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Posts Tagged ‘music’

recitative

I’ve been listening to this a lot since I got the Vladimir Ashkenazy Chopin Nocturnes CD.

I first heard this piece at the end of a Naxos Chopin Waltzes CD I bought from a CD shop at the basement of Ngee Ann City Shopping Centre. I was 14 years old. The tragedy and emotional depth caught me. I opened my Henle edition of Chopin Nocturnes to try to play it but realised that my hand-span was not wide enough for the second half of the song. Also that at 14, I did not have enough emotional depth to see it through.

Fast forward to 2009. The piece was listed as an LTCL exam piece. Mr. Ong made a lot of his students play it, including me though I wasn’t scheduled to take the exam. He made me play it because he claimed it sounded like my kind of song. [There were a lot of these over the years and I gradually started thinking of them as my songs too.] I think this was also around the time he told me that to play this music well, you must fall in love and have your heart broken to get the correct amount of longing, contemplation, and hope. I must have heard more than 20 different renditions of it during that period of time, usually from the students before me or during masterclass weekends, from 10-year-old prodigies to 25-year-old piano teachers.

I started reading it again 3 nights ago, after two weeks of listening to Vladimir spread the chords of the middle section to make up for lack of hand span. As a result, in these last 3 days, I’ve been feeling the absence of Mr. Ong very keenly.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was chatting with my duet partner on Facebook while queuing up in court and in the middle of the conversation, he referred to me as “my dear.” I read the message and for some reason, it registered in my head in Mr. Ong’s soft and musical voice saying it with that usual drawl. Immediately, I felt warm tears start to pool behind my eyes, just as I feel them now typing this.

Sigh.

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I was listening to the radio with The Other Half in the car yesterday evening when that Stephen Bishop’s It Might Be You came on, reminding me of the one and only cruise I’ve ever gone on.

It was one of those cruises to nowhere. We left on a Friday night and returned on Sunday morning. My parents managed to get a cabin for 4 on a discount and we went with one of my mother’s friends with me as the fourth person.

I was 15 years old: Gawky, awkward, insecure and obsessed with the classical guitar. I hid behind my instrument a lot, behind my songs, behind faked chords, complicated solos. I was too old to go on a holiday with my parents, but too young to stay at home alone without getting into trouble. Hence I was roped into going for the cruise while my two older sisters could stay at home, unsupervised. I supposed that was a good thing. I don’t actually get along famously with my sisters.

At that time, my Biology lab partner had just broken up with her boyfriend from an all boys’ school nearby. He was trying to rebound on me and called me every day, which was really quite pesky. But because I haven’t garnered enough confidence or experience dealing with pesky boys at that age, plus I was a little flattered by the only male peer attention I’ve ever gotten in my life at that point, I tolerated it though I much rather be spending an hour each day sitting at the piano than having mundane conversations on the phone. Before I left for the cruise, he had said to me, “Think of me when you look at the stars.”

So there I was: Too young to go to the casino and too old to go to bed early. My parents and my mother’s friend headed to the casino after dinner while I was left to roam the ship by myself. I wandered around the decks, stared up at the stars, remembered the boy and grimaced. Okay. That didn’t quite do it for me. So I left the deck to explore the ship itself.

I came across the piano bar quite by accident. There was a pianist singing and playing. I sat in an unobtrusive corner to the left of the piano to listen. The bar itself was empty with only 2 or 3 tables occupied, not including myself. After a while, the pianist noticed me and we started chatting while he rested. He got me a drink and asked whether I would like to sing since there was no one around. I then spent the next 2 hours or so having a wonderful time singing with the piano. I didn’t play anything though he offered the piano up to me. I didn’t think the patrons of the bar would take kindly to Chopin waltzes and serious Bach Partitas.

One of the songs I sang that night was Stephen Bishop’s It Might Be You. You see, I lived next to the KTM train track and thought with my teenage affectedness that the song was my song because of the lyrics, I’ve been passing time watching trains go by…all of my life….

Saturday night was spent very much the same way, at the piano bar singing to no one in particular. When I left the ship on Sunday morning, the staff at the bar hugged me to say goodbye. My parents looked on, perplexed at the warm farewell I was getting and no doubt wondering what the hell I was up to on the ship on my own.

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Peanut trying to catch the rotating seafood on the mobile

Peanut trying to catch the rotating seafood on the mobile

I recently purchased a copy of the complete Chopin Nocturnes as played by Vladimir Ashkenazy from Amazon and it arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon.

I haven’t had time to listen to it till this morning [after both Trainee J and Champagne Truffle had both had a go at it] and I was a little surprised to find that the tune which the baby mobile we hung over our baby cot played is the opening bars of Nocturne in F# minor!

I used to put on the mobile for Peanut after her showers in the mornings while I was still alone at home before my parents came over to cook lunch for me in that first month after the birth. Then later on, I put the mobile on at night for fussy Lion for the night light and hoping that the music will soothe him [this was before I found out that he could only fall asleep on his tummy].

The song brought back really great memories of the kids, how they have grown, and oh how I miss them as babies!

Sigh.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular relationship I was in from age 16 to 17-ish since I returned to my primary school 2 weekends ago to attend a talk about registering Peanut for Primary 1 next year.

The reason why I have been thinking about it is because the boy whom I went out with was my classmate in Primary 6. Also because I was sitting at the piano on Sunday while waiting for my tomatoes to roast and my bacon to render for my pasta sauce reading Chopin Nocturnes when I remembered a certain incident involving said boy.

I guess from age 10 onwards, the thing that defined me most as a person was my piano-playing. I was crazy about the piano. It was the one thing that I was really good at in life, something which no one could take away from me.

My piano teacher then wanted to arrange for an audition for me with [the late] Mr. Ong, in which I was to play Nocturne in C minor [with that haunting right hand cantabile and after five bars of which Mr. Ong told me to return to studio in two weeks with Chopin’s Barcarolle]. I was crazy excited and broke the news to the boy who was waiting for me after my piano class at the bottom of my piano teacher’s apartment block.

The boy flew into a rage. He claimed that he was uncomfortable with me attending class with a male person who will no doubt take advantage of me, in some misplaced sense of chivalry? Male chauvinism? I thought it was really ridiculous. We had a huge fight about it. We eventually made up but I still thought that he was being a complete ass about what was clearly very important to me.

I did the audition anyway. We broke up eventually due to some silly reason or other and I spent a while after that feeling quite resentful about a lot of things linked to and consequent to the fall out. One of the things that stuck with me was that maybe he didn’t want me to go to the audition because to him, my piano-playing was just some extended hobby with no relevance to real life. Maybe he just wanted me to be mediocre forever because what do I know, right? I am just this stupid naïve girl whom he thought was so easily taken advantage of.

The reality is that nothing eventually came out of my music education due to certain other circumstances but the fact that a boy tried to stop me from going after something I really wanted under the guise of “I love you and care about you” really stung. The lesson I learnt from that relationship was that I should never ever be with anyone who cannot support me in my endeavours or have any faith in me.

*

On a car ride one day, I turned to my husband and asked him whether he ever looked back on his past relationships and think: Hey, I was such a nasty piece of shit to her!

That’s a question that I really would like to ask the boy should I ever have the opportunity to in the future.

[Related post: the new year’s eve story]

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Text conversation between The Other Half and I while trying to decide on which CD to purchase

Me: Rubenstein or Ashkenazy for Chopin Nocturnes? Reviews are mixed online…

He: Ashkenazy from my youtube.

Me: I have been listening to the shorts on Amazon. Rubenstein’s version is more muffled. But slightly more sensitive than Ashkenazy.

He: Ashkenazy. Trust me I listen to them a lot while doing housework.

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Happy mid-autumn festival to all 😀

I read with interest about the collapse of Gramophone in the papers this morning.

The one Gramophone I will always remember would be the large one near the back of Specialist Shipping Centre where an ex-boyfriend spent many hours going through second hand Mandopop CDs while I pop into Music Essentials a few doors down to do some research on books to buy for my piano students.

When he left the country, I clearly remembered the disconnect I felt from the relationship as more and more of the places we used to hang out at closed down or moved away. Even the house we lived in was demolished. There was nowhere I could go to relive any memories, to remember better days, to rekindle all of those nice and fuzzy feelings that kept people together in that very Pet Shop Boys “Just think back to the first time we were in love” way.

It felt like the only logical thing would be to give it up and move on. And give up and move on I did.

So maybe the collapse of Gramophone is a sign for me to complete the moving on by deleting him from my Facebook account, an idea I have been toying with for a while now.

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carry on

Mummy: If you’re lost and alone or you’re sinking like a stone…

Peanut: Carry on on on on on!!

Lion: Mummy, why we don’t have this song in the car?

*

Paranoid mummy thinks – Am I playing this album too much? Should the kids be learning fun. lyrics? [mentally runs through the lyrics of the song to check for age appropriateness]

Groupie mummy thinks – Cool!!!

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