Music and Change

Posted in Music by Sandra on April 28, 2009

You see, the thing about music is simply the fact that it changes as you grow. New insights, new meanings that emerge with more experience in life, and of course new tastes.

Take today for example: System of a Down.

I remember the first song I heard from them was Lonely Day and it was fantastic. Then Emmanuel tossed me a second song which totally turned me off that band. Till this day (well, a few hours ago anyway) I thought that they weren’t quite as good as I thought… until The Murloc clued me in. He played some tracks for me and I was pretty stunned. So I’d just spent about half an hour searching for That Song which turned me off SOAD and guess what?

I couldn’t find it.

When I was in my secondary school years, I mostly listened to Japanese pop. Dare I say that I even despised English? I had English pegged as the inflexible, unfeeling language. Kind of ironic considering that my command of the English language is heaps better than my mother tongue and my dialect. Ouch. But now when I look at my brother (who blasts Japanese pop/anime music) I can only think about how… well, childish, it seems. After all, it’s not like you understand it, do you, in the little intricate ways that the native speakers of Japanese do?

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Troubled Wannabe Musician

Posted in Music by Sandra on September 27, 2008

Today, after having listened to Oceanlab’s Miracle (Above and Beyond Mix), The Murloc asked me if I thought I could write music like that. Writing melodies, harmonics, chords. The title of this post is extremely misleading.

I know I can’t, so I told him so. I may have been a little pianist once (Grade 2), I may have been a saxophonist once (2 years, in high school), I may have aspired to play the violin gracefully… but I’ve always been a performer in that sense, not the composer. We play works of others, and we hardly attempt to write our own.

Oh, I’ve tried before, a few times. I’m ashamed to admit so.

It usually starts at the piano, after I’ve sat and played a few familiar pieces, memorized by now because they’re all I’ve ever learned for piano properly. Then it demands to be let out, so I totter about on the ivory keys, trying to keep sour notes away. But my execution has never been elegant, more akin to the noises a child might make by randomly hitting the keys.

So I stop, frustrated, will the music to die away, shut the piano lid, and go off to do something else. Like reading. That’s something easy to feel accomplished in. A few minutes, a few pages; an hour, perhaps a chapter or two.

It’s never so clear cut with music.

Perhaps I want too much to be good at something musically, like an ideal girl. Maybe I’m forcing myself to be someone I’m not with regards to musicality. I never excelled at my instruments, only averaged. And I move too fast – I touch everything but I never remember the details.

I’m so ashamed of my utter failure in musical areas… I’d give everything I could to start over at a symphonic band, whether as a saxophonist in any tier, or a percussionist. I regret that I’ve let my complacency limit myself when I could have done better. I regret that I’ve let lesser matters trouble my playing. I regret that I tried too hard to be better without understanding the basics, and now it’s too late.

As an aside… when I handed in my resignation from the school band to the band teacher (to whom I’ve been unfairly mean, even then), I wept as if I’d lost a part of me. And I know it even now- when I wrap a hand around the train’s standing poles and start to unconsciously position on digits in the appropriate fingerings to the song I’m listening to. It’s a part of my being that I can never gain back, but I suppose I should be grateful for the 2 years that I’ve gotten with the saxophone, with its cracked leather neck-strap, the smooth curves, the uncomfortable piece of metal that juts out for one’s thumb, and the cold comfort of the instrument…

When The Murloc spoke to me of writing music I felt crushed. I couldn’t write music. I couldn’t even play music more. I couldn’t help him except to listen. I’m not comfortable with this area that I’ve failed in because I’ve tried too hard hoping that others will see that I’m “good” at it (of course, miserably failing because I didn’t grip the basics well enough)… I don’t think I ever will.

I’m beginning to suspect that my failures in music will be much harder to confess to than even my troubles with my family. Hm.

I miss my saxophone. I wonder who is using it now, since it is school property. I miss the aroma of the grease. I miss the taste of a new reed on my tongue. (I miss blasting her too – it was a good way to vent strong emotions, since “blasting” is supposed to make for a better air passage customized for you alone.)

I’m bringing my violin with me when I leave for Australia, but who knows how long it’d be before I touch it again?

Rediscovering “The Anthology”

Posted in Music by Sandra on September 6, 2008

I was going through my piles of Stuff when I discovered a gem – West Winds’ “The Anthology” — live recordings from concerts held in 1994 – 2003.

West Winds was started in early 2003, the result of cooperation by The People’s Association and Bukit Batok Community Club. It’s mission is to cater to amateur musicians who would like to carry on pursuing their interest in band music after graduating from their educational institutes.

“The Anthology” was given out at their 10th anniversary concert, on 12 January 2003 (I still have the entry ticket stub!). I was there with my secondary school band members. I don’t remember much of the night itself, but listening to band music brings back a lot of memories!

Music has such power to arouse emotions in us – it’s a universal language. It doesn’t take a genius to tell you when a piece is particularly moving, or spiraling up dizzy steps to exhilaration. In my opinion, bands and orchestras are the most difficult places to be in, because you have to be on the same wavelength as the other members. In the process of making music, differences have to be set aside to produce music, not just sounds.

When I was with the band (Sec 1 and Sec 2), the only way to get band music was through mIRC, in the #bandmusic channel (if I remember right). File-sharing at its ultimate. You download your music from other users who have the necessary configurations, and most pieces take an hour or so to complete. For a while I had so much band music (about 4 gigs or more?) that I tried being a “server” myself. It all ended when Windows died on me, and I lost all of it.

Since then I’ve pursued other interests… I left band in Sec 3 to join the debating team. When I was enrolled in Millennia Institute, I joined the band too – however, they didn’t have any more instruments for a saxophonist, so I decided to try out the French Horn. Terrible failure at that. A few months later I dropped out of MI, and with that decision, my access to any band instruments.

Listening to the West Winds now, it’s brought back many memories. From the times I’ve performed with the band, to the Singapore Youth Festival competition in 2002. We struck gold then, and left Victoria Concert Hall in tears. Such a shame, really, that I never really bonded with the band members…

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