Why I love opera

Every musical phrase starts with a breath. And with that breath, we paint the poetry of life’s joys and sorrows. Inevitably, some phrases reach a climax, a cadence. In that moment, just before the release, we hold our breath, in awe of how powerfully these words, these cries, these vibrations in the air, can pierce into the shell of our masked human-ness.

It strikes, it pierces, and then it evaporates. Comforting, enfolding, and surrounding us with warmth and strength of feeling as we exhale, foreshadowing and reminding us of the phrases within our very own existence.

How to be fearless

If I may venture to give advice, although I don’t believe I am qualified to as this is also something I’m in the process of working out fully, I think this may be one way to become fearless

It came to me whilst I was reading a 3-2-1 article by James Clear. Of satisfaction, he quoted author Ann Hastings on the availability of satisfaction:

“Satisfaction is always available. It is just not always looked for. If, when you enter any experience, you enter with curiosity, respect and interest you will emerge enriched and with awareness you have been enriched. Awareness of enrichment is what satisfaction is.” Ann Hastings.

It dawned upon me that fear should also be treated in the same way! If we can treat something we fear with curiosity, paint the task, person, or the event with respect, build interest and knowledge within that looming darkness, we twist the arm of that which we are afraid of. We become aware of this shadow in our lives via a different lens.

And this is perhaps how I’ll work on my procrastination and my fears.

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.

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!