14.12.10

the world full of sensors

i have many friends in the music field. some are performers, some are composers. some are both. but all of us take the role of the audience. in practice rooms. in transit, with our headphones.  in bed, reading a score, deciphering and recollecting the world of sound through all other senses.

being a keyboard monkey, this means much of my musical sensations also involve tactile sensations.  have you ever sat down with your choice of instrument and start to bang away? the immediate joy (perhaps not your neighbours/familys) can often be so overwhelming that i often lose the sight of the practice, simply going through the fun of physical execution.  i try to do this less when i am actually practicing and playing now, but now and then, it's a great thing to play a 8-notes chords with both hands, letting it resonate through the big huge metal frame of the modern piano.  even better if i can get my hands and feet on a organ with 32-foot stops.

often music comes in colours and visuals.  very often, when the pages get darker and darker, with many small note heads and even more flags, there is that common tendency to close eyes and hope for the best. like a stunt driver going through the burning tunnel of flame.  and when it looks sparse- a good example would be that of holy minimalists, such as arvo part (i know that they would rather not be labeled as such, but let's forgo that for the sake of reference), an impatient one is lost inbetween the decay of sounds rather than tasting all gradation of sound, from its initial vibration to the niente ending, back to silence.  however, once one can dare to approach the point of total silence, all the sudden, the white spaces inbetween the sounds become a live process, provocative and more colourful than any other 'busy' aural sensations.

cliche as it may be, once you immerse self in the world of the composers such as debussy and ravel, one cannot avoid to smell and taste the atmosphere.  foreign. faraway. but real.  that barely detectable fragrance of last summer's honeysuckcle.  the smell of the wet earth, as the grave diggers push their strong arms and shovel into the hole, where a person may settle for the next phase- the phase of non-living.  the jangling of gamelan that evokes sweaty yet cool breeze of the tropic nights, where life comes around in the shade of the night, away from the oppressive sun.

as an active audience, the sensors allow us to take a simple phenomenon of sound into the realm of life.  as a composer of a player, the additional layer of conceptualizing and performing could adds lot more shards of mirror,s complicating the simple kaleidoscope to endless variations.  beautiful.  overwhelming.  often overdriven and incomprehensible, but always real.

i recently went to see a japanese pianist play tchaikovsky piano concerto 1 with the bbc.  impeccable playing. phrasing, colours, pedalling, technical brilliance and voicing.  it was brilliant.  i have seen him before actually, last year, in the van cliburn webcast. he goes by the name nobu. these competition webcasts are not really my cup of tea, usually i will glance may be twice or three times, in the final round, just to see if anything have changed.  dont get me wrong, it is not that i think i am better than 'competition' ideas, it's just that i think there are enough people in this world who have found ways to communicate in their chosen language; and with time, if one dares to be sensitive and vulnerable, strong and inspired, one's language simply becomes more eloquent and effective.  competition or not.  and with so many competitions everywhere, i found it a bit pointless for me to follow them all.  it's like the popchart top ten for classical performers- there are things that are simply not represented well enough in such format and i cant be possibly be interested in everything, so.

the audience was very appreciative of the pianist's performance.  though i think many of them may remember just one thing: that he is blind from birth.  i was quite unsure what i would think of this- yes, it is a difficulty that an average person will not experience.  i like painting and doodling. i love the colours i can see. the simple idea that i can look and reach, point and grab is probably the earliest kinestatic thought i had since i was a baby.  but the point was that blind or not, he is a brilliant musician.  actually the first time ive seen him in webcast, i never knew.  probably because i never watched the whole episode, but just glancing a minute or two, here and there.

i am left with a big question, a curiosity regarding nobu, however. i wonder how he sees his world without the physical sensation of 'seeing.'  world composed so richly, yet without eyes. see, the difference is that though he does not have sight, he has plenty of vision.  what is a vision? well, it comes from old french vision, from latin visionem: 'act of seeing, sight things seen,' from videre: 'to see.'  it is also related to the sanskrit word veda: 'i know.'  and yes, from his performance, one gets a glimpse of the world he knows- vibrant and alive.

as i write this post, i am listening to a recording of a friend, who wrote/arrange/played.  and because of pre-listening context of this music, my world at the moment is surrounded by the vision of banff mountains and vast sky that one can only see when one has reached the summit.  it's a funny thing, being in the mountains.  living in the midwest, land of prairies, i have often felt so lost and naked, where the land is flat for miles and miles.  then one learns to appreciate the vast openness of it.  and in banff, i learned the warmth of the mountains surrounding small beings like me, with such a contrasting open sky from the top of the mountains.  hence, i am not listening to sound. i am living through sensation.  what is this world that i see? that i know?

i am not sure if i can pin point to what it exactly is, but it surely is amazingly beautiful.  lucky me.

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