transcendence. tango. humanity.

*small golden sparks from the tango cafe eve

often, after a good bonfire, the ground stays warm over night. an echo that rings through, carrying the sparks of the night well into the back of one's mind, always there, burning bright and effortlessly.

the tango cafe event was a roaring success. we packed the venue- probably the most people ed had to pack into gallery 345 ever (so said he!), and we had dancers- through the entire second half. people got up and chatted, held one another in embrace, adored graceful slivers of human life- against all the roughness and the difficulties of daily life. 

i find it shocking to think about one's daily 'required' tasks and how violent and vicious they may be- for instance, 

eating: mastication: bearing teeth and consuming living things, pulverizing, tearing, swallowing- covered in mucus (saliva), to take things into long and bacteria-ful digestive system.

excretion: expelling the wastage and refuge that results from biochemical processes that is perpetual and violent; the repulsion is so great that in most civilizations, the act of defecating is almost always done in privacy, the final product being the common subject for both taboo and crude humour.

birth: probably the most traumatic experience in one's life- thankfully we are not able to remember the details, as offsprings.  

sex: sweaty, dilated eyes, unsteady and stressful cardiac reactions, copulation's ultimate goal being reproduction *see birth- eeek. can be quite shockingly grotesque.

the list goes on and on.

however, even as we are designed to be frantic and cruel for survival (thankfully, evolution and rise of consciousness/philosophy has helped us to live in relative peace and (if forcefully imposed) order), the very same demanding humanity gave birth to some lovely ideas, such as... well, dance and music in this occasion. 

from the lowest class of  argentina- a typical western society strewn thick with wealth/equality/political issues, tango was born between the legs of poor immigrants, broke and desperate men and their women, often in low-class lifestyle and occupations- a product of slumming. but through that, somehow, the human conditions- desperation, tension, release, yearning, all these feelings became key ground for a genuine art form of tango.

and hence, we the crude individuals, learned to overcome the elemental violence of life, to create and seek for grace and beautiful escapes, simply through sound and motion. 

perhaps i do not dare attempt to learn the dance of tango as it is intimate, graceful, tension-ridden and most importantly, seeks commitment and refinement from the dancers.  so i hide behind a big black coffin and manipulate small keys- where i feel relatively safe, to vicariously taste this beauty.

and i did live those rhythms and movements behind the big piano- thanks to my beautiful band mates.  and dancers. where the sum of the parts are exponentially larger than the parts themselves- i took risks and played out, with the group pulling and demanding more from me, and to see that collected energy in motion of dancers- aaah. ecstatic experience.

hopefully we meet next week to div up the booties and wrap it up- as we all went back to our daily lives, to catch up on the things weve dropped and pushed back temporarily, to 'enjoy' one another's company on the night of 22 march.  i wonder how the week wouldve been for others. i wonder if there will be a next time. i wonder if i will ever get enough courage to get off the piano bench and take a cautious step to the floor (as i used to, with greatest reservation with my great and beautiful dancer friends bryan and ruben, years ago).  i wonder if i will get to keep these beautiful comrades as friends. i certainly hope so. and all of this gives me great hopes and dreams about my other adventures- whether it be in music, in people or simply in looking into myself, finding the corners and thoughts that i didnt know of, yet.

how lucky are we to be able to taste the grace beyond the daily grind.
much love to you all,
humming softly to echos of little melody of vieja serenata.


with fires in our bellies, we play

on friday, my idea of three concerts in spring will come reality once again, concerto no. 2: tango!

with small idea, i got a core group of people interested and the thing just grew (thanks to beautiful soo for being eager and enthusiastic. sometimes when there is a good thing to happen, it's hard to sit still and do the daily mundane... haha), and by friday night rolls, we will have amazing accordion player, gusty bassist, romantic cellist, a young and enthusiastic violinist and older and experienced, yet still enthusiastic violinist,  a quiet yet sharp-humoured guitarist and an unruly monkey on piano.

for me, the best thing about being a musician is well, being alive and being able to enjoy certain kind of flexibility.

while in school (and working in school), it is easy to forget why all these things matter- practice, assignments, classes, even playing sometimes.  i think it's inevitable- as soon as there are rigid structure, it can either help you to be productive, or it can become the biggest shackle over oneself (though it is really up to the individual).  but no one said being in school would actually make one smarter/better/different. while in school, one may have the opportunities to learn and practice particular techniques and thoughts, and the school context helps to create a certain momentum- ex. studying together for an exam, or even getting inspired by the colleague's recital, to practice and become a better musician.  but yes, school is for school.  being in school means not much. but what you learn and gather in school, you may take it with you and create a life, in reality (ex. out of school).

and that's the best thing about the outside concerts. i decided to organize these when things were slow in the fall, to create and follow through unnecessary projects (as i work in school, there are plenty of things to do in busy times...)- then i realized that these 'unnecessary' and 'optional' projects do become a real focal point of my life- something that matter to me, not just a job or a gig, but something that requires my attention and love.

music is great. the bassist and cellist has been very clever in their selections and arrangement for the group. and yeah, we are badass players. it is taking us a bit more time than we can afford to really jell together- as for few of us, it's not a familiar territory, but in parts, it really grooves. yeah. 

but i think for me, the best thing is the people that i met through this project. each individual is slightly nutty and talented. characters, yes.  and i am really loving the differences and even the miscommunication. so what if we argue or being slightly confused at times? that's life, yeah? after all, the music does bind these strangers together, huddled in a small practice room for no apparent reason but 'to play together.'

we have our last rehearsal tomorrow and then we roll.
it'll be great.  of course, there will be points one would like to have a second go, but that's inevitable. especially if your ears and hearts are open.

im looking forward.  yeah, i know i sign all my emails saying: 'looking forward,' but it's true.  what a beautiful i have, with all these beautiful people sharing their lives with me.

group, i love you dearly!
thank you!!
and gang, i love you guys too :)


it's a bird! it's a plane! it's francis!

'habemus papam.'

two antiquated words rang through me as i was walking through manulife centre, bay-bloor radio. i stopped. ah, a new chapter, it arrived with vigor and sense of nice surprise.

i worked at a local catholic church from age 14-22.  as the main mass organist, my friday nights were spent with the choir and my sunday mornings were full of sleep and sermons, all at the same time.  it is hard to appreciate at that age, what such tradition may hold, especially if the event is closely linked with pocket money income!

i was raised as a catholic, baptised as soon as they could, as i was a preemie and no one wanted to see me run away to purgatory. my name cecilia was chosen by family friend nun at the local parish.  mom was active with the community and we always had church people in and out of the house.  my kindergarten was attached to the church and i went on a bus (couple stops), with two other boys, monday to friday.  as i walk past the sanctuary, apparently i always went in (and come out in a hurry), on way to the class and out of the class. the sisters asked me what i was doing. apparently i felt the compulsion to say 'hello jesus,' every time i passed by, as i felt as if he would be a friend.  a good one.

as i grew, i start to disagree (the first sign of aging haha) and attack the church system and policy.  this pushed me deep into bible study. if this is the word of the lord, what does it really say and why do we always fight about it? why does good things happen to bad people? what is 'to obey?'

and as the days went, i grew apart from the church. i disagree with some of their core policies- if i was strong and commited, i shouldve stayed in the church and seek to change, living up to the belief; after all, what jesus said was simple: love one another.

nowdays, im quite far from the church (psst dont tell my mom/granny)- however, this sudden resignation from the benedict xvi, with the world, i watched and followed.

see, the catholic church operates based on belief.  belief is one of the strongest powers in the world.  same power that allows the top-notch scientists to seek god-particle in CERN also powers these believers to completely override the time and space and practice a ritualized cannibalism, a communion, to elevate a simple 'mass' ritual to a spiritual ascend, a way to true freedom and happiness.

and because it operates on belief, often i feel that it's quite unfair for the rest of the 'logical' world to press for change.  if we need logic, we wont have to believe, and vice versa.

and this power within the group, unfortunately, have nurtured serious problems within/around the church- the sexual issues, euro-western-centric policies, etc.  but look, benedict XVI did stepped down.  what or how did it came to him, we will never truly know. however, i do understand such things are not only left to chances. from afar, all i can say is that a change is due.

the new pope is first of jesuits and non-european to take the helm of the church.  it may mean nothing ultimately, but i want to believe that this could be a good change.  there are already a few bashings happening about his conservative stance, however, the church is, in a weird sense, a freely-chosen membership system. and if they are the minority, it is not always fair for the majority to 'choose' for them and mold them (isnt that what we are trying to do with same-sex marriage anyway? for heteros to accept homosexuality? bah).

within the human history, there are many cases of changes- unexpected, shocking and unbelievable.  the bible is full of it in fact, remember paul on way to damascus? and the fact st. augustus was such a problem child that he turned his mother, monica, into a saint? ha! it does happen.

if one supports the new pope's present stance on life, keep an open mind.  if one disagrees, well, keep an open mind.  no one man is truly evil of sane (hence excluding sociopathic/psychopathic) and this man probably thought many things in life in many ways. after all, he is a jesuit.  but let's be aware that when standing against a bigotry, one may become a mirroring bigot oneself as well. of course, the church has made some grievous errors. but shouldnt condemnation be followed with hope and willingness to interact and change?  after all, this may be the man who can turn the church back to centre it with people.  a church is not a building, a church: ekklesia, is a combined word, of 'an assembly' and 'called-out ones.'  it is a living church, a believer, a group of believers.

if it is living, it will change and grow,
i am wishing that the church will bring people back, as people always was the centre of a good living churhc, faith, hope and kindness.  and to allow that, we must all do our parts to be true man among the others.  after all, his first address was to humbly ask 'all men and women of good will' to help him lead the catholic church. let us be good then.  let us beware of the evil and bigotry and the dangers of becoming bigots ourselves, and deliver us from evil, amen.


things from the street...

as it's march break, there were many kiddies around... and as i got my hair cut, i was running around town. and as always, with open ears. couple funny things that i overheard:

A: --but that audi has four cylinders!
B: but what about the torque?
- both kids were no older than 10 years old, i swear.

A: but it was a quiet one!
B: dude, silent fart still is a fart, even when it doesnt sing...
- somewhere on bloor st. west, two boys.

A: - so i got 62%, i thought i would get 65% and pass,
B: well, i donno what to say-
A: what did you get?
B: i dont read numbers, i just look at the letter grade, C-
A: he said average was 73%?
B: yeah, so many people did worse than us!
*passer-by man shakes head violently.
-right through ryerson campus


a short thought on conflict

1. you think i have control issue (fair)
2. may be it's because you also have control issue? (i think very fair)

because, you see, if you are not trying to control me, perhaps you would not think im trying to control you....

this makes me feel inquisitive (what am i doing?) and silly (eeeek. didnt mean to be oppressive).

perhaps the balance is in accepting the fact we all have desires and ideas and we need to let certain decisions to be made, if brutally put, regardless of individual principles.  however, i will try to not forget that if someone finds another oppressive, perhaps it's a mutual situation. heck, it's usually a mutual situation.

after all, we care because we love.
including conflicts, ha!

loads love! :)


bits and pieces of

i will show you how i am put together
pieces of scarps and bits
that haven't been fed to the dogs.
just a bit short of who i wish to be.

a superhero
or a rock star
wish i had something
worthwhile to show you,
which i do not have.

the stringy bits of
desperate efforts
stand here
wishing that i blended to the walls
so that it is not visible
how broken i am

but there you are
looking right at me
in the eyes
not speaking or judging



audition thoughts... yes, it's that time of the year again!

ive been doing much work and my brain has been rattled when i get home- not a great situation for writing blog post. and i have missed writing greatly. there has been so many wonderful rehearsals, new and old friends, etc. even concerts! and it just flew by! what a shame...

so before i forget more stuff, here are some thoughts regarding audition process. the grad audition weeks were quite demanding- i accompanied about 29 grad auditions. however, i do enjoy this season immensely- people have been preparing to be at their best and i do like being part of this exciting process! and if there are things i can add or suggest that may allow the player to be more of 'who they are that day,' i am a happy monkey! :)

1. always, always double check the requirement.  if they are asking for full-concerto (apparently mcgill did, this year), do prepare the whole thing. if they say no repeats, well, dont bother.  not being able to tailor your program means that you either did not read the requirement (bad) or you did not understand basic english (worse).

2. when picking works, at least pick one easy work. what's easy work? the work that's at moderate tempo without too much demand on rhythm/ensemble/stylistic points.  of course, pick one or two additional works that may best represent your ability but do pick an easy work, to settle self down in heat of the moment.

3. make sure your piano part matches your instrumental part.  often people are surprised when i ask them to bring me their parts: dont you have them?  well, there can be many different editions and i do not see the point of playing from a different editions, especially when the editors may have been too creative.  also, several works exist in multiple keys- check, check, check!  even simple things like bar numbers may differ.

4. start your audition with the 'easy' work selection. if you have something impressive, they will get to it. panel would know the repertoire.  i strongly advise against starting the audition with any 'solo' works as no. 1 pick.  not because the pianist need to stay in the room twiddling thumb, but because solo work means... well, you are on your own... youve hired me as a wing man, lemme be there with you.  on easy-accompanied, at least i can try to hold you, help you get centred. and who said solo bach is easy to start? in fact, it's never easy?!!  and if you bring solo bach, trust me, they will ASK for it.

5. when you are tuning, do play at the full pitch, especially you, wind players (brass, im looking at you).  wind flow will effect the pitch and if you tune much softer than playing level, well, you will have to readjust constantly.  also do get used to playing when instrument is cold/reed is dry/excited- it will take time to get used to such environment.  if you arent sure if you are too high/low, just pick one way, then you will either get closer or further from being 'on.' if you have gone the other way, well, reverse. but do tune please.  also, play some big notes and soft notes, to get used to the acoustics of the place.

6. if you have a particular passage that you want to play for the panel, do ask them gently.  they are there to listen to you, rather than put you on a spot and make things awkward.  if you dont ask, they may never ask...!

7. for things such as sight reading or play-back, take your time. taking your time is never a penalty. doing it wrong does call for penalty.

8. check your tempo at home with metronome. you are likely to play faster when excited. in that case, you can at least get back to the metronome marking during warm up and refresh self.  when picking tempo, never pick the tempo from the beginning- find the most difficult part, find tempo, then fit it back.  if appropriate, ask your accompanist to 'hold' to the centre of the beat. once rolling, it's hard to stop... from crashing.

9. do practice wearing your armour of choice. girls, especially- high heels will significantly alter your stance/posture.  start practicing with your heels on weeks before. if you arent compfortable, bring a pair of flats.  better to play centered than being wonky on a beautiful heels- that makes you look not too beautiful... especially if your breathing suffers (hence sounds etc)

10.  do check and check and check again- do you need photocopies? have you worked out your page turns?  do you have copy of your cadenza for the pianist? we dont like doing sitting duck-guess work. we may not know your cadenza.  we want to catch you. we dont like being all stressed out, wondering where the end of the cadenza may be. simply make two more copies, and keep them in your score with paper clip. awesome. no more guessing.

11. leave extra time for travelling.  with winter storms and such, things get slowed down or flat-out cancelled.  usually, flying in 7am to do audition at 3pm is not the best idea. i know it costs money- then re-evaluate: is it really worth it to take that risk (and you be tired!) to save a few bucks IF THIS IS THE SCHOOL YOU WANT TO SPEND 2+ YEARS AT?

12. do look for a pianist soon as you get your dates.  the busy ones will always be busy...!

13. please, accept your own self. after all, you are asking someone else to accept you as who you are that day. one day of practice wont make you break/make the audition.  save your face, fingers, lips, dignity.  you cannot be who you are not.  yes. convoluted, but true. much simpler to be who you are now.

after all, remember, audition is all about finding the right fit.  rather than looking for the best or rejecting the worst, a school is looking for a good fit- would you be happy here? you had an opportunity beforehand to get to know the school, it's now time for school to get to know you. it's just like speed-dating. before you commit to a full-on dinner, do scope one another out, feel out the vibes- would you, could you be happy here? any questions?  and no, they arent into tricking you either. theyve been there. no one is truly evil with conviction.  if things are awkward (ex. you dont have a great answer, sight reading is going terrible, etc), do take a moment and get centered. we all want you to do well!

i am hoping there will be time to catch up on all the writing that ive been dying to do. but this is a start.  best wishes to all who has been on audition tours and may you find a good place- place where you and your peers will be happy to work together. and enjoy it- audition should be an enjoyable experience. after all, what you are doing is simply showing who you are. no one wants 'another' you.  we want to hear about who you are today, not yesterday ('i played this so much better last night) or tomorrow ('only if i had another day!')- we want to know, where could we go together?

much love to all! :)


kapustin: burlesque

01.03.13. what a nice day it was! after running around doing auditions, masterclasses and course work, my friend and i decided that it's time to do a wee concert... so we did! and here's a small vid clip from it. nikolai kapustin, a ukrainian composer who does jazz for classical peeps, wrote three very enjoyable works for cello-piano one year (1999) and burlesque is the the most unruly one...

we will be doing the whole set on 22 april tuesday, 2013 at gallery 345- stay tuned! what an exciting adventure...!