Journal, Videos

Merry X’mas Everybody and Renaissance Rise

It was a difficult decision to go into hiatus from writing music four years ago. After all, music making has been a very big part of my life. I’ve considered music making the first breakthrough in life I ever had which I’m extremely proud of.

I started writing music when I was 14, some silly ballad for some National Day competition, after which I moved swiftly into classical and techno for the next four years. I transited to writing Mandopop and J-pop for the next 11 years.

At the height of it all, I gained entry into the Grand Finals of a Mandarin songwriting competition organised by the National University of Singapore. The prized song was a Tango-influenced Mandopop.

I was formally introduced to the Mandopop scene. Perhaps it was too commercial, or perhaps making an industry acceptable demo was too much work (and money that I need to spend) for my liking, I never did entered the songwriting scene.

I continued writing, for it was a medium for expressing my emotions. It became an unhealthy obsession (I prefer to use the Chinese proverb “走火入魔” to describe the obsession which literally means “obsessed to the point where the fire burns wildly and the person entered into a demonic state”).  I yearn for more audience for my music yet I was afraid to share them publicly as I’m afraid that credit will be stolen from me. “Guard your music well,” my sister used to advice. Eventually, passion ran out of fuel and ideas ran dry. Enough is enough. I need to do something else.

It was probably a state which all songwriters will go through I tried to convinced myself. The year I went on hiatus was also the year my favourite singer-songwriter Utada Hikaru went on hiatus.

Pure coincidence.

But I know I have to stop.

*****

The past 1.5 years, I was trying very hard to do it all over again. I did all these under the pseudoname “the midswing project” and I’m proud to say that I think I manage to achieve a small personal breakthrough:

In this post, I would like to take the chance to thank several people for helping me in seeing a light to a possible Renaissance Rise.

I would like to express my gratitude to gaming company, Life Entertainment Studios, which gave me the chance to write some music for their games. While those works are definitely not my best, it got me started writing something again.

This eventually helped me in a highlight showcase where my alumni band invited two other friends from the band and me to arrange some music. The performance was well-received and a success. Thank you for letting me have a chance to write something classical again and letting me to have something that I can feel satisfied and proud about in music.

Next was an opportunity to meet a Yamaha representative, Andre Anthony, whom came to my school to give a workshop on Cubase, a desktop audio workstation. His workshop opened my eyes to how simple Cubase is; I’ve been under utilising such a powerful programme all along! The best part, he offered to upgrade my Cubase for free! Thank you for inspiring me to do some recordings all over again.

Finally, its was a chance to write music for two special school projects. I will not give more details about the major one coming; maybe my music might not be used either, who knows. But the opportunity gave rise to RITUAL of the CHRISTMAS GHOST. Thank you for that final push I needed to write something proper, at last.

Today, I’m proud to share my music under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. If you enjoy trance music, do give me your feedback about what you think. You can download a copy of the music here:

https://soundcloud.com/midswing/ritual-of-the-christmas-ghost-1

Finally, Merry Christmas everybody!

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Journal

Almost Showtime!

I’ve been really busy for the past three months.

On the school front, I’m working on a new module called “Internet of Things Application Development” which I’m concurrently teaching the students. I’m also asked to submit a research proposal in about two weeks time.

Major personal commitments, it’s Japanese lessons every Monday and Toastmasters every other Saturday. I’m also taking up a course on Coursera, requiring me to submit an essay every other week or so.

And then there was this…

*****

My secondary school, Clementi Town, invited us, the alumni, to play for a concert, celebrating our school’s 35th anniversary. Together with two other friends, Nili and Adrian, we’ve been busy piecing up a 15-minute medley of our favourite songs for the entire band to play. Every Thursday, we also met up in school for band practice, at the same time trying to figure out if we got the arrangement playable. Kudos to Adrian who did the heavy lifting for the music arranger team, the process of writing music was tense but not stressed.

IMG_4273-edit
Scores of the music we have arranged and a brand new shaker which I have bought just for the concert.

For everyone, it was lots of reminiscence and nostalgia. I must admit that only until today’s “additional” practice session, I wasn’t in the state to express the deep emotions and attachment that I would have liked.

Thinking back, it was an amazing three months more at a personal level, working up to 14 to 16 hours daily including weekends on all my commitments. The issue was that there wasn’t time to self-reflect on the work I have done so far.

I try to make full use of my time best as I can. Time spent journeying to my workplace are often dedicated to learning Japanese. On days with no morning lessons, I ran, striving to maintain my fitness for there was no time to fall sick. At work, I gave it my all but a lot of times, I’m also tied up with administrative matters. By the time work was over, I fight the urge to sleep as I drove to Japanese lessons, to band practices or back home. If I am early for Japanese lessons, I would recline the driver’s seat and take a nap in the car. Back at home, I fulfill my personal commitments, stealing half an hour on mindless games and another half hour on YouTube. Weekends are spent with friends and family, clearing up the back log from work as well as personal commitments. For work, I tend to take a long time to prepare for lessons as I absolutely enjoy the process that I often forgot to keep track of time. Weekends are over at a glance.

*****

Today was different. With a two-week break from my online course and the music finalised, I was able to breathe just a little for the very first time.

For the first time, I felt the excitement of listening to my arrangement being played by the band.

For the first time, I observed carefully the faces of everyone who was playing and enjoying themselves.

For the first time, I’ve made that indescribable connection with the rest of my friends in the band.

And of course, being the percussionist who absolutely loved music, for the first time, I’m swinging and dancing to the beat of the music I’m playing, just like old times. Every stroke on the drums, on the cymbals, on anything will not only sound beautiful but look beautiful.

It’s almost showtime.

Journal

Under A Vast Sky

People who know me long enough would know that when I listen to today’s music, I tend to follow the artistes themselves. I like to know about their history, I like to read about what their views on life is. This brings meaning to the songs that I’m listening.

With Beyond, it was a bit different. I bought their CD, which happens to be the final commemorative CD, for a single track (very rare would I buy a CD for a single track). I didn’t read about them till a few days ago.

This is the song which I bought for, this exact version on YouTube is on my CD:

Today was the first time I ever saw this rendition live. I stumbled upon it while browsing through some news on Hong Kong’s Occupy Central situation.

I can’t describe my feelings when I watch it but all I can say is that my heart goes out to the people of Hong Kong. I really hope that both sides will continue to exercise restraint.

There is this Chinese saying that goes:

忍一时风平浪静,退一步海阔天空

(*Note: Coincidentally, the name of this song, 海阔天空, is embedded in the saying)

It roughly translates to this:

Literal Translation: The winds and waves will be calmed with a moment of patience, the seas and the skies will look vast (I interpret this as being able to see a bigger picture) with a moment of compromise

Meaning: A little give-and-take will make a conflict easier to resolve.

For me, I hope that conversation will take place and all things will go well. We can only understand each other if we start talking to each other. I guess it takes courage to start talking. Something like that courage described in the song.

Journal, Videos

Variations on a Hymn by Louis Bourgeois – 15 years on

This piece of music brings back great memories of playing in a school band, the first piece of music that I was asked to play when I first stepped into Junior College.

Never regretted choosing my school based on the quality of its band. Lots of hard work doing music but an eye opener and definitely worth it.

It was also the “Golden Age” of music for me as a freelance composer.

Most importantly, it was the thing that kept me alive…

 

Here is a rendition played by the Wish Wind Orchestra:

 

Journal

time to say GOODBYE

Close to two years ago, costing $333 was an initiative for me to get back in touch with music. I bought a cajón (pronounced ka-hone) which I brought it out for regular gigs at the former White Tangerine Cafe situated at the Paya Lebar-Kovan CC. In case you do not know what a cajón is, it is a Perunian drum box, meaning ‘crate’ in Spanish.

After just a few months, I found some crack lines on my cajón. I couldn’t see the crack lines for they were at the inner side of the cajon, but the lines felt deep. I thought that it was me mishandling my cajón as I transported it putting it in a different orientation in my car. I thought I might have jammed the breaks too hard at one point of time and had cracked the cajón in the process.

With the closure of the WhiteT Cafe just months after, I locked the cajón up in its usual bag and stow it on my cupboard.

A recent jamming session with my sister had me open up the bag a year after and I found severe crack lines on the outside of the cajon with pile of wooden dust found in the bag. It seems that the crack line deteriorated even though I tried to store it as best as I could. I consulted my brother-in-law, a music enthusiast and a songwriter like me regarding the issue.

“It’s woodworm.” he replied casually.

“Its what?” I asked again. I couldn’t hear what he said for the first time

“Woodworms. They eat wood. They destroy wooden stuff.” he replied giving more details.

 

I’ve never heard of woodworms before. Sounds bad. As bad as termites. From the way my brother-in-law described it, it sounded worse. He advised me to try and “Baygon” it, to “fumigate” it with insecticide. 

*****

The very first thing I did the next morning was to bring my cajón down to the void deck and spray it with loads of Baygon. I was expecting the woodworms to climb out but it didn’t.

Until that night, I spotted three dark beetle-like creature lurking in my cajón. So those were the culprits.

The next morning, I left for work, leaving the cajón outside my house. The same evening when I returned from work, my Mum said that I had to throw my cajón away. She heard the sound of woodworms eating up my cajón in the morning.

And she wasn’t exaggerating. I heard it too.

*****

What else can I do? It would have been too much of an effort to buy and apply woodworms pesticide treatment on the cajón.

Here’s a term we often used in the military. I got to “BER” the cajón (ie. the cajón was Beyond Economic Repair and was to be written off)

My Cajón

Close up of the Cajón

The next day, my parents brought the cajón down to the dumpster on the way to the supermarket. The cajón was taken away from the dumpster and they went passed it on the way back.

I hope the new owner knows what he is doing…