Monthly Archives: September 2011

Of Patriots & Puppets

So it seems that the CA/Test week had little effect on my concert attendance these few weeks, during which I visited the Esplanade an average of ~1.7 times per week. For the sake of my sanity, and seeming like a cultured individual, I’ll start doing some concert reviews over here.

The latest concert I watched was Kavakos’ Sibelius Violin Concerto (+ Mahler’s 1st but that was an afterthought [to me]). Well the Mahler was alright but I’m biased and couldn’t care less. Kavokos on the other hand, made me think twice over the “overplayed” Sibelius. It was at once clean, rough, lyrical and rustic, started standard yet finished flavourfully.

In more understandable terms, Kavakos’ technical security notwithstanding (well he did misspace a set of sixths in the 3rd movement), his daring to “bite” through lyrical sections, look risky on his left hand (he shifted with a combination of arm and hand movement) and overall hippie appearance gave me an anti-establishment “screw you” feeling. That was to the point that I was hoping so hard that he would play a Ysaye for the encore just because he looked and sounded the part that night. The phrasing was as natural as the bow changes were abrupt and articulated, yet seemed to breathe a new meaning into the old song. The “gypsy” feel to it was almost as though he was going through (in my own words) a “mid-life, hippie, anti-establishment crisis” and he was tired of the modern world and it’s clean, sterile sound and copies of what-this-or-that-should-be. The “winter air” opening became grittier (on a Strad no less), and the 3rd movement was just “let-ripped”, so to speak.

Of course it could just be him forcing the sound out of his rather elegant Strad, but the 2 Bach encores he played proved otherwise. The Sarabande (D minor) and Adagio (C major) was one of the smoothest sounding set of renditions I’ve ever heard live or recorded. The repeats of the Sarabande were lightly embellished, and overall, if the organ were a string instrument, it could be taken that Bach had imagined this sound when he put his quill to his manuscript.


This concert set me thinking much more than most of the others this year, including Gabriel Ng’s incredibly mature take on Elgar’s Violin Concerto, about how the old school sound can still be relevant and, most importantly, heard and loved in (or despite?) the current zeitgeist.


Barely hours ago, I had the privilege of playing yet again with TPO, with a very strong orchestra since the days of the failed re-playing of Sibelius 1 and 3. With a formidable wind and brass section, and augmented strings with new and returning additions, tonight’s Petrushka was (although shakier than the soundcheck run) a memorable one. For all the 5/8 bars and rapid, regular (!?) time signature changes, the raw, unadulterated spirit of Petrushka was manifested and hopefully touched the audience in turn.

The pre-concert talk probably left the strongest impression on the audience, with “Bill” Ledbetter armed with his arsenal of costumes, cold jokes, a choir and even a keyboard prop. The audience was taken on a comedy-lecture on the origin, plot, harmonic devices and rhythmic patterns of Petrushka, and the combination of music and narration, with a healthy dose of audience (and orchestral) participation, proved to be a potent and successful formula.

What touched me deepest today was in fact, no offence to the orchestra or choir, but a single uttered word after the 3rd and final number that TPCC performed. It was a Russian folk tune meant to pass as one of Stravinsky’s works; its title is still currently unknown to me even though it was a fun and almost tribal tune, simple but not simpler (to paraphrase Einstein).

The “bravo~” that came from one in the audience made tears start in my eyes. Perhaps it was lilt in her (probably) voice, or the slight Eastern European accent that suggested such a song brought back memories of her childhood, or perhaps it was the perfect timing in which she broke the silence before the applause came in like a wave caresses the gentlest shore. I felt the odd serenity that one sees when presented, say, with a vast plain that stretches as far as the eye reaches, or a crystal clear night sky as seen from a hilltop, when suddenly one realises that all that is beautiful will one day become the past. Luckily the tears were easily blinked back. The awkward warmth that I may have imagined lingered on for about half a minute before the comic atmosphere took over, but that first roller-coaster drop will probably be etched in my own memory, resisting much weathering of time.


P.S. The word I was looking for wrt the little pastries from Delifrance is “Macaroons”. Glad my brain took the liberty to search for that word over the length of the whole concert.

P.P.S. After Googling it seems that those were just tarts and not Macaroons per se. “Petit Fours” was suggested by David and seems much more relevant here.

P.P.P.S Pictures of petit fours are making me hungry


They See Me Trollin’

Because I didn’t finish my previous post on Psychocybernetics (I think, therefore I will become) =)

I’m having KFC at 1.20am and I nuked it till a part of it exploded and popped. Also, my cousin (and I, incidentally) found out that my calves (body part, not animal) actually ache quite a fair bit.

Her white hamster passed away a couple of weeks ago, but was soon “replaced” by a grey-black one that had run wild on the top level of our block of flats (!!). It turned out to be a young male, and when put together with the ageing black (female) one, it (he) repeatedly tried to mate with her (to her chagrin). After a few failed attempts and passionate squeaks from both (with the male dashing around the cage like a ninja, up and down the bars and on the wheel), the male gave up to emo in the wheel.

And I thought about how people react to such situations…

Apparently the male would bite my cousin when being removed from the cage, and the female would bite after being put with the male.

How… human :S

Anyway, Sunday’s Petrushka yielded a perfect trumpet solo, which Lim Yau cut so that the entire orch could applaud.


Why Are Bad Girls So Good?

Fate / Psychocybernetics

Since is 3.11 am at the start of this post I’ll be thoroughly NOT researching this as I make up stuff while I go along.

So it is said that the brain is a goal-fulfilling machine – input a goal, and you brain will automatically take the necessary steps to achieve it.

Believe it or not, it does have the uncanny ability to do so. Illustration is better than empty talk, so my recent examples include the following:

  1. My conception of a Teacher’s Day give consisting of a postcard stored in a capsule-shaped container that the cutesy stores sell. After looking through a few shops and failing, I thought that a Plan B would be needed. During DFD lab however, we were allowed to fuse our own ampoules and there was a small collection pre-made ampoules that the staff prepared, which had coloured paper inside clear ampoules. So I made a “Happy Teacher’s Day” note on one strip and fused it with my own hands.
  2.  Had a huge bunch of brainwaves following brainstorm that ensued post-Jon Lee’s investing book, including app ideas, composition and writing ideas, monetising ideas etc. One that came out of a video I watched recently was having a room walled with whiteboards and having a computer/computers in the middle and abundant writing space on which to scribble around, and having the appropriate brain(s) working. Literally a think tank.
    Upon going to U-town’s PC Commons Room, I observe a few  circular clusters of such semi-isolated rooms.
    Talk about prescient dreams.
  3. On this topic, a few years ago I had, (remembered) and thereafter related to my mother seeing myself losing weight in the mirror. Following a (somewhat saccharine) personal goal and Starting Strength (poorly followed), I’ve received coaching from Zh, SSC gym staff, and most recently the coach & competitive (and non-comp) lifters of SWF (Sg Weightlifting Federation). Makes me guilty of the times where I simply fell asleep instead of dragging my zombified body over to train.

I credit the brain with some other automatic functions such as auto-search, which I tend to use especially when I forget the name of certain people. Last in line was Alec Guiness, whose name I forgot yesterday afternoon.

Starting to hallucinate, perhaps I’ll leave till tomorrowlater, Fate.