In Memoriam

Quite a few superlatively generous and truly sincere musicians passed away this year. This is for them and for all the others who passed.

Marietta Orlov, Leon Fleisher, Dominique Weber, Victor Danchenko, Ennio Morricone, Yohanatan Berick, Lynn Harrell, Hamish Milne, Peter Serkin, and many others, RIP.

Competitions done right

Me in Taipei for the Maestro Taiwan International Piano Competition having a great time

How do we make music competitions a positive and nurturing experience? How do we navigate through the competitive, win-lose, and often tortuous nature of these contests? On top of that, how can jury members, organisers, and the administration ensure that competitors will WANT to come back because they’re able to get so much value out of the competition?

That is the challenge I want to tackle. I’ve been asked by a really good friend to collaborate on a competition. My first thought was: how can we distinguish ourselves from all the other thousands of competitions? Prize money? Concert opportunities? Prestigious jury members?

Or shall we go down a route where we try to offer each and every qualifying competitor the best and most valuable lessons in music, art, and life? So that even if you do not attain the first couple of prizes, you don’t feel like you lost. You would feel like you have the tools to get better. I want the competitors to feel like they’ve gained something either in technique, career advice, musical and artistic experience, or even something as simple as encouragement from the competition.

This is so we can build a world where artists feel like they are a part of something larger. That they can incorporate art and the lessons learnt from honing a craft, into their own lives.

For me, this is a prize that I can offer everyone and it will be something invaluable that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Who wants to collab on an Indie album?

What would happen if four classical musicians and a producer worked on writing an album? What would happen if they were put in a large house with a recording studio and told to come up with 10 songs for an album?

I think it would be absolutely brilliant.

If you would like to do this with me, hit me up! The truth is that classical musicians are often so boxed in creatively – they’re either purely interpreting and madly learning repertoire, or they’re refining for a performance, recording, or a lesson. Perhaps they’re teaching and some of them composing too.

But what if they were told to write music in a style and genre of their own choosing, put some words together, add different effects, sounds, a groovy beat, and just make it up! I think it would free us and allow us to viewing the art of creation, compilation, and arrangement as also a part of being an artist.

It’s not that musicians and song writers such as Charlie Pluth or Ed Sheeran aren’t excellent artists in their own right. But we should realise if we are able to play some of the most technically difficult music ever written, and have studied music theory and harmony throughout our training, what they do isn’t exclusive to them. And we can do a pretty darn good job of it too.

Desserts at Sweet Dream Garden

Meeting up with some friends who used to blog a lot about their lives, and with them encouraging me to continue that venture, here goes!

It’ll be short and sweet. Nothing too extravagant unless I feel like it. I’m more the type of person who prefers to journal privately. But I’ll give this a decent shot.

I finally came to the great realisation that this Summer or just summers in general are EXCELLENT opportunities for me to learn new repertoire – not simply to learn and perfect, but to go through and play through the notes of many others – just so it’ll be easier to learn when the semester starts and I don’t have to begin from scratch. It’s a little late of a realisation but a good one nonetheless.

My current repertoire in progress:
Brahms Op. 118
Chopin Nocturne Op. 62 No. 1
Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue

Other projects that I want to learn:
Beethoven Op. 101
Chopin Piano Sonata No. 3
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
Ravel Gaspard de la Nuit

Some dream works:
Schumann Davidsbundlertanze
Schubert Wanderer Fantasy
Brahms Handel Variations
Chopin Barcarolle
Mozart Piano Concertos K466 and K491

We shall see…

I was watching the Oscars a few nights ago on one of my nights of binge watching and I was really inspired by Matthew McConaughey’s Acceptance Speech, saying there are 3 things in the world important to him.

Someone to look up to, People to look after, and Someone to chase after.
For him, God was who he looked up to. For him, his family and wife were the people he would look after. And to chase after..well, it was none other than himself in 10 years. And the thing is, it’s perfect because you always want to better yourself. And it’s the same for me.

I’m craving to play more Schumann, more Brahms especially his Concertos, all the Beethoven Piano Concertos, all his Sonatas, more Chopin like his Concertos. And I want to improve my technique and play exceptionally well. I want to conduct, and teach, and perform, and play chamber music. It’s a dream and I hope that by pursuing that ‘me’ in 10 years, that eventual ‘me’ will be better and better. Who knows?

May this be my motivation. I’ll keep
you in touch on how it all goes.

For now I leave you with a photo of the desserts my wonderful friends and I had at Eastwood. It’s my new little favourite place there. It’ll serve to remind me of this post and what I hope to achieve. 🙂

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Improv Day 4 – Chrysthaneum Terrace

Early in my musical life before I discovered the wonders of Chopin, Schumann and Beethoven, I was heavily influenced by a Taiwanese pop artist by the name of Jay Chou. In hindsight, it’s almost a little embarrassing to admit this, but he was integral in forming what I understood of melody and how to make a good tune. I have to admit, despite what I may think of his music now, he knew how to make a good melody – catchy, musical and with good feeling too. 

This is one of his songs, which I sang with one of my best friends Feng at a karaoke/hot pot restaurant during Chinese New Year. I also know that my parents love Jay Chou’s songs and this is a tribute to that too. I was going for a slight oriental feel in this piece. I hope it comes out okay!

Improvisation Day 2: Twinkle Twinkle

A little while ago I had a really bad dream. I dreamed that one of my closest friends was on their deathbed.

For some reason they had gotten very ill and I was in hospital, kneeling beside them. My friend asked me to sing for her Twinkle Twinkle Little Star before she was to close her eyes forever. And I willingly obliged. I never got to finish the last repeat before she passed on.

Later on, I remember telling another friend of how she had passed away and I woke up with tears streaming down my face. I wept at the thought of the loss of my friend and at the tune that was associated with it.

Since then, there’s been a slightly more personal attachment to this tune than usual.

And so I’ve worked on two improvisations.

I’ve linked Take Two. This was especially inspired after the Andras Schiff Concert, where his Bach Goldberg Variations, Beethoven Diabelli Variations and the last movement of Beethoven Op. 111 completely changed my musical life forever. I felt suspended in space during the Op. 111. It was a spiritual experience.