrics.

A security guard
Stopped me to offer an overview on phenomenal nature
She said, “Sculpture is not just formed from penetration
You see, men have lost touch with the feminine”
And with her pink lipstick
And her Queens accent
She went on for a while about our president

The “sculpture” the female security guard speaks of is probably the birth of life. It is not just the result of penetration, the act of sex. It is implied that childbirth means the establishment of a new relationship between mother and child, and fosters affection and tolerance for people other than oneself.However, not only did the men not care about it, they also stopped looking at it.”President of this country” refers to Donald Trump, given the time when the song was made. As symbolized by that Trump, he pledges allegiance to himself, cares only for those who do not have an extra mouth, reveals hostility to other human beings, and is obsessed with aggressive words and deeds toward them. There is such affection and forgiveness in the opposite position to the narrow world.

Find common denominator in the connection with nature in “Hard Drive”

That’s why I found something in common between Mr. Simard’s theory of network in the forest and the connection with nature in “Hard Drive.”Even if the trees are of different varieties, the idea of sharing nutrition and participating in creating a community of forests calls for fostering solidarity and aiming for a new era and society, transcending boundaries such as race and nationality. It is compatible with this work.
The ending of the song embodies her message.

I ran into Perry at Lowell’s place
Her gemstone eyes caught my gaze
She said, “Oh, dear, I can see you’ve had a rough few months
But this year, it’s gonna be a good one
I’ll count to three and tap your shoulder
We’re gonna put your heart back together
So all those little pieces they took from you
They’re coming back now
They’ll miss ’em too
So close your eyes
I’ll count to three
Take a deep breath
Count with me”

There is a preamble to this. As the title “Hard Drive” means, “I” learned to drive a car from a man named Darryl, and he sat in the passenger seat and kept giving instructions to her and “He reminds me to leave room”.When she finally got her license, “I” confess that he was already 32 years old.

In a male-dominated society, “I” have lived by being obedient to their rules, but it is no longer necessary.Society is shifting to an era in which it is possible to fully demonstrate its inherent power.Regain “I used to live without being obedient to men” and live. The image spreads in the world of this song.However that doesn’t give the impression of being exclusive. Rather than excluding someone, while respecting each person’s personality, values, and claims, as if trees of different heights, flowers, leaves, and fruit types form a mutual aid network in the forest. We try to create our society without being bound by ourselves. This song has such a generosity, which may be because it gives the listener a certain sense of compatriots.

Illustration Masatoo Hirano
Edit Sumire Taya


Ryoichi Niimoto

Born in Kobe in 1959. Writer. He moved to New York in 1984 and lived for 22 years. After returning to Japan, after working as a full-time faculty member at Kyoto University of Art and Design, moved to New York at the end of 2016. “Reading “New Yorker”” is being serialized in the Japanese edition of “WIRED”. The main author is “Looking for that sky” (Bungei Shunju).Currently Lives in Brooklyn.