August 22, 20070

I’ll be leaving for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a performance on the 4th of September and returning on the 8th. Apparently I’ll be playing the violin for a pop-concert in Genting Highlands. I know it’s going to be dumb, but perhaps it’ll be interesting.. Shan’t expect too much out of it lest I get disappointed.

Speaking of which, LY and Jamie will both be in KL at the same time as well; LY for a military music thing and Jamie to guest-play with the MPO. Sigh, it seems as though their engagements there are far more interesting than mine.

Call me a snob, but I’ve never liked playing pop/rock music in a string ensemble. I just think it’s degrading for the musicians to do so. I guess that’s much worse than being in an orchestra pit, playing for Broadway musicals…

A while ago before I set up Plink, Plonk, Plunk I posted this on my other blog. I know these people make loads of money, but can what they play be considered music? I haven’t come across any crossover musician performer that I’ve really respected. Bah!

August 20, 2007

Einmal ist keinmal?


My thought for today is in German. The “unbearably light” never really grow up, but repeat their childhood ad infinitum. Such a playful irony isn’t it? 🙂

“Als das Kind Kind war, ging es mit hängenden Armen, wollte der
Bach sei ein Fluß,

der Fluß sei ein Strom, und diese Pfütze das Meer.

Als das Kind Kind war,
wußte es nicht,
daß es Kind war,
alles war ihm beseelt,
und alle Seelen waren eins.”

-Peter Handke, Song of Childhood.

When the child was a child It walked with its arms swinging, wanted the brook to be a river, the river to be a torrent, and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.

When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.

When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people,
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?

When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now,
and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.

It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.

When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.

When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.

When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

August 17, 2007

On Playing the English Horn.


How is it possible that on the English Horn, I can go from sounding like a hoarse goose, to a beautiful swan, and back to a strangled goose within a day, using the same reed and the same instrument?

Perhaps its just one of those cases of being consistantly inconsistant.

I’ll be performing Terrence Wong’s Memories this evening on the EH. It’s a beautiful yet dark piece, composed for english horn, tuba and cello. It calls for the kind of tone which invokes the feeling of longing and yearning. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be Nightmares instead…


On a lighter note, I attended my first Woodwind class of the semester since graduation. This year saw an intake of 5 woodwind majors, 4 of which are males. And they go by the names Jeff, Jeremy, Jeremy and Jeremy, who major in the bassoon, flute, clarinet and oboe respectively. What’s with all the Js Jeremys?


August 12, 2007

THE exam.


Registration for the Trinity/Guildhall exams is now on, and it closes on 7th September.
Exams will be held from late November to early December.

Being really anxious (as Singaporeans say, kiasu), I shall assume my exam date is on the 20th of November. Thus, I have 100 more days to my exam as from today.

This will be my first EVER oboe examination in my whole entire life, and it happens to be a diploma examination. This exam comes after 2-and-a-half years of oboe playing. The programme is as follows:

Concerto in D Major, op 7 no. 6 by Albinoni
Concerto in D Minor, no. 1 by Lebrun (first movement)
Sonate by Hindemith (first movement)
Sarabande and Allegro by Grovlez

Argh. What am I getting myself into?

I’m beginning to think that 3 hours of practice a day isn’t enough.


a conversation over MSN with my dear accompanist just 5 minutes ago went like this:

julia alena. panick mode!!!! says:
OMG it’s gonna be rush rush rush this semester! =D

leichtigkeit… says:

leichtigkeit… says:
my recital’s the same time as your mid-years I think.

julia alena. panick mode!!!! says:
i hope nothing clashes!

julia alena. panick mode!!!! says:
if semestral asessment ends on the 25th
that means…

julia alena. panick mode!!!! says:

julia alena. panick mode!!!! says:

julia alena. panick mode!!!! says:
-panicks panicks-

as she kindly reminded me, MY EXAM IS IN LESS THAN 100 DAYS.


the accompanist is panicking too. oh dear.

August 9, 2007

The occupational hazards of playing multiple instruments.


Looks like being a musician was more dangerous than I thought.
Read all about it here.

From playing the violin, I think I’ve got

  • Induced hearing loss in my left ear
  • Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome
  • callous formation on fingers on the left hand (further aggravated by my attempts to learn the guitar
  • Fiddler’s neck (rash on the area where the chinrest comes into contact with the skin)

From playing the oboe and cor anglais,

  • a HUGE callous on my right thumb on which the oboe rests on
  • wrist aches from the weight of the cor (if i happen to forget my sling)
  • Backache! (wonder why…)
  • COUNTLESS reed problems
  • tooth-marks on lips after playing for too long (something’s wrong with my embouchure?)

From piano-playing,

  • Wrist-aches from playing octaves.

Do you encounter any problems? What are they?

August 5, 2007

Reeds, Reed-eaters, Piano accompaniment, a conversation and a teddy bear.

Reeds, Reed-eaters, Piano accompaniment, a conversation and a teddy bear.
On Reeds and a reed-eater

Tied 10 reeds.
Attempted to scrape 4.
Destroyed 1 (it cracked before it could get scraped!)
3 survived – 2 were good, and 1 was extremely quacky

I thought that I was pretty safe before my next lesson, having 2 good reeds and 2 more better ones from K.Ge.
1 K.Ge reed got chipped during practice, leaving 3 usuable reeds. The unthinkable happened. Introducing..

Patches, a 9-month-old Jack Russell Terrier, a.k.a. Reed-Eater!

He literally ATE up the cane pieces of my best reed, leaving a mess of thread and the staple behind. So, for all oboists reading this: keep your reeds away from your pet dogs!


On being a piano accompanist…

Lately, Violin Teacher was looking for a piano accompanist for his Grade 4 student, and he called me one week before the exam to ask if I could play. I agreed, and, being his student before (long, long ago), I was expected to

  • play accompaniment
  • teach aural
  • teach violin scales
  • tune the student’s violin before his exam
  • bring my own violin just in case student’s violin screwed up

Darn, I should be paid double or more. Pfffft!


A Conversation

Yesterday I was sitting in the office, reading my book and waiting for my student when I heard a familiar voice say, “Hey, I’ve watched that movie before!”. I looked up, expecting to see violin teacher talking to some other teacher or parent or student, and I found him staring at the book I was reading (it was “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera). That started of a long conversation about Nietzche, Freud, psycho-analysis, indian philosophers and a little of Milan Kundera (after all, I had only read ninety-two pages of that book). He did most of the talking, and I was contented just listening, asking questions and hearing his views 🙂 He confessed that being a violin teacher rather than economist gives him loads of free time to pursue his interest in philosophy, psychology and the arts. Guess I’m really blessed to have such a teacher who has read so extensively and acquired a wealth of knowledge through years of learning and experience. (I should be grateful to my student too, who didn’t show up for his lesson, giving me the time to talk to violin teacher :P)

Snuffles the bear

Xiaole the girlfriend gave me an extremely cute brown bear last evening which we named Snuffles 🙂 That’s him sitting at the corner of my keyboard at the studio

and she wrote our initials on each of Snuffles’ feet with fabric paint, making me protect him with my life all through bible study until the fabric paint dried :S

July 31, 20070

And oboe lesson today ended with teacher saying:

“…and I think Wagner was a complete idiot.”

with that, she walked out of the room, leaving me shocked, stunned and amused.

July 31, 2007



…I’m beginning to see a trend here.

Good reed + Good playing day = Good rehearsal.
Good reed + Lousy playing day = Okay/Not-so-good rehearsal.
Bad reed + Lousy playing day = Not-so-good rehearsal.
Bad reed + Bad playing day = Disaster.

Conclusion: Its the darned reed. Argh. ( I’m pretty sure most, if not all, oboists will agree)