21.1.12

date with granny on friday night


my wee old granny went with me today,
venturing out to the cold, with her new shiny shoes,
riding taxis in town,
i took her out for a bit of air,
as i definitely know
how to show a girl a good time for a friday night.
she is hopefully now asleep, under the florescent lights
as doctors will take a look at her heart,
heart made of love,
just bit worn on the corners,
enough to show what she's made out of-
soft fibres, weaved and worked,
with feathers of life, fragile and beautiful.
she'll be back home before the year of the dragon-
i pray.
my wee granny, who i love 
and she will return to family,
who she loves.

*my granny had a wee heart attack it seems. we'll know better once tests are done. but thanks everyone for warm wishes. she's 87 years old and i was happy to think she was the brightest, sharpest lady in the entire ward. hooray. what a class act!

20.1.12

to find a minnow in the wide wide water

three years ago today, i met a sleepy minnow in amidst of electronic music. on 4 january 2009, i arrived to banff centre, my home for the year.  i have not played much piano for a long while since i finished my degree and it was all a big surprise to find myself in one of the world's greatest place- for arts but more importantly, for humanity. after finishing my doctoral degree, i enjoyed working at the coffee shop (the regular 5am - 130pm full day shift for the type A financial district crowd, mon-fri...) and i wondered what i should do with life. i did think hard about going into the corporates ladder within starbucks.  i told self that i did not miss music that much.

and three years ago today, i was getting ready to play a suite in a public concert on next day (which i havent done since i played my last doctoral recital), day full of practice and rehearsals, sharing personal tales and ideas with total strangers who i just met- only because we were all there with one simple purpose: to express and communicate.  in this particular evening, a friend was sharing her electronic music project in her studio.

and there it was: a human noise: a snore.
i was situated deep inside the studio, underneath the piano, sitting on floor with a wee glass of wine, ears open to all these complicated sound- and a snore. which was followed by a small 'ouch.'

i straightened my back, pulled my gaze from the ground to figure out what was going on- and there he was.

minnow was sitting up, rubbing his leg, with world war one trenches under his eyes.

haha.  the minnow also was on his first banff trip, greatly encouraged by a friend.  he flew in that day, across the puddle and a shuttle. he decided that his best solution to fight the jetlag is- to ignore it. so he bravely came out to the night concert in the studio with his banff connector lady. sat. crouched. lay down on the floor. and came the inevitable snooze and a snore.  and connector lady, baffled in embarrassement, kicked him to wake him up- which he did, with a small yet perfectly audible 'ouch.'

i was amused and intrigued.

the day after, i played in the concert and i was in a bit of a emotional state. such weird thing, to come back to the stage, to pick up a piece of music and try to express the self through it. to be honest, to give all that i can give. to show in public- even walking naked in a shopping mall in christmastime seemed preferrable (if only theoretically so)-  it was embarrassing. stressful. shocking. difficult. i did not play as well as i wouldve like to (though i realize that it's a bit much to ask- especially for the rusty performing self) and behind the closed door of my studio, number 151 of music and sound building, i was teary.  new pianist friend came by to see me. he left me with a warm, genuine consolation.  then came a small wee talk from minnow.  i thought: who are you, beautiful person?

we looked for chances to share time with one another. even if it was only during the meal time, with me eating mountain of browned meat, shattering his expectation that i would be a veggie. two weeks go really fast in banff. and as soon as i met him, it was time for him to return to the world. even with the flight delays and all kinds of stuff.  but we did have one afternoon to make music, talk and drink lovely red tea, as the dusk came down the sharp spines of the mountains, in the most beautiful colours of dark blue, grey and hint of bloodwood.  his last afternoon in banff.  at night, we all went to have a drink at the bar and to the morning, we talked, talked talked while others peeled off to find sleep and rest. we wished the morning would come a bit slower. there wasnt enough time.

and it's three years ago, already, that i noticed this particular minnow in the wide world with millions of fishes swimming around. and here we are- still a puddle apart! and with each day, i wake with a fresh anticipation: to hear from the dearest minnow.

everyday of those three years are tightly weaved with gossamer-thin, barely-there-spider-silk connections.  letters. snail mails. packages. thoughts. strange coincidental unisons (we refer this as 'quark,' where each comes with identical word/expression simultaneously). emails. texts. pictures. and when we are lucky, we connect in flesh and blood, with warmth and easy embrace.

after thousands of emails that connected us and probably millions of fragments and sentences, here's from one of the earliest emails we share:


... yes, I do feel as though you understand me; and yes it's rare,  especially to this degree. This is why I like you so much.  Because there is so often a mask or a vacuum between people that allows life to continue on auto. And we are on manual.  And because there's no refraction of the light between us, we can understand and be comfortable.  I don't have to be anyone other than who I am, for you; and that's a treat.

i am so lucky to have such a beautiful conversational partner.
minnow, you are beautiful. and here we are, three years. and we weave on.
thank you.

7.1.12

feeding chinley bowlful of dense music



this winter, we have decided that it would be grand to open the new year with a banging smashing concert.  no lollipops and potpourris, though they can be nice.  but there's something about a good meaty joint and a glass of robust barolo...

i am quite fortunate to have friends who are generous.  the best kind, really- we share normal things such as food and ride-to-work.  we, however, are extra lucky that we can share something so intimate- music.  for me, it's a different experience playing with chinley friends, as they are mature boys (and hopefully girls as well, for next concert!) who are willing to take the risk of 'playing,' not just rehearsing.  surely, every 'go' has it's own spots and scratches, but we are able to go on as a group, to strive to make music- without clinging onto it and therefore holding it back from the audience from the full experience.  and the fact they work in a great orchestra means several things- including somewhat sane schedule (yay for reherasals and pints), great abilities (ears, mind and technical) and most beneficially, thirst for chamber music. as they hardly ever get to play without the silly man on the front who is waving a stick. without the bulk of fellow comrades of a section.

however, it does bring interesting challenges, such as shifting gears- from being part of a whole to individuals in conversations. speaking without the weight of the others, they are often laughing at this 'enormous pressure' to take responsibility.  silly boys. you see, the funny thing is that everyone speaks beautifully. they all have lovely personalities- so different though, far from one to another as possible.  and this allows 'us' to make such colourful expressions.

and as we play more and more, we get more daring.

you see, chinley is a small wee town. in fact, the only pub in our little town is the conservative club. haha. old hall, the local pub is actually in whitehough, the very next village. we often do things like garden party fundraiser and the favoured lists from the classical FM- a standard procedure for casual concert goers, i suppose.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinley

yet,  in the past, we have mixed in a thing or two which are no longer easy to eat. but only in bits and pieces. somehow, this particular program became a heavy-weight though: martinu cello sonata no 2, beethoven kruetzer sonata and brhams g minor quartet.  it wasnt intentional. it's just the way it shaped itself (this happens on regular basis among us, as we simply just like to play anything, as long as we are among friends!)-

yes, wee monkey.
we will bring serious music to metropolis of chinley.

and minnow- similar story, where he found sonata practices quite weird as a boy- going through the fragments, alone.  so now he quite happily eat a heavy sonata or two.  and matthew- well, he's a violist/accordionist/arranger.  let's just say he likes to play with his noodles.  he would quite happily eat a sandwich stuffed with quicksilver for a snack, i think.

and our audience- the small local population, grew to love us, i think.  see, they were used to the boys and girls from the phil and their concerts (and also add a good friend charlie, who dabs not one but two instruments: piano and violin!).  and so when i showed up on the hills, the paving was already done- even with a good working sturdy piano!  lucky monkey.  it is a genuine welcome when you get your bum down on the worn seat of the pub, someone may ask: when's the next concert? we are looking forward!

but we did slightly wonder/worry how they would take this program. of course we believe it'll all great and they would love it (as we were determined anyways):

and they did love it.

the church was packed. extra seats were occupied with bright-eyed people, 730pm till 10pm- a good length, chunky concert. and every single one of them rose to their feet and greeted us with enthusiasm when we finished 'playing'- we played like little kiddies who were totally engrossed in our own game, serious, trusting, forgiving and 'together.'

with substantial money raised once again to the organ fund, we talked and drank, ate and laughed till the wee hours after the concert.  all i can say is that i am so thankful for my friends and their generosity.  with such friends, we'll continue to feed the locals of chinley unending bowl of dense music, packed with love and generosity.  i hope you can make it one day, to the small church of st. mary's, where we play like children, with no fear. and please, feel free to join in. after all, that's what life is about i hope?

1.1.12

good bye, old year! smell you later.



another year is going and another one is starting. however, depending on which calender is being referred you may still be in the old pools of days- like a puddle, collected drops of rain, dew, from the sky, now on the ground. and then it will dry up when the sun comes out (though it seems highly unlikely at the moment, thanks to damp winter), floating till the next chance it finds to descend down- whether it may be a sweet drink for a thirsty plant or another drop from the bucket of soggy winter sky.

however, one must keep in mind that even a simple water drop can be transformed into something magial- like the new stream that just came up one day in the cracken edge (the back hill from small wee house of ours in uk).  no one knows where it came from- but it's quite busy one, alive and fresh- just starting to carve out its own path along the soft earth and the hard rocks that creates memorable silhouette of the rocky teeth of cracken edge (which is so different from all the other hills nearby: southhead, eccle's pike, they are all very round. even in jacob's ladder, where the mysterious rock animals live, breathing very slowly, through decades, years, centuries).


in a weird sense, it was funny to send off an old year- minnows were over at good friends' place, warm with fire in hearth, blazing oven turning out blistered pizza dough with the scent of summer days- of fragrant, sweet tomatoes and sharp salty edge of olives.  even with the tang of the green grass of the long sunshine (and even longer shadows) that cuts through the richness of goat cheese (though the lady finds it a bit too sharp, haha, great, more for us!)  the night was already deep when we started to walk to their house- and the night was still long when we returned, bit after the pumpkin hour.  nothing really have changed. but then everything has been changing, ever so slightly.  as the moon shone on the other side of the sky, hardly visible yet highly perceptible. bellies was full of love and generosity. as steps became a bit more erratic and joyous, yet heavy- heading towards warm basket, another night of rest in shared company, somewhere in the middle, the new year arrived.

what would i wish for this new year? what shall i seek for? shall i embark on an adventure? on quest for rich?

i cant decide what i would like. i suppose that also may indicate i am content.  perhaps it is the very ability to find contentment that keeps the years connected, seamless, even with the bits of grind and bumps- i thought of my wee brother, a pile of grey ashes, living through the lives of others as the wind tickled my ears, as it always will, especially in a dramatic night where we, as a collective population, passes by another milestone.


good bye, old year. hello, new year. shall we go? it's always exciting to step onto a new page. what shall i remember, what shall i savour. what would i find and what could i gather.  perhaps a bit less rain will do the trick, but as long as i have a warm dry basket, perhaps i wont mind so much.