30.10.11

oh why did you leave me?

perspective 1:

0830: catch walk to school w PO in semi-sleep fuzz. locks the door.
0905: slugs down to practice dungeon with a hot cup of tea.
11-13: be amused when unexpected things happen with fixed score.
1420: WHERE ARE MY KEYS
1435: completes run of the day's trajectory around school.
1445: begs office peeps to produce miracle: my keys?
1446: downcasted eyes, asks librarian: (asshole) keys.
1515: grunts in frustration.
1630: explodes on housemate. takes hiskeys. leaves.
1745: in anger, decides to head over to gym.
1900: gets home. in defeat, picks up a takeout dinner.
1905: laments over lost keys over skype. keeps minnow up.

2400: WTH ARE MY DAMNED KEYS


perspective 2:
0830: locks door, gets snug in pocket.
0905: opens dungeon door. rare stay out of pocket. wheee.
1100: MONKEY?
1420: MONKEY?
2400: MONKEY...

luckily, keys and its careless owner was reconnect in total random incident. despite of desperate running around the school, the keys were not found because... well, a friend had picked it up as it was left in the practice room. a full day after, i decided after an awesome day (great recording demo sessions with two incredible friends and the dearest tonmeister housemate, a solid run-through for tomorrow's recital), as tonmeister was meeting up a friend, decided to do another takeout dinner. and there, came the emotional reunion:

YES YES YES
CAN I PLEASE AT LEAST BUY YOU A DINNER?

she had my keys. she has found it, quietly protesting in waiting for this monkey to pay attention in the practice rooms.

the lady gracefully rejected offer, exchanging it with a raincheque for a coffee and i skipped all the way back home. funny, last night i was thinking about this keys situation. i was trying to not to be angry. as it does not help the situation. it just worsens the situation- the worst being losing one's dignity, because one was- well, careless.

i was yelling silently in my head: where did the damned keys go? nuts! why would you bugger off, keys?

the truth was that keys didnt run away, i left them. and if they could talk, they would have called on me: hey hey mommy, where you going? take us with you! we like your pocket the best!

as i was still experiencing the after steam of frustration that i failed to dissipate, i kept trying to think about the poor wee keys, left in dark somewhere in the building, wondering why i left them all alone.  they may have even wondered why i didnt want them any more. i hope that if they were animated, at least they wouldve figured out that i also like them as they have magic powers to open doors and closed things, that i do favour them on my pockets over anything else- even phone or wallet.

luckily, they were kept in company of someone, not left in the total dark. yay. at least they didnt spend the night in lonely silent music building.

so i was extremely happy to see them again, dangling and calling out in childish unisons: monkey! it's monkey!! yaay!! we are going home!!!  so here we are, once again united, happily snug safe in my pocket.

then i chuckle: what a nutter i am. it was just a lost key set.
but if life gives you difficulties (rather, most of the time, people make their own difficulties), why not at least get something out of it?  the sight of wee keys dangling on the ring, calling out for monkey in excitement is a very beautiful thought in my mind.  aha. such a relief. what a silly life.

27.10.11

loner monkey plays in rainy evening alone

die kinderspiele, pieter bruegel, 1560

it is once again well after midnight- 215am, eastern standard time.
the night takes the bustle of the desires and schedules away from the city, leaving it somehow pristine and neutral.  of course, there are occasional sirens and car breaks, also a bit of random yells from drunken ryerson kids.  but with the rain that soaks through the thickest sweater, as it permeated throughout the entire day and night, the accents of city night has been dimmed.

there are condensations on my window, i can hear occasional wind trying to blow through the smallest cracks of the glass- it is impressive how much dust i sweep on daily basis- the dust that rose from the ground and travelled all the way up to 32nd floor.  this building started in 1971 and was completed in 1973 (same age as my bicycle), all 105m of it.  considering there are only two more floors above this tree house, to say that i live about 100m above the ground could be a nice round-up.

from here, i see many things passing by- yes, i am letting it pass by and i am quite content.  numerous parades, festivals, even protests.  as a person who favours small gatherings, in a sense, it gives me a great vintage point to the world. especially when it's the single digit hours of the night.

i often am strongly admonished that i should be sleeping earlier- along with all the great advises. staying up late is a true vice of mine.  the space that night brings us- the time and openness for renewal, meandering, reflection and concentration, i find it often irresistible to let it soak onto unconsciousness.

of course, i sleep much differently in various settings. in the little house in the hills, i am known to sleep early and lots, curled in spoon with my favorite minnow. often i open a book in bed, only to close it off on my face, already lost to the dreams that i dont often remember- and in the middle of neon pause, i feel as if i am desperate to collect the thoughts and fragments of the day that whizzes by so fast.

i may be a bit tired tomorrow, of course, but one cannot simply have everything one desires.  i am glad to have a bit of moment to not be productive, to be 'decadent' in use of my own time- a play time, a time that has nothing to do with earning, working, serving others or being practical.  all animals play, in fact, playing is probably one of the most important trait of true intelligence.

so here i am, playing by myself, quietly, as i did as a loner child, with all the small pieces of the day. i am happy.  what a beautiful slice of the precious night, rekindled in simple need for a solo playing. love to you all, souls with twinkle in the eyes, the ones who still seek out the simplest pleasures.


http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

19.10.11

in the depth of winter, i finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer (camus)




the weather has turned just last weekend. today, i brought my cycling gloves out- as thin as they are, they will keep the wee fingers from the little nipping teeth of the wind, like hound puppies- not deadly nor permanent, enough to leave a dent on bare skin, as i ride in the morning and late evening.

the leaves has fallen and unfortunately, because of the loads of rain we had, there wont be a spectacular colours this year. or is it that i have missed the apex of the year- where life turns another corner, sinking slowly yet surely, each step closer to the heart of the matter- of the earth, of oneself, of individual hearts and honestly naked emotions.  already in yyz, the daylight is shorter than twelve hours.  the steps towards home are heavier and a bit more hurried as the days rush by, shorter and shorter.

i turned on some yuletide music for the first time for the upcoming winter.  i am not so fond of the christmas festivities itself, however, i am very much in love with winter. it is demanding and harsh at times- in lesser times, people often threw end of the year party (one of the origins of halloween) before winter would take on the entire village by the full strength, leaving fewer and weaker survivors by the time the earth remembered that its role is to nurture, not to merely hold.

but i love the bare minimalism of winter. the extreme contrast of winter- the role of the preserver, keeper of life, of legends and memories underneath the wrinkled and frozen outlooks, makes my heart leap with unexpected joy- even a surprise to myself, in the midst of continuous grey and darkness.

not much left to the year already, 74 short days till another journey around the sun to start. 

instead of the jolly carols, i open tracks from sting's recent winter album and pick out my favorites- such as gabriel's message, you only cross my mind in winter, the snow it melts the soonest, coventry carol...

i miss a few things as i ride on this downswing of the things- into the deepest slumber.  but none will be lost. nor will be forgotten.  i plant and replant the beautiful bits of my life, into the depth of the soil.  i believe that they will all stay asleep, waiting to be awaken from the stillness of the frigid air. and they will continue their existence within my life, our lives, with each beating heart beat.  especially my little brother.

i look forward to the gentle closing of the year, there will be quiet happiness, like little mice nestled in borrowed holes under the snow, blanketed by the crisp and clear winter night velvet.  warmth. fire. spoons. love. generosity. grace. then another solstice, we shall all gradually move upward, onward.  as we came downward.

16.10.11

homo spiritualis > homo politicus

*chauvet cave prehistoric paintings

it's been quite an unremarkable week, coming from wk full of rehearsals, masterclasses, coaching and recording project. i even went off caffeine and slept proper, which magically eliminated most of the muscle tensions on my shoulders, yipee. though that confirms that there are no short cuts to living humanely- especially for oneself.

with a bit of extra time, ive been working on some music i have put on the side (project with minnow and some other things i just happen to really like), taking care of little things like balancing the book ( ! ), running surprise lunch deliveries, checking up on kiddies to see if all are alright, putting up posters for gigs, etc.  and then came a surprise unpleasantness.  you see, as a freelancer, we put up posters for gigs at the conservatories and universities, so that interested people may take our info.  often, however, it gets incredibly low and some days you realize that someone has taken down your poster. i find this quite disheartening.

we work in music, of course, as cliche as it sounds, we do work in the field where our subjects are much larger than our little lives and that we constantly strive for 'better' part of humanity.  so whenever something like this happens, i find it disturbing.

i try not to push myself against other people nor i try to undercut peoples' rate. the way it seems is that there are many people who wants to make a living by playing music, a far more than we could possibly employ, as a society. so competition is fierce. and because we tend to work with people on individual basis, often it is a healthy thing to remind self that one simply works not only with abilities but of humanistic ties we build with one another.  of couse i would like to play more, but being able to play my instrument is only a very small part of the whole process. and there are enough people who are pushy about work- i know that there are a few who are brave enough to negotiate and undercut the rate.

i often wonder if that's what i should do.

then i feel either 1. completely useless (because it is against everything i hold important and to compromise self for something that is so fundamental seems to state that i have actually 'failed' to build a 'self') or 2. ridiculous (whoever ripped my poster off, i hope you got some satisfaction out of it- as clearly you arent exactly sane, happy nor financially stable).

perhaps i should schmooze and befriend these people and try to work up the ladder- be political, at core, one does live in a society! but then- it never comes to reality. i believe i should care for people because it is the right thing to do, not because it may result in some sort of personal benefit. once i start to see the human interaction as chains of bartering, i may degrade myself as a poor, unsuccessful failure.

i am nothing big. i am nothing special, just another human being, trying to strive to better self, to find fulfillment in my work, making my best efforts to be financially independent and responsible. and i better be happy with self, as no one else can do that for me.

as part of my other strategy to make a living, i work at the university as a backstage hand. i often get to interact with real, genuine artists and i do take pride in doing my things right- i dont really care if that means making sure that right piano bench is out for a pianist, running to go get a water for a greenroom guest- i may as well do it to the best of my ability.  rarely but surely, this attitude does get me a big thanks. i didnt do it to be thanked for, but i do sure enjoy it.

and i also get to see these great shows- well, i dont get to see it but i do get to hear it, from the backstage corridor. yesterday, it was a great jazz workshop by mr. chase sanborn and mr. terry promane. i really enjoyed and got some important points for myself *to take home, though i am so far from jazz. the finishing concert with legendary wayne bergeron didnt hurt either. who is he? well, youve heard him-really! he's the guy who did the trumpet lick for the jeopardy show and other things such as music tracks for the pirates of carribean and the incredibles, etc.  the house was HOT. and today, it's aldeburgh connection, a program entirely by faure and four lovely singers and the great couple, steven ralls and bruce ubukata.  i think: i am loving the fact i am exposed to these wonderful things.  and yes, i am getting paid on top of it. not much, but something. but that's only for my bank. i leave with riches, the haunting melody of regrets from faure's automne ringing in my mind- a small example.

http://youtu.be/lwnIu5CrVwg

this song, i first came across it while accompanying in italy. in the middle of italian grilling summer sun, it seems surreal to think of the waning autumnal dusk, full of yearning and hint of regret.  and as i hear it again on the stage, a live performance, it brings all kinds of feelings- glittering gold leaves of falling leaves, of the lovely text by silvestre, beautiful melody and heart-breaking harmony, the fall into the middle of the winter- the point of silence, sense of 'leaving'... the list goes on and on. i think of my brother who is no longer with the land of living. of people who lost and who were lost. of lives that are older and dramatic than my own, of emotions and stories that is larger and deeper than young 'me.' collective human emotion sharing its depth of emotion so freely with whoever is willing to listen. the thoughts that i may not be able to arrive on my own for a long time, perhaps never.

i recently went to see a herzog documentary: the cave of forgotten dreams on bookbomber's urging. he rarely mentions anything twice so at third mention, i just booked a night off to see it. and yes it did something. i dont exactly know what. i may go back to it again. there were so many things that clawed into my recently defeated heart. especially in the middle, the anthropologist jene-michel geneste discusses the idea of 'human soul' so poignantly in this movie, as he relate to oldest paintings of man, forgotten till now then found untouched recently in chauvet cave, southern france. i wish i can get the exact quotation but in a very simple form:

yes, this is a true human soul. not just homo sapiens ('knowing man'), but of homo spiritualis.

http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/cave-forgotten-dreams-work-homo-spiritualis

http://www.franceculture.com/personne-jean-michel-geneste.html

a man does not live with bread alone. 

with such beautiful thoughts that keeps sprouting up on the most grim and depressing days- much like the lovely surprise mushrooms after gloomy rain, i keep my heart close to myself and to the ones i love dearly.  of course life is expensive and demanding. and for some reason, i feel bit more dented than others on regular basis. it does make me wonder if i am just weak or invalid (especially when something stoopid like 'torn posters' happen)  but at the end, it's always a full-circle, back to self. however invalid and not important i may be.  

so here's another day. i am not financially much better today nor i have succeeded in becoming more powerful or desired. but just like yesterday, the day before, and many moons ago, i still have many wonderful things around me. and lovely people. the list goes on. i shall hold onto this fragile life-saving spidersilk rope carefully. much love to you all and i wish you all the most beautiful sunday afternoon on 16 oct 2011, as it will also pass by, in a wink, and never returns.



8.10.11

fagottklatsch

i see that my last post was on 2 oct 2011. it is now officially 8 oct 2011 all day long and we, up in the north are already getting ready for the peak of the autumn (thanksgiving! who wants to adopt me for a thanksgiving dinner?).  i was completely baffled that when i was got out of the subway last evening at 1900, the sky was already dark. not dusk, dark. oh dear, where did the time go!

however, it has been rather exciting week, evolving around bassoons, bassoon music and bassoonists. now you may wonder: HUH?

the average population may have heard the bassoon as the 'granpa' from peter and the wolf, prokofiev.  it's a long big wooden thing with way too many keys (really, it does my head in), involves double reeds which are handmade through sugar cane panels soaked-cut-planed-trimmed-angled-boiled-frustrated-baffled-disappointed-hoped-god-knows-how-processes in a small corner of a room equipped with water boiler, lots of plastic containers, threads, tears, blood, sharp-very sharp-knife and hours and hours of turmoil.  (q. what do you call a bassoonist with one good reed? a. a hopeless optimist) in fact, i think the protocol goes that if you have made THE reed, you will immediately start to mourn its upcoming death. everyone gets so fanatical about reeds and it is never quite right, from what i have seen (from students to professional double reeds player).

here, why dont you watch this 'shortish' clip in german (there's also part two), i thought it was hilarious and informative.  bunch of adults with loads of bits of machinery.  in fact i remember when my friend katie picked up a profiling machine, or shall we call it Aussenhobelmaschine, while we were studying in nebraska. we went to the dude's house and it is a beautiful machine- all hand made, to his specifications, solid brass- that thing was not a cheap toy! i really loved the way it felt on a layman's hand, as it was designed so beautifully.  well, he did charge handsome fee and it did come with a tag: if you ever want to sell it, do get back in touch with me, i always have people who are looking for one.
http://youtu.be/RwgwVs41uHQ

i know this is for a clarinet/saxophone. i just liked the seriousness of the clip so much i couldnt help it... well, that was just for a single reed. now think about the complexity with double-trouble. prof. morelli, a great bassoonist, has a short clip (this time, it is short) where he talking about partial process of reed making (and if you want to find some more, i think the kind internet will give you more)
http://youtu.be/bVKylUjKeBc

like any double reeds instruments, it seems that one is at constant mercy of the reeds and their particular sentiment of the day. or even an afternoon. morning. there are bad reeds and better reeds but rarely a good reed... (dont even mention a great reed unless you have a full bottle of scotch to console) the principle oboe and cor anglais player of the bbc phil (who are good friends of me/minnow), whenever they go on foreign tour, the first thing they look for at luggage collection is the 'reed making bag.'  now, the blue heron lady who i admire from yyz seems a bit more at ease with reeds but may be it's because i havent been around when she was making reeds, just a thought...

anyways. it's a big complicated instrument.  i often look at woodwind instruments and it makes no sense in my head. even a trumpet is easier to comprehend.  the keys. millions of fingerings. huge case. oh dear. i know they all make a difference but mostly, i contribute the success of a bassoon performance to black arts.  it is a difficult instrument. i think most of the time, if you can actually hold one 'right,' you are already on the winning side of the battle. yep. complicated business to wield something so big that goes across your body, strapped on ( ! ), across the upper body. did i mention small water cup they soak their second reeds? (which is often described more like a bubonic plague than a messiah)

and after all that complication, there's the playing part.  bassoonists, for some reason, they seem to be a bit older when they start on the instrument. i wonder if it has to do with size (i seen kids love BIG instruments like timpany and sousa phone but rarely a bassoon- may be too skinny to be impressive?) or somewhat obscure existence of its existence (for instance, kids know what piano or violin, flute or cello looks like. i think when you see a little kiddies at pre-orch workshop, they are more likely to say 'whats that bedpost?' than 'ooh bassoon, i love the bassoon! great bassoon solo in tchaikovsky no. 4, second mvt! ')

it is a primarily a bass-range instrument.  like a double bass, it takes on a specific role in an ensemble.  however, solo bassoon repertoire does have some great pieces and funny enough, i got to know them because i play with a few bassoonists- wherever i go. why? well, because i like playing with them (they appreciate any pianist who take their rep seriously, which is a huge bonus), dig the sound, love the role it plays (it's the foundation and woody inner structure!) and often the piano part/reduction looks like a total mess. and yeah, i do like learning them.

this week, the conservatory had a masterclass with mr. benjamin kamins.  i was happy to show up to play with kiddies and play some, had no idea how that was going to- all i heard in the wind is that he's nutty.  great, i havent seen a great person who isnt nutty.  and yes, he was nutty. an hour and a half of constant challenges, lots of in-your-face-tactics, loads of demands and simple rules that one just couldnt ignore.  and kiddies- well, with such open mind, they responded with all their hearts (i think this is something that's been cultured in yyz bassoon studios, with blue heron lady and other teachers, which is one of the best things to learn in one's life) and some of them had close-to-miracle transformations.

they sounded like different people all together. in that short span of time. okay, it wasnt an instant transformation but they WERE breakthroughs.  of course, the aim is now to take that experience away and try to replicate on will.  and we, musicians, luckily gets loads of time- lifetime, in fact, to work on such project. no one can possibly pay you for such self-interests. and the ones without the self-interests, well, they will enjoy their music education and go do something else (or they should, in the field they cant help but be self-interested).  and there's nothing wrong with that! people go and spend their time and money on frivolous things like steak dinner for enjoyment. life is expensive and inefficient. so why not at least enjoy it even if that is not the 'sensible' thing to do?  nothing really is sensible as the idea of birth is already obscured by the its side effect: death- i find this incredibly satisfying, a road to freedom, really.  here's point A and there's point B. now you go from point A to B and do it however you would like.

!

this post is getting ridiculously long. i should at least to try to note the short points that prof kamins made. that was the initial thought but then how can you focus on a single thing when you have a fascinating subject like the bassoon? haha. anyways, here they are:

engage. oneself. audience. graciously offer/receive.

find something that you like about you(r playing)

if something doesnt work, try ANYTHING ELSE

do slow practice. not slow mo. slow-conscious-practice.

realize what you do with your body. after all, you are DOING it.
if that doesnt work...look above.

do look up for tips that can aid your playing:
reeds knowledge (he made it sound not like black art!)
inquiring/learning/doing extra things: esp. fingerings

the list can go on and on but these six points, i thought they fit so eloquently to life, not just bassoon.  see, even in the difficult bassoon world, it's simple point that will carry us through, the weak and fragile, often lost individuals.  it was nice to be there where such simple thoughts were reinforced (i have seen their normal teachers talk of same points but i suppose it does make a fresh impact when it comes from 'someone else,' haha) and the valiant efforts of the students (since one tends to take one's instruments almost too seriously, to try something new on a whim is not only difficult but daring) made my morning such a pleasure. i didnt get to play much but i was too busy learning, i suppose.  im still kicking self for missing the reeds workshop (i would like to learn more...) but then i did have a brilliant work session with a young bassoonist (i am excited about our recording session on monday. it's going to be awesome) so- well, i guess no loss! lucky me.

it is not a right to demand education (i think one should earn it, after all, no one can teach anyone anything- one has to take initiative and actually do it oneself to learn) nor education should be free. we dont have any problem paying for 'things,' then why should one's non-physical presence/service be cheap? if knowledge is supposed to be the peak of civilization, should we really strip all its commercial values off of it? i think not. but that's for another post. the brilliant thing is that there are people in education who can elevate what can be a stagnant academic environment (more like sprouts farm) and they arent really doing it for a fee (how do you pay for one's entire being?) they do it because they do love it. they know it and they cant help but to inseminate it further.

and my friday was full of it. actually the whole week was full of it.
what a good week. even without turkey, i should get on thanksgiving.
brilliant world and lovely people, thank you!
and kiddies, you were brilliant!

and there's no reason to stop being brilliant :)





2.10.11

surprise, it is... october! (what?!)

the days are running away, faster than the fading sunlight of the mid autumnal afternoon.  nights are melting into a silvery oblivion, elusive, vast yet so quick to pass by. it was only a week ago, things were hot, humid and hazy- baking under the last heat of the indian summer.  tonight, the city is full of people, walking the streets in the name of arts, nuit blanche, under the clear sky with a children's-book-perfect paper moon.  the sudden cold that appeared on the road just yesterday and fastened buttons, hands in pockets, hats and caps, happy to appear again to the outside, from the long summer sleep in the corner of the closet. the morning bike ride that results in stiff arms, chilled through that usual short ride to the campus.  sudden thirst for a mug of hot tea, steaming vapours, of the stories of high summer sun, captured through little tea leaves.  huddled shoulders and shirt collars turned up, to stroke little goosebumps that autumnal night wind created on back of still coppery summer skin.

there are many stories still untold from september. shame, i still have couple posts that are in the works.  of the places i went and the people i met. of the stories and human contexts so generally shared, with pleasure and grace.  of many thoughts and small sparks of life, through the very mundane everyday things- the mental stimulation of practice, the pleasure of making a beautiful sound, getting hang of the fiddle- literally a fraction of an inch at a time, i can say that i am a bit better (shame i dont get to practice it everyday!), as usual, expecting too much from self and others, new projects (including teaching little kiddies), the list goes on and on.  oh yeah, and also doing a knee-plant, falling off my bike in front of the dean, as i was in rush to get to class. so classy, i know.

and of the constants of my life.  of daily exchange- often pleasant and often controversial, around people in my toronto bird nest, high up on 32nd floor, as much as the stories of friends who are weaved through the invisible woolly fibres of chinley, told through the magic window from minnow.  of my parents, of my granny who recently had to relearn her route to the doctor's (but now she's made an appointment and went/came back successfully on her own, not bad for a lady of that age who doesnt speak english and with fragile knees), of my wee brother who pokes his little head out at all sorts of in/convenient times.

of unusual things- stressful situations with multiple choice exam that only lasted five minutes yet ruined an entire week, of found images from the corner of the streets, of intersecting friends while crossing borders and oceans/continents.  of unconditional love i receive from my dear ones.

these are my story and perhaps it does not matter to anyone else.  of course, why would anyone care about what seems to be a perfectly normal and inconsequential events of a small individual? well, i do and i do it because it gives me immense pleasure to be involved in everything i do.  and often, there is no time left at the end of the day to write or doodle about simple daily events, i am too busy to fall asleep, feeling slightly regretful that i have to wrap up a perfectly good day, to sleep.

tomorrow is another day with a meaningful project. working with a young person on a seriously (difficult) piece of music in preparation for a recording.  it's been a noisy process because i couldnt help (once again) being myself and wrote lines and lines of 'let's do it properly' email. i think i probably have freaked her out already.  but how it really will be, no one will know till tomorrow. and in order to do that, i would have to cut this post short and go to bed.

would this crazy cycle ever end?

ah, well, i certainly hope not.  i remember talking to a friend once, about boredom. i am a lucky man, i have not felt 'bored' in a long time. contrastingly, i have felt the urge to not let things go, to take another look, to take an extra stab at things, just to see if i could do /enjoy it better. i often wish the day is longer, as month of september just evaporated in front of my own eyes.  but it is silly idea- i will still manage to fill out the days, to the absolute max, glass that is almost too full.

all these things, i am grateful.  for the people who have helped to create a world where i, a wee person, can exist as i am (though being politically more savvy and diplomatic would help me in long run, much more efficiently than being a straight shooter i am now), and that i can enjoy being just another person, unremarkable and rather plain, in the world that can be too much at times.  but now, to sleep, this person.  because tomorrow is an important day. why? because it's another day i get to dive into. full-throttle. yay.