Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Strangest Experience

I apologise for the long hiatus! Thanks to Janice's comment, which reminded me that I still have this blog! It has been decades since I've last updated this place. Things have been really busy ever since school started, with me trying to balance performance, teaching, schooling and of course, dancing. I'm taking a break from the dance floor for these couple of weeks though, since my schedule has been leaving me breathless even before the end of the day and tango parties only start near midnight! There'll be an upcoming International Guitar Festival held locally in Singapore early next month and the updates should come as I'll attempt to review the performances and progress of the festival.

I haven't gotten anything informative to add, but I am having a lot of thoughts and feelings with regards to the performance yesterday yesterday. I had an unusual experience on stage yesterday. I was invited by the National Library Board with give a couple of performances every weekend for the past 3 weeks, mainly to publicise for the upcoming guitar festival. It was totally weird yesterday, when I found myself in the improvisatory mood on stage yesterday. It all started out with a memory slip in the Spanish Serenata - Granada by Isaac Albéniz, which was surprising because that was supposed to be my firmest piece and I wasn't the least affected by nerves. And of course, I kept the rhythm and worked out some random shapes on the fingerboard, but I swore it came out like I had added a snippet of Schoenberg into this romantic piece. Thankfully, after-performance reviews were pretty favourable for the piece.

And of course, the improvisation streak didn't stop there. Since I had a couple of arrangements of pop songs and tracks from famous musicals later on (what kitsch!), I decided to jazz them up a little (note: that was my intention, whether my execution was convincing was a completely different matter), this time intentionally. J's fiancée came up to me first after my performance, eyes wide open with petrification. "What happened to your pop songs?!?!?" Well, apparently, it doesn't work when you jazz such pieces up in, well, let us put this this way, Schoenberg style.

I intended to conclude the light session with just something light and easy, so I did the overplayed Romance in conventional style. Well, I did start the piece that way and intended to play it through simply, but when it came to the final recapitulation, I decided to throw caution to the wind and gave a tremolo version of that section. I had heard a couple of variations on it, but it was essentially a novel attempt for me, not to mention the fact that I hadn't refined my tremolo technique for what seemed like a couple of centuries. It was all weird and so different from a conventional performance. I just thought that since I couldn't make it refined, might as well do it fast, rough and hard (no pun intended). I'm still recovering from the shock that such a idea actually occured to me (or even existed within me for that matter) within that milliseconds I had to decide on how to end the piece on the stage. That was probably some Freudian process at work there. I don't exactly have a word to describe my state of mind towards the end. Barbaric probably comes close. Thankfully again, it was well received, surprisingly. The audience that evening probably liked it rough! Analysing it in perspective though, it was probably because of the fact that there weren't many people within the audience who were purists last evening. With authenticity and some variations, I could please both groups of people with their respective preferences (which, of course, wasn't considered when I was deciding to do it that way).

Those were the strange moments in last evening's performance. Of course, I am essentially trained as a classical musician, so the rest of the classical pieces I played were conventional, with me entering that altered state as usual. In retrospect, in some of the weird moments during the performance last evening, I somehow caught a glimpse of the state of mind jazz musicians are in. And of course, the way I did it was a far cry from how Stephen Francis improvised a jazzed version of Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love in Bellini Room later in that evening. Sublime!

Note: Schoenberg's name is used figuratively and simply in this post to symbolise passages which are not within the confines of tonality. I do, essentially, have lots of respect for him and his works and in no way should the above mentions of him suggest a mockery of him, his style or compositions.

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