Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Repertoire Priorities

It's time to think over the repertoire priorities which I have set in the past two months.

I'll be embarking on solely two gigantic works - Bach's magnificent Chaconne from his Partita no. 2 in D minor BWV 1004 and Schubert's heartwrenching Arpeggione Sonata, for spiritual reasons more than practical reasons. Everything else musical, which includes pieces like the charming Histoire du Tango by Piazzolla, seductive bossa nova pieces and exquisite smaller scale works, shall be shelved temporarily.

More about these two works in the near future...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Teaching Music

Is it really that simple when teachers teach their students music? Is it merely about getting the notes out in a beautiful manner?

Now that I attempt to see the whole big picture, it's really about teaching them how to understand themselves through music and more importantly, to respect our fellow human beings as well. It isn't simply about getting the rhythm and notes right but about respecting what the composer had written down. It isn't about showing off your achievement to people who listen to you but to affect them in a spiritual and emotional manner, to touch them in the most special way before they know it, and even to help your listeners search for themselves in this lifetime on earth as well.

Now that I think of teachers, not just of music of course, it really is such a sacred job... If only all teachers in the world could know just how important they truly are...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Preparing A Wedding Programme

Having numerous requests to play for weddings before, I am currently considering to assemble a wedding programme. Think of the money involved. Guess I can't help but be practical. There really isn't any meaningful reason to be engaged to perform in such weddings, but I sure don't like the idea of seeing them walking away with disappointment. Now the question, what would be my programme consist of?

A conversation that occurs so very frequently to me just struck me at this point.

Friend: Hey, can you play the song Wonderful Tonight? (Or other similarly martian-sounding titles like Penny Lane. I have to admit out of the millions of titles I was requested to play, I could only remember these two.)

Me (Quizzical Look): Huh? What's that?

Friend (Exasperated Expression): Oh my, that's such a common song, for goodness sake!

Me: Common song? (Are they from Mars or something? Suggest some German Lieders back at them? No, they probably don't know them. Let's try some French chansons, any retard will probably be familiar with them.) Well, I know L'Hymne A L'Amour, or Ne Me Quitte Pas, or Revoir Paris or maybe Plasir D'Amour. (They sure look weirder. Ok, let's try something easier.) And I know songs like Fly Me To The Moon and Over The Rainbow.

Friend (Indescribable Expression): Eh, maybe you need to listen to the radio more often.

Me (Raising an eyebrow): Oh, probably so. (Silently thinking: Who's the one who needs to listen to the radio now? I'm not even talking about classical music. Duh...)

Well, even if I were to assemble a wedding programme, I guess the pieces I mentioned above will be what I'll be playing, together with certain hymnal arrangements. I've gone through the my collection of sheet music containing such music and have certain heart melting pieces in mind. I'm a little stumped at the level of such arrangements as they can easily require a higher, if not the same, technical level than the diploma pieces. Well, I can't really expect lesser if I'm going to choose arrangements by the legendary Roland Dyens, can I? Even hymnal arrangements played by Christopher Parkening can be exceedingly taxing as well.

Well, the good thing is that even if I haven' been approached to play for weddings, I would still like to pick up these pieces...

I'm giving myself a year to assemble an hour of programme of such level...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Charming Quote

As much as I love Beethoven and Mozart, the greatest is Bach. And they would be the first to agree. For me, to play Bach is a matter of hygiene. It's like taking a shower.

-Andras Schiff

I guess Andras Schiff had said it all. That's probably still an understatement of how powerful and spiritually uplifting playing Bach is...

I have to admit that the quote was stolen from Patricia's blog at oboeinsight. I'll have to apologise to her, but I really can't help but post up such a truthful statement which I completely agree with. =)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Reading Adorno

Thanks to Jeremy Denk's honest entry on Adorno's essays, my interest in that particular book has been piqued. Now that I've acquired this book, I've been spending most of my available time between practices, rehearsals, lessons and performances reading it. (As you can see, the available time that remains is actually the travelling time on buses and trains. How pathetic...) Trust him when Jeremy had indirectly commented that certain sentences of the book are beyond comprehension. It really isn't an easy read.

For the time spent studying Adorno's essays, I could feel all my brain cells to getting to work, making sense of the ideas which were going through Adorno while he was penning down these essays. I guess it's my craving for the most ecstatic state of epiphany upon grasping hold of his intriguing ideas and theories that actually drive me to overtax myself in all the various aspects necessary. I reckon that out of all sentences which I've come across in my life, the single sentence which I spend the longest time pondering on would be from this book. Yes, it is that addictive. His statements have this strange effect of playing on repeat mode in my mind, somehow suggesting that there's a much deeper and profound perspective to them. I often find myself searching my limited musical experiences for cases whereby what I've encountered before can support his ideas and theories on new music. New music. His common citations of works by Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Wagner and a few other composers have pushed me to explore this personally unfamiliar ground and opened up my mind to the richness and defects in their music, and of course, about the human character as well.

I dare say that my personal fondness in the indulgence of this book has been almost as satisfying as playing music itself. Almost.

A strong recommendation for those who think or are willing to think and want to explore much deeper into the various aspects of music.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Just two days ago, a fellow musician explained that she's learning the prelude from Bach's BWV 1006a as that's the favourite piece of classical music of her beloved husband. I was amazed at how much effort she put into the piece of work which was slightly beyond her current technical level. An uncommon stimulus for one to work on a particular work but certainly no less sincere or potent a motivation for them to study the work.

The musical Phantom of the Opera is coming to town again next year. Well, I've never been quite into popular operas, but I do catch them occasionally and appreciate them for their simplistic beauty. This musical, however, holds an important position in my heart, in the same meaningful way how the fellow musician treats her Bach prelude. Despite not being drawn to this production due to the musical qualities, I do find myself having a most urgent need to purchase the tickets as soon as possible for this production which will only be here late March next year...

Apparently, the phantom in me still hasn't faded away over time...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Approaching Music

Wouldn't different people have different interpretations to a particular piece of music, given the almost abstract quality of sounds?

A deceptively simple and innocent question posed to me by a friend who is relatively foreign to the classical music scene.

I guess the presence of an almost infinite possible interpretations within the stylistic guidelines is one most charming and mysterious quality in music. The music exists in a sublime and abstract state until it is subjected to the process of interpretation by a performer or listener, when in that most special moment it crystallises to become something truly personal. I wouldn't deny the fact that the music was created with a main intention of music in mind, and how close others can reach in their interpretations would depend on their level of aural sensitivity and musical knowledge, but to insist that every one, trained or untrained, has to come to that similar interpretation of the composer would make an extreme elitist out of me. I've often restrained myself (unsuccessfully sometimes) in saying statements like "listen the church bells in this part of the music" or "pick out the fighting sounds in the orchestra!", which results in people mentally forming the effects of the music which are mine and matching them to the music. Such statements do make them appreciate the music better in terms of the surface materialisation of the sounds but deprive them of a chance to interpret the music or sounds in their own way through the more intricate music processes.

Approaching classical music is certainly no easy task. Music composed in the different periods are written with particular intentions to people with different expectations and tastes. One certainly can't seek to unify the process of music appreciation for different periods into one which can be readily applied throughout the entire timeline of classical music. Baroque music, created with didactic intentions, often requires a more spiritual and pedantic approach, while romantic music desires a listener willing to be moved emotionally. Baroque, classical and romantic music wouldn't pose much problems for the average listener who expects something meaningful or expressive.

How does one approach avant garde music then? The fact that such music is often unfairly dismissed as musical kitsch only shows how retrograde the listening tastes and approach of consumers of this artistic form are. Such works, created in the light of overwhelming information and knowledge in modern times, contains profound universal truths (in their themes), which wouldn't be uncovered by passive listeners who expects to be moved in the traditional way. The music demands listeners to be actively involved with the musical processes at work by stepping into the abstract world of sounds and rhythms, instead of waiting for something to hit them while they're not prepared to be involved musically. People in the modern society, too often caught up in the wild pursuit of fame and money, turn to music in search of a resting point, expecting a replenishment of the soul before sidelining the arts again for their materialistic pursuit of worldly targets. Avant garde music seeks to rebel against this phenomenom, not by creating random and repulsive noise created in the name of modern art, but by hiding what the human race is looking for in a musical form which is not accessible to those who are unwilling to put in their part to uncover what music has to give. Ingenious. And if one manages to cross this barrier and pick out that gem of truth intentioned by the composer, from personal experience, I can assure that the experience is no less satisfying than listening to a pre-modernism work.

Serious music aside, recently, I've been attracted by the rich culture of Latin America through their music. I have yet to be able to tell apart the more intricate forms of Latin music. Thankfully, a Christian acquaintance and musician in Brazil offered to clarify my doubts about the forms of music they have over there, at the same time mailing over several records of the music at his own expense. It's amazing how rich and powerful the music is. Such music which is created and played at a more common level sure provides a refreshing change from the serious music created for the classical community. Such culturally rich music, like flamenco in Spain, invites the listener into the heartland of the culture and is simply, the voice of the masses and natives. I never fail to be amazed by how easily digestible the music is by people on the opposite end on Earth despite me never stepping into the that continent before.

Maybe such are the music which have a lasting and genuine quality without much drastic changes over the sands of time...