Saturday, December 31, 2005

March No. 1 "Elemental Stage"

Went to the premiere of a composition, March No. 1 "Elemental Stage", by a local composer, Wong Kah Chun yesterday. It was played by the alumni band of the school which I graduated from three years ago. As written in the programme notes, this piece is the first in a series of future compositions whereby the limitations of the march are explored in great detail. In his first march, he toys around with bitonality in various sections of his music.

I would believe the performance last night wasn't quite up to his expectations due to the unbalanced proportion of the sections of the band, not to mention that the musicians themselves aren't seasoned performers.

Nonetheless, it's a pretty interesting work and I'm looking forward to his future marches. His March No. 3, with an enigmatic title, "Project L", will be slated for an informal recording next week. I shall attempt to take time off to attend the session.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Mozart's 250th Anniversary

Scene from the new Mozart promotional film (Taken from here.)

The coming year 2006 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the most famous Austrian composer of all time - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Plans are in place for a whole string of activities to commemorate his 250th anniversary in Austria next year and there promise to be both pomp and circumstance.

I personally don't quite like the idea of commercialising such a historic event with products bearing the name and pictures of Mozart stacking high along the streets all over Austria. It does seem to me that businessmen are sick of changing the image of their products so often to bear the image of pop stars and decide to turn to someone with a more lasting value.

Despite my discontentment at how some people treat this event, I would still very much love to make my way down to Salzburg to watch the performances devoted to this composer. Well, by the way, Salzburg will host a total of 260 concerts and 55 Masses devoted to Mozart's sacred music, including all his 22 operas performed at the Salzburg Festival next year. A sumptuous feast, isn't it?

Be sure to visit the website dedicated to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th birthday - Mozart 2006!

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Christmastime is here again! A day to commemorate the most perfect gift given unto us by God - our beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

This Christmas, my school's choir has been scheduled to carol at Fullerton Hotel for 5 days. Went down to catch one of their sessions and they sang pretty well despite the open acoustics of the hall, not to mention that they are singing more than 10 sessions in total. Besides the joy of meeting friends whom I haven't met for months, the mood that evening was absolutely peaceful and filled with love, away from the overly commercialised environment everywhere else.

It has been such a spiritually and emotionally satisfying Christmas this year, with the close company of God, lots of passionate sacred music, and sensible and matured new friends. =)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Scales Practice

It's been quite some time since I studied and analysed the left and right hand techniques of professional guitarists. Just thought of re-looking at their techniques today, with the hope of incorporating some of their better techniques into my own. As such, I pulled out every single DVD I have of professional guitarists from my collection of music materials to watch.

It came as a revelation to me that most of the differences in their techniques actually stem from their practice of scales. They probably don't practise much scales after turning professional, but I realised that the way their music sounds was still very much dependent on the way they had practised their scales in their youth.

I admit that I haven't been a strong supporter of scales practice before today, despite the fact that my teachers kept emphasising on their importance, which I only discovered today. Even if I were to practise my scales industriously before today, I wouldn't be able to perfect my technique for I didn't know the intricacies of the scale practice that I had to take note of. Comparing the way the different guitarists play, I realise that their overall poise and the amount of control they have over the music actually stems from their movements of the left and right hand movements (all the way from the upper arm to the last joint of their finger).

Most of the DVDs I watched were pretty disappointing. Of course, their music comes across to me as sincere, but I realise that there was 'something' which was holding them back in expressing the full spectrum of emotions in the music they play. And that 'something' was the technique based on the way they practised their scales. Strangely, after that, I just dug out all the scales requirement and started practising on them for hours, and thankfully, I had quite considerable progress.

However, I still wouldn't recommend musicians to whack the scales blindly and merely aiming for speed and 'surface fluency'. I now believe that scales practice is useful only when one has the correct aim of economy of finger and hand movement and at the same time, drawing out the best possible one and volume of the instrument at that particular speed.

Melvyn Tan

The controversy over this Singaporean pianist who evaded National Service has been present for quite some time. Thought of penning my opinions over this issue as a Singaporean musician who is currently serving the much dreaded National Service.

For the benefit of those people who don't know about this issue, here a short biography of him. Melvyn Tan had moved to the Yehudi Menuhin School in Sussex, Britain, to pursue his music studies at 12. However, when he was supposed to return to Singapore at the age of 18 to serve the compulsory National Service, he was accepted in the Royal College of Music in England and decided to go against the law by not returning to serve in the military. Subsequently a year after, he renounced his Singaporean citizenship and since then, he hasn't been back until this year. And basically, he hasn't been setting his foot on his native soil for around 30 years.

When the news of his evasion of National Service first appeared in the headlines, letters of discontentment flooded in the media. When they were published, I was taken aback by the harsh comments that came in. Truthfully, when I first read the news of his evasion, I was surprised I could just shrug it off and chuck it away at the back of my head without feeling much contempt at all, given the fact that my pursuit of my music studies was impeded by these 2 years of National Service. I could roughly guess most of the hateful letters which came in were by those who are currently serving the military, but I never thought they were so unforgiving, to the extent of buying tickets for his concert just to go on strike over there. I just thought that given my circumstances, it was me who should be having such pathetic sentiments.

If they had thought that it was unfair, they can simply go do the same, can't they? It's not too hard to just absent yourself from the military by going overseas to do what you want, is it? Examine their actions a little deeper and it wouldn't take much to understand such feelings just stem from their cowardly nature, which stops them from deserting the military, and jealousy, which is such a perverse emotion found commonly in myopic people who are unable to look at the whole big picture.

As for Melvyn Tan, I admire him for his achievements and for his courage to pursue his own dreams instead of coming back to an organisation where everyone is forced to conform to the system. And no, I don't sympathise with him, instead, I sympathise with those who blasted out at him, for these people haven't been able to look at the whole picture and their opinions have exposed their most pathetic and unforgiving side of human nature.

It's a pity he cancelled his concert and withdrew from judging the National Piano and Violin Competition, for there're true music lovers who would want to attend the concert to enjoy the music. But I guess such actions of his are unavoidable, given the number of immature citizens we have here in Singapore.

Friday, December 16, 2005


It does seems to me that people who are into serious classical music are more sensitive to their surroundings as compared to people who don't practise the arts at all. For some reason unknown to me, it is those people who practise the arts which are able to detect the first signs of emotional instability in another person. Also, while a musician indulges in the simple and harmonious sounds of nature and cringe at the repulsive, yet almost inaudible noise produced by machinery at a distance away, most people who aren't into music aren't affected emotionally in such a drastic way by such subtle sounds they hear.

It's amazing when I start thinking about how vulnerable I am to the surroundings. It truly makes me feel more human in this modernised society where people just overwhelm themselves with work which numbs the humanistic part of them. It's a truly spiritual experience when I can sit back and indulge in the simple and poetic sounds of nature everytime when people around are procrastinating about their day at work.

On the other hand, I have friends who are so into music at the other end of the spectrum, like trance, which I would classify it as a part of the minimalist movement. Such music (if you would want to call them music in the first place) functions in a totally different way. I haven't gotten down to expose myself to trance music for hours but from their experiences, they said that overlistening just numbs thems and when people ask them what have they been listening to, they couldn't quite answer. It seems to tell me that such music desensitises people instead of heightening their senses like what traditional classical music do. A little of it would help one appreciate the subtleties of sound, but excessive exposure merely desensitises the person I guess.