cornell was immensely popular singer and one of the biggest entity for the grunge era; my high school days are literally full of his music, along with few others. and so many of them from my teenage years are now dead. scott weiland died of overdose (likely), kurt cobain shot himself, jeff buckley drowned, elliott smith stabbed himself (likely), layne staley overdosed, the list goes on.
of course, there are many who continue to live on, doing things, but this sudden realization that eddy vedder is now the 'betty white of the grunge' does crack me up a bit.
as public frantically re-focuses on tragedy of suicide-ridden pop culture, i cant help but to think about the average people, like me, who might already be dead one day, but continue to 'live on,' as if nothing happened.
this is not to glorify suicide culture. or to reiterate the point that there will be a few people in every population group, who will die soon, but just from watching the homeless problems gaining intensity in my 'hood.
the downtown bay corridor quickly became the new condo belt in last ten years. and now it's yonge street. so many buildings are shut, sold, waiting to get their building permissions to dig and build up. the unexpected side effect of that is the rise of homeless population in the area.
as the first levels of these empty lots have bit of nook that people can 'claim,' many homeless gather in the area during the night through early morning. unlike liberty village or little more swanky southern corridor, or the resident-packed annex, the lack of neighbourhood culture in this area, in conjunction to not-too-much-money (when the area is super wealthy, there are never any homeless; they are either kicked out, or leave voluntarily as there is no 'sharing' in the area), and close distance to former problem areas (moss park, regent park, etc) and many different kind of shelters, along with limited yet real access to public facilities such as toilet (big grocery shops, fast food restos etc), LCBOs and relatively cheap food,
these are my speculation for incresed homeless population in the area.
but once condos are built and that security guards come around, they will leave to somewheres else, in probably 4-5 years, max.
they are usually sleeping/pretending to be asleep during the morning rush. and by midday, they are up and gone to tend the day. the weekday mid mornings, between 10-1130, is when they can be confrontational and violent (i had 3 run-ins in less than 5 minutes in two-blocks distance the other day). and i gather it's because of morning rage.
you woke up, from uncomfortable sleep, if you slept, that is. you may had run-ins during the night- may be someone tried to steal your stuff. or beat you up or physically and/or sexually assault you. it's not terribly cold that you 'had' to stay in crammed shelter. but nevertheless, you are hungry, tired, and you try to shield yourself from all these 'lucky people' who are heading to work, for their fancy jobs.
may be youve saved a few bits from night before for the morning- may be a cig, bit of drugs if you are a user, may be scraps of food.
but generally, not much.
not much, to look forward to, for the whole day, may even endless chains of days.
we worry about 'mental health,' we 'try' to talk about it. though it's a valid effort, i cannot shake that feeling that it is mostly for the middle class and up. what about these people, on the street, who live with mental desert, where not much can grow or to be fostered? are we creating this new sub-class citizens, the homeless-zombies?
with bursting news about connell's death, i cant help but to think about my own street.
what can be done about it?
if suicide is bad, what about structured mass homicide?
may be more 'artists' die because of their sensitivity toward the world.
but what about sufferings of others who are resilient (ex. continue to go on), but without any real hopes? how is that any better than finite death? and why do we feel remorse about someone's suicide but hostility towards others who may be suffering, just as much, if not more? if 'lesser' people suffer, are they suffering actually 'less?' if 'they' have not given 'me' something worthwhile (in case of these singers, they gave 'me' plenty!), then should 'they' be expected to suffer with no help from me?
and i genuinely was curious to put this 'thing' away. the physical act of 'moving on.' i was rather 'sad' ( ? ) to take it out and put it away, as it meant end of this 'project,' which i enjoyed thoroughly.
going back to fav movie of 2016:
i was fascinated with this alien language form. grown up korean, i learned to write/read korean, basic 1000 chinese letters and then had to work my butt off once i was dropped in english as we moved to toronto when i was 13. i took latin in high school to vent my frustration against mandatory french education (because no one was really ahead in latin...). i started to travel and got basic feel of the romance languages, and so far, the strangest language i encountered first hand was icelandic, couldnt even pronounce any.
and all these linguistic experiences (with passing interest in etymology), i am aware of the role of linguistics in a cultural composite.
western classical music has not changed much in notation, i dont think. or perhaps it's my own familiarity with the notation that i encounter, that i dismiss western classical music notation as 'simple.' may be it's that im a typical piano player and therefore my vision remains quite narrow.
so when i saw your mixed-bag of notations, the first question was: when you write down these sound events, what were you hearing? for instance, one of the pieces i adore is jolivet's suite in concert for flute + perc 4tet. i looked over the perc parts many times. but then i never find out: did jolivet knew exactly what he wanted? but doenst it deviate from the performance to performance (human factor, instrument access, etc)? of course it's all approximation (even on a good day), but what are you writing, and how does that translate? isnt this weird, as player would have to form a some sort of super intimate relationship with another conceptor, but largely through a secondary plastic medium...
writing/speech/language do shape and generalise a culture- and if so, where are you coming from- what do you like to do, where do you live, how do you speak and what do you read?
*this comes from my recent reminder from a friend during baroque harpsichord-strings recital, that most italian words has accent/lean on the second syllable (ex. ferrari, spaghetti, etc), so even though the beat falls on strong beats, never to neglect beat 2 and 4, as that's where things actually do happen (supposed to land on 1 and 3). where are your notations coming from? what kind of soundscape are you in, normally? do you separate your aural space from your creative vs. observant-normal-daily space? what kind of person are you to write this way?
oh dear, that sounds like a personal challenge. haha. im sorry. im just curious. everyone who speaks a bit differently, usually have a narrative or two. im just curious about you as a person, as the sounds you prescribed are interesting to me.
*BTW going back to the arrival, here's an article i enjoyed much.
when you write such intricate music- especially for near silence threshold but super dense, some of it reminded me of luigi nono's music, i assume that you rely on the human connect that the player(s) will build with the instruments as well as one another.
in this i had to draw my ears closer to my brain and heart, not only to my 'stuff,' but to perc-piano stuff (as they are intertwined so closely), at some points, players will connect and lean onto one another, to a non-normal level. for example, i didnt 'look' at the perc, but i knew he was 'watching' and so was i.
you, as the composer, have curated this scenario. but once it's in motion, you are actually not part of this 'intimacy,' how do you feel about that? do you ever feel that you are actually in it with the performers? do you ever expect to be part of it? isnt it weird? during the perf, i felt familiar, even though my head was rushing a bit, with hoping to execute, observing failures, etc. everything all at once. even the familiarity of 'going through the course of time' with all the variables.
there are few more thoughts but this is plenty long, so i think i may fold it for now.
thanks for taking the time to read it, if you did- perhaps the best thing i can say is that i actually did miss not 'practicing' or 'carrying' this piece in my backpack today.
driving from west van to your last loadstop, 03 aug 2015
how is it to lose something that was never yours to begin with?
how is it to lose something if that 'thing' is always with you?
seven short and long years ago, in middle of the night, 2-230am, you went off the cliff. into the dark sky where the cliff, in its terrifying height, set you off gravity free. your body rattled against the hard metal frame of the car. your skull broken in places.
they say by the time youve blinked, you were no longer there.
i am glad.
i continue to project how life could have been if you did not die.
perhaps you were to be fine, your bright self, witty humour and slight puppy wag to your steps. or may be, you could be a family man by now, having a child or two. recently, ive ran into your old friend at a supermarket. he was with his wife and two young children. may be you wouldve been bringing the children together for a hangout. or perhaps, this accident couldve left you sparkless, bounded without freedom, or may be with a limp or two.
truth is, i do not know.
only thing that i do know is that i continue to speculate. for no specific reason. you tumble into my mind when i do not suspect. every time i sense a full moon (which is EVERY SINGLE ONE haha) you are in it. i remember looking at the first full moon after youve died. it was rather white, cold, crisp and bright.
i still google your last GPS location. on google map. did i tell you that two years ago, in chilly last day of august 2015, jules and i drove through it, to take a look at it? we started the drive from west van. i drove straight from morning rain, and by the time we got to your deadly corner, sun was bright and okanagan was beautiful. though it rained shortly after we got to kelowna.
we talked of you last night before dad's leaving back to korea tomorrow.
dad said may be it's time to forget.
i dont think i will. nor him. it is just different, i think.
when you were born, we were 2 years, 2 months, 22 days apart.
that's 814 days for us to be apart. i was the closest living marker for you. and you were for me. now, it's been 2557 days since 26 apil 2010. in total, 3371 days without you in my life. i have lived 13842 days. it's almost quarter of my life days that i live without you in it. 24.35%
i was there, 100% in your life.
from your birthday. till the day i went to pick you up, burn you in a pyre, bring you back home and lower you to the ground. lower you to the depth of the heart.
i run these numbers, looking at varying relations between the dates, markers. birthdays. deathdays. my life. yours. my life with yours. my life with you in it. somehow. even now. and probably continue to be so.
you are like a cat, living in my mind. i draw a box and you get in it.
i miss you, i think. but how could i really miss you if you are still in my heart?
The Scream shows Indigenous children being taken away from their families by the Catholic church. (Courtesy of Kent Monkman)
qiksaaktuq (grief) was premiered last night in toronto, as first concert closer of the toronto symphony new music festival. as part of the whole 150 years anniversary of canada, there are some real fun celebrations planned across the country, and i was happy to receive my parks canada pass, and to attend various projects, including this series of new commissions.
and while we cut the cheery white and red coloured cake, and me, who will be travelling with the brand new passport this summer, i am aware of what canada is made out of-
which is more than what we bargain for.
when tagaq won polaris prize in 2014, i did overhear some dudes attributing her heritage for 'making the list' in kensington market hipster bar. i poured my beer on their shoes and left.
i wasnt surprised, as, well, kensington market, as we all love it for what it is, has not been THAT place for class-less, bohemian sanctuary for a long time. it's a theme park for many of us, who wishes to be briefly immersed (perhaps a wet toe in the ocean?), without taking any real risks to explore social marginalia.
does this look like work without merit?
seeing duncan at school is always refreshing to me. classical music world can feel so safe and established at times, especially in school setting. it is nice to see someone being herself, fearless, with true confidence, doing her thing. yep, no more, no less. doing her thing. some people forget that school is also for 'trying it out,' 'growth and exploration' and that bartok and stravinsky is no longer out of the box. i love the old beauties, of course, they are beautiful,
so i went down to the show, excited. almost sold-out hall. how refreshing. then came the last piece for the evening.
jean martin wrote this piece- grief.
the vulnerable,violent, beautiful and emptiness of loss came about. the five stages of greif: denial, anger, baraining, depression and acceptance.
what have we lost? who lost? who is to lose?
i have seen a few people who has lost themselves, especially doing the refugee/immigration translation work. i have seen people who are so broken that they are at the absolute edge of themselves. they got out of oppression, dragged themselves across continents and oceans, and now, at the door to canada (as we try to shut out who does not meet our own rich criteria- yes, we do send back refugees, deny applications and hold them in immigration jail in canada), they no longer have the energy to bargain. they mix that despair with the inevitability, often ready to sign to withdraw their claims and go back to their certain deaths. often, they are living in acceptance of anger and depression, for how long, i do not know.
the recent exhibition at the university arts centre, kent monkman's shame and prejudice,
perhaps wasnt exactly the wall-hanger that we all hoped to see, along with our beautiful park passes and artistic celebration - the losses.
they are still real. as so many of our beautiful canadian residents- yes, all citizens, immigrants and visitors and transients, tends to look at our own beautiful images, it is true that these losses still ring deeply in our community. we are the ones who decided to become deaf.
was qiksaaktuq a beautiful work?
and was it supposed to be beautiful? for whom?
who are we to be so certain that we are no longer continuing our crushing march of colonialism? who are we to be so proud that we are 'open' to others? are we?
tagaq's performance was uncomfortable and therefore super relevant to our current time- the non-G20s are exploited, man-organized famines starve the have-nots, we have alternative facts and mourn for losses in paris while drowned migrants and refugees are well, simply inconvenient.
as tagaq herself was slammed for the sealskin coat photo incident, are we, the average canadians, while we eat and drink the lives of the lesser-world citizens, as seal hunt is absolutely barbaric and therefore, cleansed by the western colonialists?
she totally owned that stage yesterday. it was smart music, sure. it was impacting.
it was real. raw.
and so here we are.
with our indigenous sisters and friends four times more likely to be murdered, with the desperate people knocking on our nation's door being turned way, as five stages of grieving leads to acceptance, which does not equate to recovery, replacement or amnesia.
of ourselves, our comrades- the marginalized people- women, minorities of all kinds, who has been stepped on, robbed and raped, and are forced to live on in shell of themselves, as they grieve as to live.
i live in a student-heavy tall apartment building. my neighbours come and go and i dont really know any of them. the walls are concrete thick from 1970s build and we live in quiet isolation.
but the air vent, that's how i know of my neighbours.
for about a year, there's that young couple who like rave music blaring during day time.
for about three years, there's that journalism student, who is beautiful. she has an itty bitty puppy, which used to have a good temperament till she started her co-op. long abandoned hours, the puppy now yelps through the door whenever there's someone by the elevator.
for about six months now, there's that dude who smokes pots, then orders pizza. if i see a pizza dude getting onto elevator and press 'my' floor after 10pm, i know where s/he's bringing that pizza.
for about two years now, i have a neighbour who eats lots and lots of fried eggs in veggie oil.
usually in the morning. but sometimes in late evenings as well.
i find it oddly comforting to smell that post-fried-eggs scent, once in awhile.
i also wonder how they know me. what i am to them.
omg look at that shipment on left corner...
6-7 stacks high...
and this winter, i took a look at my life and thought:
1. i could use some extra cash for dental bill,
2. i never done retail work.
and as fall term tends to roll in slow (till point of avalanche in winter term), back in october, i dropped off my resume at lindt and a shop-display (like shopping mall santa display) building shop.
the building shop, i thought it would be super cool to go back to working with power tools and build something in reality. sturdy, heavy things.
i wanted to learn something from immensely popular and successful international corporate. and in my mind, chocolate had much similarity to classical music.
1. no one really needs it.
no one will die because they dont have any.
2. not everyone likes it.
i dont like chocolate, for instance.
3. you can pay from free to expensive.
just like concert/record prices.
4. people do consume it quite frequently, for pleasure.
as no one really needs to 'buy' of 'need it to live.'
5. it does not last.
experiences, or ahem, a extra poundage might though.
on my interview date, i was totally sure that i totally bombed the interview. i was sure that when i got a call back, the only reason i got hired was that i 'seemed' punctual. HAHA.
working in retail industry during christmas high season may sound like a sadomasochistic experience. some days, it really was (mostly to do with people who forget that workers are also people with their own lives); some days, i dragged my feet to get to the shop for 6am call for shipments (did you realize those chocolates come in pellet packs, like kilos and kilos of them at a time? i didnt!). some times i was happy to make someone happy. some times i wanted to slap them on the face with dirty shoes (i managed not to).
i worked there for duration of 104 days, (first day on 04 october), and just had my last shift on monday, till 2017 holiday season (i wrote that i would love to come back, and they wrote to let them know once im back for the fall! yay)
i spent about 35% of my earnings at the chocolate shop on gifts for others. funny enough, that is also our standard rate of employee discount (35%).
i met a few lovely people who comes in regularly.
i also met a few super cheapos who demanded samples, pressured to make returns (because we sell food items, we dont do returns), yelled at our faces because of... something, and people who continued to steal stuff, day after day...
but the most impressive were my co-workers. their dedication to doing it right, really impressed me. being on time, being responsible, being graceful in the face of self-centered-customer-melt-down.
in music world, i hear (including myself) often complaining about our 'values.' mostly about how we dont get paid enough.
most of my co-workers at the shop, im sure, of course, just like all of us, would like to earn more. but i really did not see anyone with less-than-perfect dedication during their shift. this was eye opening, heart-touching. so many times, during my shift, i realized that it was me, who needed attitude adjustment- to be kinder, real and reasonable...
so much thanks to them.
im gonna visit them in near future with a few gifts i think. i learned a lot. and i got to practice what i learned. humility. grace. and toughness.
and their dreams, i hope all their dreams will grow one day, so that they may grow branches further towards the sky. they really are lovely people.
thanks, lindt. see you in the fall 2017!
in less than a week, univ peeps are facing the annual event: concerto competition.
as i worked with many different people in different levels, the one common difficult that arise to the top (always) is 'memorization.'
i personally feel that the requirement of memorization is old and antiquated, but as it will stay probably for another long while, it would be foolish to talk about its de/merits... sigh.
however, about the memorization process itself, though there isnt a simple way that fits everyone, i do think there are certain principles that helps to memorize music. so here's a small architectural approach.
1. divide your music in large to small chunk:
so all music, like stories, will have sections and sentences. break them down and look to see what their 'forms' are. if it is an allegro-sonata form, see if there's any extra bits, such as coda(s), or extended cadences in unexpected places; for instance, extended instability in development is expected. however, an extended instability before the coda or return of the counter theme may be a surprise.
look carefully when the structure involves medium-sized cells in quasi-repetition, something like a rondo, where each fragment(s) is recognizeable as their own 'chunk' (if you hum it and you think it feels like a verse, then it's probably a section.
then in any variations of rondo or small binary-composite work, check for regular OR irregular repetition of the chunks. sometimes, things can be organized as composite of binary and tertiary paris ( AA BCB AA, which breaks our expectation of AA BC or AA BB etc)
when there are differences, figure out what exact difference there may be- for instance, if the 'same' bar was used first time to return to the same place, then it will HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT to go to a different place the second time around. what is it? is it harmonic change? or melodic change? rhythmic? rhythmic phrase change?
2. move away from your instrument and SEE if you have them memorized.
i advocate making a blueprint of the score. here's an example:
that is a super-detailed one, but you get the gist.
get a long sheet of paper and start diving it up structurally so that you can actually compose the time-dependent model of the piece. if it can be scaled to reflect the duration of the phrases, even better.
once youve done it, go back and compare with the actual score. get a different coloured pen and be ruthless. then construct a new improved version.
see if you can practice from it. while you do that, record it. then listen to it with actual score, mark the discrepancy and fix weird stuff.
3. rather than focusing on the 'start' of the new sections, practice the hell out of the tails of sections. we tend to remember what happened in the first presentation of a thing 'A,' but it's the end of thing 'A prime' that will get us to B, for instance. most people practice in sequence, so naturally, one's impression of original form of A is stronger than A'. so practice that. then practice how A gets into B. and these are going to be rather short units, may be 4 bars or 8 bars.
do them slower than you want to. do them slow that it feels even boring. if it feels boring, see if you could attach some sort of biofeed back (as certain intervals and chords, shifts and fingerings will feel different, try to remember the 'feel' of it).
*this is a super 'frou-frou' version of analysis i did for a class. it's bit flowery, but i can still play that section looking at this. AHAHAHA.
go back to the blueprint on no.2, and see if you can consolidate the different of 'reading' the section change and 'playing' the section change. make up connections if necessary.
4. if you have similar sections, especially in rondo form or small-cell-composites, do simple analysis of both. you could do this simply by photocopying the section, print them out, tape them side by side and mark exactly what's different (use colours if you want; i do). see if practicing those sections as 'first thing' of practice be any use, rather than staring from bar 1 or cadenza. you are freshest at the beginning of a session. use it to advantage. if you have the time, put the metronome on 'stupid slow' and use it as warm-up (intonation, articulation, bowing, breath exercise, chordal practice, whatever)
5. practice on your non-specialized instrument; i highly rec on piano or singing. singing cuz you can do it without one more 'thing.' if you do have access to piano, go through the piano part slowly with metronome (once again, on stupid), and sing your part. playing all notes is not important, but knowing all 'direction,' especially regarding directions of melodic/harmonic intentions will help you greatly (and it will also help with intonation and phrasing, articulation in top of sheer 'memorization.')
or listening to a recording (if you are playing with piano reduction, i may suggest that you listen to a 'lesser' version with a reduction, as standard reductions will have 'certain details' put in/ommited). and mark on your score what you HEAR as a relevant key for your part. often people mark from orchestral rec for piano reduction and sometimes, it is of no use as they didnt make it, or is impossible.
6. pick a time in the day, play through your thing and record it. sing through* all your rests if poss. and if you CAN, play the 'lead in' for your solo entry (in time please), this will help you realize what you 'depends' yourself on for the entry, counting rests* is different than singing through it, because counting and playing music uses separate (yes related but separate) part of the brain, and you will lose time as it will take time to reconnect those junctions. it's much easier if you sing through or silently play through the rest sections (than dead counting), as you will 1. still be in music (which will eliminate the 'dead face' during a tutti, and 2. singing is easier than counting.
listen to the recording after you went and made tea. make pact with yourself to not be so unreasonably angry with self. after all, it's just music. calm down. no one has know anything that happened in your own private session.
listening, make notes. where is the inaccuracy? if you video-tape, it's even better, as you can 'read' your own body language of 'uncertainty.' where you trip up is very unlikely the actual place you tripped. likely, it happened a few instance before that, and that has pushed you into losing balance, then to the eventual fall...
7. be nice to yourself.
if you dont like it, why are you doing it?
memory is repetition game and it does improve.
but simple repetition is a low-return gamble. yes. gamble. you are hoping for everything to go right. dont gamble, plan. it's safer, easier and you will therefore play better.
here's album of sample analysis from my past and hope that helps.